Lamborghini to partner with MIT for a "third millennium" sports car

Lamborghini is recently bonding with Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a 21st century sports car that’s ultra-light, strong and innovative.

    Nov 04, 2016 6:30 PM  PT
Lamborghini to partner with MIT for a
author: Claire   

The Italian luxury car maker Lamborghini is working with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to develop a 21st century sports car that's ultra-light, strong and innovative. 

At the recent the EmTech conference held in Boston, Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stefano Domenicali talked about Lamborghini's long-time work in the development of carbon-fiber technologies for automotive, consumer, and aerospace industries. The company has just signed a three-year sponsorship deal with MIT—for a sum it declines to reveal.

According to the release about the partnership, the collaboration between MIT and Lamborghini "represents a step into the future for the automotive industry, with the ultimate aim of paving the way for a very ambitious project, namely a super sports car ready for the challenges of the third millennium." 

So what's special about the sports car that can represent "the third millennium"? For one thing, there's the issue of carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber is not new. It actually has been used for decades in over one million European luxurious cars including Ferrari and McLaren. Why it's priced so high is because of the material itself and longer production times. It's a flexible fabric-like material that, when combined with a polymer, can be molded into the shape of a car part that is stronger and lighter than today's steel and aluminum parts. However, when metal parts can be stamped in seconds, it can take several minutes for a carbon fiber part to be molded and cured.

A lighter structured material can mean more fuel efficiency, and Lamborghini for years have been striving in the carbon fiber research field. It has a lab (Lambo Lab) in Seattle, where it works with Boeing on composite materials. In 2013, Lamborghini's Aventador hit the market and became the only consumer car at that time with a complete carbon fiber tub and roof. The making utilized Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) technology, which is a significantly faster way to make carbon fiber car components. It can store them at room temperature instead of freezing them. 

The current collaboration with MIT will probably focus on this area to explore advanced bio-materials, or even shape-shifting alloys. 

"The future will involve things like forged composites, but we need materials that are much better in terms of performance and weight," Maurizio Reggiani, Director at Lamborghini R&D department told Ars Technica in a phone interview. "For us, our Seattle facility is like an antenna for new technology. The technology was developed in the aeronautical field, and the Advanced Composite Lab works to see how we can apply to the car business in the future. And it's really good to have feet in Boston where there's some of the best universities in the world with technological development."