Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are partnering to develop technology and products that should make future Lambos faster, lighter, less expensive (maybe), and more crashresistant (possibly). Even though Lamborghini is part of the huge Volkswagen family, supercar companies need to continuously improve if they intend to survive and prosper. The two companies recently announced a three-year partnership to underwrite 50 students studying abroad in Italy and working with Lamborghini on research and development. Much of the work is expected to be in developing composites that make the car lighter and stronger.
It’s not MIT’s first car project: In fall of 2015, the university entered into a partnership with Toyota to further develop self-driving cars. That’s part of a $1 billion program that includes Stanford University as well. The two coastal cities, along with Carnegie Mellon University, are among the university leaders in autonomous driving research. With MIT, much of the work will be in Cambridge, MA, along with the year-abroad program for students. Italy is already a popular junior-year-abroad destination for American students, especially for art history majors (who often minor in drinking espresso and smoking to stay skinny).
MIT also compares its Lamborghini-Italy program to one formed a decade ago between Boeing and the University of Washington, which helped Boeing devise a faster method of creating carbon-fiber parts. Normally it’s a painstaking, multistep process, far slower than stamping a piece of metal in a press. As for Lamborghini, the company says it wants to explore better and more cost-effective composite parts. Supercars, including Lamborghini’s Aventador, already have some carbon fiber parts, including roof, hood, and trunk panels that will save weight and lower the car’s center of gravity and tubs (the chassis) that are ultra crash-resistant.
Carbon fiber wheels would be a worthwhile project, since the greatest performance gains come from reducing unsprung weight, meaning the tires, wheels, and brakes. But it’s hard to monitor carbon fiber wheels for hidden damage, and it’s likely CF road wheels would first be a club-racing or track-days option. The car maker also needs to work on hybrid designs in which the electric motors act as turbochargers, even for those cars that have physical turbochargers.
Electric motors provide torque instantly and at low rpm, while turbos need several tenths of a second to spool up. Lamborghini, like all automakers, is aware that Germany’s legislature voted to push that country, and possibly the entire EU (which often follows Germany’s lead on things automotive) to move beyond combustion engines by 2030. That means even more R&D work on EVs, or hydrogen fuel cells that drive electric motors.