A Close Look at the New Lamborghini Terzo Millennio

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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The name may point a long way into the future - ‘Terzo Millennio’ means third millennium - but Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali started the Terzo project on his arrival at Sant’Agata. The idea was to explore how to make an EV hypercar dramatic and engaging enough to deliver both the kerb appeal and performance that makes it worthy of the brand, as well as engage Lambo’s future audience. The Terzo is basically a rolling technical test bed designed to challenge current EV thinking and jump-start a more radical approach.

 

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It’s easy to dismiss the Terzo Millennio as a fanciful concept that will never see the light of day; a vehicle laced with technology we struggle to even understand let alone have the vision to identify as the direction for next-generation performance. Yet, if you dig deeper into the project, it’s obvious that it’s very significant.

 

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For an EV to be deemed worthy of the brand, the required specification was simple: “It had to exceed 300kph (186mph) and be capable of doing three hot laps of the Nordschliefe. Why three laps? Because after three laps you’d need to replace the tyres,” says Lamborghini’s chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani.

 

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Keen to move away from the skateboard layout, the Terzo team is currently exploring the potential of using nanotechnology to thread billions of tiny copper anodes and cathodes into the carbon weave, turning the whole body of the Terzo into an energy-storage system. In addition to this futuristic concept, the team is using aerospace polymer technology within the bodywork to allow the carbon fibre to self heal minor imperfections.

 

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Not content with current thinking in the automotive industry or the standard development process, Reggiani decided to go back to the laboratory, to start with a completely clean sheet of paper. He also chose to enlist the help of the world-famous MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where the car was launched. Halfway through the three-year association, the brains at MIT have proved that the nanotechnology-charged carbon-fibre tech can work on a small scale and are now focused on working on a solution to scale it up and industrialise it.

 

 

To manage the body-panel charge and be able to harness and deploy it to deliver the performance required to meet the brief, the team is pushing the boundaries of supercapacitor technology. The main advantages of supercapacitors compared with standard batteries is their ability to store up to 100 times more energy, their capacity to accept and deliver charge much faster and to tolerate many more charge and discharge cycles. In short, they’re lighter, more energy dense and would meet the criteria set out for the Terzo Millennio’s three-lap max-attack assault on the ’Ring. But use of the technology at this scale is in its infancy in the automotive world, something Reggiani is keen to solve.

 

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“We have this guy that has a brain ten times bigger than my brain. He’s looking into what exists today in the market and has discovered something exceptional. To give you an impression, what we have found with MIT is an element that is able to deliver 4.5V, this means you can have three times more peak energy [than current options] that you can use in every condition,” says Reggiani with a glint in his eye. “I’m confident that this will be possible by the end of this project.”

 

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The revolutionary combination of the supercapacitor, body-panel-charge storage and the speed of its power delivery creates huge opportunities for flexibility in other areas of the package. The current spec for the car sees each wheel driven by an independent in-wheel motor. This allows for torque vectoring and both steering and braking-by-wire. According to Reggiani, a development of the Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale system (the black box accelerometer wizardry that handles the Huracán’s chassis control) would have the capability to process this next-level performance.

 

 

While still in development, the interior will feature super-low F1-style seating position made possible by the lack of battery pack. With autonomy being another front-line tech battleground, Lamborghini is using the Terzo to develop its take on driver assistance too. “You buy a Lamborghini for yourself,” Reggiani said. “I cannot imagine somebody that buys a Lamborghini leaving a computer to drive the car. What we want to do in a car like this is to create a kind of human or virtual interface that is able to talk with you, to give you feedback about what you can achieve with the car, how far you are from best performance, and what you need to do in order to improve – a kind of autonomous supporter. This is our idea of autonomous driving.”

 

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For a company whose history is built on shouty V12s, the relative silence of the EV future must be terrifying, and it’s no surprise that the Terzo looks to tackle this head-on too. In another (yet to be announced association) the Terzo project is looking into how to use the airflow over and around the car to provide and heighten the soundtrack – in essence, using the whole car’s surface area like a giant musical instrument. It’s hard to see how airflow will ever be able to replace the beat of the V12, but the search for the next-generation hypercar soundtrack is underway.

 

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So, while others are concentrating on autonomy to get you home from the pub after a night out, Lambo’s virtual assistant will be able to overlay your pitiful efforts around your favourite track with the absolutely optimal lap, then dial up the correct level of assistance to help you find your inner driving god.

 

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Well, according to Reggiani, the man responsible for the majority of the ground-breaking engineering achievements of Lamborghini for the past 20 years, “not with current technology”. Current market trends see the arrival of a new EV hypercar every other month, all promising to hurl their lucky millionaire occupants from zero to 60mph faster than the previous month’s internet fodder. But look into the specification and all are based on the same skateboard layout, with the occupants sat on top of the vast battery cell. A technology Reggiani describes as “evolutionary not revolutionary”. “We needed to find a more radical solution,” he said.

 

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“This is a revolution,” said Reggiani. “It can be risky. You are right, but if you want to be a visionary, you must also take risks. When we created the first Aventador, people said to us, ‘Are you crazy? It’s not possible to have a sustainable project with a full monocoque in carbon fibre.’ We have proved it was not only possible, but it was a big success, and we just now produced chassis number 8,000.” It takes someone to lead not to follow in this industry, to look beyond the current thinking and define where to go next.

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The Terzo redefines our understanding of every aspect of the hypercar, as we understand it. It challenges convention, breaks new boundaries and, if the team can deliver, it will redefine our understanding of performance in every parameter, while delivering a future for the apex predators of speed. And for that we should credit it and the automotive brains developing it.