The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio – A Bolt of Lightning from the Future

Lamborghini and MIT have collaborated to come up with the Terzo Millennio concept, their vision of a supercar of the future with supercapacitors replacing batteries plus a self-healing carbon fiber body among many other innovations

The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio - A Bolt of Lightning from the Future

On Monday, iconic Italian automaker Lamborghini unveiled the Terzo Millennio, an electric supercar concept, designed in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Dinca Research Lab and its mechanical engineering department’s Mechanosynthesis Group.

The futuristic Terzo Millennio, which in Italian means “Third Millennium,” will have a body and components made from carbon nanotubes, a material which not only has the potential to replace the lithium-ion batteries that power today’s electric cars, but can even be made to self-heal through some clever material science.

Lamborghini is on a three-year partnership contract with MIT which is costing the Italian carmaker around €200,000 per year.

“Exactly one year ago, we [signed] an agreement with the MIT-Italy Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — which marked the start of a collaboration between two outstanding entities — for the creation of a project that intends to write an important page in the future of super sports cars for the third millennium,” said Stefano Domenicali, chairman and chief executive officer of Automobili Lamborghini.

MIT’s Dinca Research Lab, headed by chemistry professor Mircea Dinca and MIT’s Mechanosynthesis Group, led by mechanical engineering professor Anastasios John Hart, are primarily responsible for researching innovative materials and for the development of energy storage systems.

So, what’s so special about this Terzo Millennio?

Apart from its super-sexy, low slung Batmobile-like demeanor with intimidating fenders, the vehicle is as eco-friendly as any electric car can hope to be, with no compromise, whatsoever, on performance – and, of course, the Lamborghini sound.

Unlike the regular lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles today, supercapacitor energy storage technology, being developed for this third-millennium car, proposes to generate and release of power instantly and the lightweight carbon fiber body will be scientifically tweaked to give it self-healing properties.

At the same time, Lamborghini is looking into the practicality and feasibility of batteries made from carbon composites utilizing nanotechnology which will potentially cause a reduction in weight, thereby increasing discharge capacity of the batteries.

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Dinca’s team is exploring all scientific and technological avenues to conquer the limitations of current technologies. For the Terzo Millenio to become a mobile reality from a static concept, the team will have come up with the perfect materials to address power storage issues. Lamborghini’s vision of a lightweight, energy efficient super-electric vehicle of the future depends on finding the right material that can feature supercapacitors within the body of the car itself.

“My lab likes to make materials, we like to think outside the box,” Dinca said. “What better company to think outside the box with than Lamborghini?”

Meanwhile, Hart’s Mechanosynthesis team is busy perfecting carbon fiber materials along with the technology that will allow the monitoring of the entire carbon fiber structure of the car to identify areas with stress, cracks, and damage and initiate a self-repairing process.

Here’s the “horse’s mouth” explanation of how innovative material will be the key to realizing the grand vision behind Terzo Millennio.

“Lamborghini aims to reduce weight and to increase the availability of electric energy using structural electric energy storing composites as a rechargeable battery. The target is to improve the nanomaterial technology, diffusing nano-charges in CFK-based panels able to store electric energy and in the meantime to form the body and structures of the car. At the same time, the project aims to combine the technology to monitor continuously the whole carbon fiber structure, both visible and invisible, with the concept of health-monitoring: the goal is to provide for the Terzo Millennio the ability to conduct its own health-monitoring, to detect cracks and damages that might occur after accident, throughout its substructure, while limiting or reducing to zero the risks correlated to the presence and propagation of cracks in the carbon fiber structure.”

Of course, with an electric motor dedicated to each of the wheels, the Terzo Millennio is very much a four-wheel-drive vehicle, in an electrical sense rather than the conventional mechanical four-wheel-drive concept.

Notwithstanding the truth that the worldwide automotive trend is going the electrical way – and increasingly so – and the fact that there is every likelihood of robots doing the driving in the not too distant future, Lamborghini’s exclusive clientele would want the company to hold on to some of the conventional charms of a Lamborghini vehicle.

Lamborghini America COO Alessandro Farmeschi couldn’t have explained it better when he said, “You don’t normally buy a sports car to have it driven by a computer.”

Maurizio Reggiani, the company’s director of R&D, echoed Farmeschi thought by saying “If you ask one of our customers, do you want to have a chauffeur? No.”

Furthermore, “for [the customers], the number of cylinders is fundamental, [just] like horsepower,” says Reggiani. According to him, Lamborghini customers are fine with technology as long as it doesn’t deprive them of the fun of driving, or the sound, for that matter, because a Lambo without its signature vroom is no Lambo – it’s a blasphemy of sorts.

It remains to be seen how Lamborghini and partners strike the right balance between futuristic technology and convention.

While it is still just a concept in its embryonic phase, it is a stunning idea never-the-less. With Lamborghini’s expertise and its reputation for innovation along with some of the best minds in MIT, it wouldn’t be long before this self-healing, supercapacitor charged, all electric next-to-next-gen vehicle, with the sleekness of shape only a Lamborghini can boast, will become a street reality – a reality of the roads, so to speak.

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