Smack in the middle of congested Boston, Massachusetts is far from where I imagine myself when I think about hanging out with the Lamborghini team. But however far the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be from a mountain road or a race track, today, the future of fast cars lives here.
Lamborghini has revealed its vision of the supercar of 2040 in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The result is an all-new, wildly innovative concept car, called Terzo Millennio. Italian for 'Third Millennium', the electrically propelled machine would seem to point the way forward for Lamborghini design and engineering. In fact, chairman and CEO of Lamborghini, Stefano Domenicali, called the collaboration 'an important page in the future of the super sports car for the third millennium'.
Let’s get one thing straight right away, though, about that third millennium bit. The term is code for tech and design that could come to fruition in the distant future… not the next generation of Lamborghini. More on this in a bit.
The automaker has partnered with MIT for the development of advanced energy storage systems, as well as to push the envelope in terms of material science. Specifically, Professor Mircea Dinca from MIT’s Department of Chemistry and Professor Anastasios John Hart from the Department of Mechanical Engineering have led the charge along with Lamborghini’s R&D pros.
At first glance, the results are fairly spectacular. The Terzo Millennio has been stripped to the core of a performance driving machine, with an ultra-lightweight structure, totally optimised for aerodynamic efficiency and allowing for just driver and passenger. The design is brutally purposeful, similar in a way to the Aston Martin Valkyrie where non-essential space isn’t covered up with body panels, but rather exposed. With electric motors housed in each of the four wheels, designers were freed up to work with far more of a blank canvas than would be possible with a conventional powertrain.
In fact, there’s nothing really conventional about how power is developed in the Terzo Millennio. Following on from a somewhat limited use in the current Aventador, the team is proposing the use of advanced supercapacitors and energy storage built integrally into the bodyshell of the vehicle. The goal is not only very high peak power, delivered to all four wheels, but also fast recharging, effective kinetic energy recuperation and far slower battery degradation.
How all of this gets done is the really really interesting part of the concept – to put it simply, the body panels themselves become the battery, instead of some large, unwieldy, and heavy pack stuffed in the floor. The vision is powered by carbonfibre nanotubes, batteries malleable enough to be shaped, thin enough to be sandwiched between outer and inner layers (so you don’t get electrocuted), yet able to supply the insane power demands of a four-motor electric supercar. In addition to turning the body of the Millennia into an 'accumulator for energy storage', the carbonfibre construction will help keep weight very low.
Of course, it’s difficult to conceive of a car built this intensively of carbonfibre, without some concern for the material cracking or breaking… an especially dire occurrence when there’s a lot of juice flowing through it. Naturally Lamborghini and MIT are developing an answer here, too – let the carbonfibre 'heal' itself.
The car is said to be able to self-monitor the whole of its carbonfibre structure and detect any cracks or damage. Should fractures be detected, 'micro-channels filled with healing chemistries' will proactively repair the structure. Not only is this concept mind-blowing, but when you tease it out, the possibilities become fascinating. As Lamborghini points out, this tech allows for confidently using carbonfibre for 'high-fatigue' parts, meaning weight savings in regions usually reserved for heavier, more durable materials.
The Terzo Millennio is what happens when some of the world’s finest engineering minds are given a blank slate to design the supercar of the future, but it is not a close representation of an actual future model.
As company CTO, Maurizio Reggiani responded to the inevitable question about timeline: 'I cannot tell you when – there are some components that are closer to industrialisation than others,' he said. In other words, much of what’s being worked on in a lab here in Boston will be applied to future road cars, but perhaps not just one car, all at once.
What is clear, after seeing the wild Terzo Millennio and listening to the passionate Italians, is that the future of the supercar is electric.