Lamborghini's new Terzo Millennio concept is the sportscar of the future

Italian passion blended with high tech innovation: that's the essence of Lamborghini's most futuristic concept car ever, the Terzo Millennio.

The radical two-door is the Italian brand's most serious indication of a future eschewing V12 engines for electric propulsion.

While the V10s and V12s that have defined the brand have plenty of life left yet, Lamborghini is preparing for a world where electricity will one day step in for premium unleaded.

Doctors and professors the key

Key to the Terzo Millennio's technology injection is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to innovate with materials and electric propulsion.

"Collaborating with MIT for our R&D department is an exceptional opportunity to do what Lamborghini has always been very good at: rewriting the rules on super sports cars," says Lamborghini CEO – and former Ferrari F1 chief - Stefano Domenicali. "Lamborghini must always create the dreams of the next generation."

So, while brands such as Lamborghini were developed and fostered with car enthusiasts tinkering with spanners in workshops, the new breed is using laboratories and computers.

With electric cars, in particular, technology and innovation could be more important than ever for cementing a brand identity.

Electric motors, not pistons

Instead of a raucous V12 engine the Terzo Millennio has an electric motor built into each of its radical LED-illuminated wheels.

Lamborghini has been hinting at electric propulsion for a while, most recently at October's Frankfurt motor show when Domenicali was quoted as saying hybrid cars would join the Lamborghini stables in the next five years.

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Despite revealing the Terzo Millennio concept – in turn flagging the prospect of an all-electric Lamborghini – only six months ago Deomnicali said such a car would not reach showrooms until 2025 at the earliest.

Looking at the radical design of the Terzo Millennio and some of the tech beneath the skin it's likely to be many years later than that.

Sound off

One of the challenges for future performance cars is making them sound as fast and dramatic as the modern supercar heroes. Think Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini.

While some pump artificial sound through the speakers, the best soundtracks are natural; AMG and Ferrari V8s, for example, or the superb HSV W1.

That authenticity is the thinking with electric, too.

AMG, for example, is working hard to create its own distinctive electric sound, but one that is genuine.

In announcing the Terzo Millennio Lamborghini doesn't mention the sound specifically, but it does point to emotion as being one of the key focuses for the brand.

Powerful stuff

Despite being powered by electricity, the Terzo Millennio does not use batteries.

Instead, the collaboration with MIT employs low voltage supercapacitors that can deliver a lot of electricity very quickly, something crucial to achieve supercar performance.

While there are still challenges to ensure such supercapacitors can store enough energy, Lamborghini cites strong power delivery properties and a long lifecycle as reasons for investigating supercapacitors.

Self-healing technology

The Terzo Millennio is also the start of a new generation of carbon fibre structures.

Lamborghini has been one of the pioneers with using carbon fibre in production cars, something it wants to evolve with self-healing technology designed to repair itself after a crash.

While immensely strong, carbon fibre can be brittle and difficult to repair, often leading to costly replacement.

Utilising its MIT collaboration Lamborghini wants to develop a carbon structure that can "conduct its own health monitoring" by detecting cracks, even fine ones that can't be seen by a human eye.

Then the innovative material will start a self-repairing process "via micro-channels filled with healing chemistries".

If successful it would allow more parts to be constructed of carbon fibre as well as realise possible weight savings.

Shock factor

While the Terzo Millennio has the trademark Lamborghini wedge-like profile – complete with race car-inspired aerodynamics and oodles of shock factor – it's the technology beneath the carbon fibre skin that is the most interesting aspect.

In trying to create a car that "physically imagines design and technology theories of tomorrow" the car focuses on emotion, electric motors and alternatives to traditional batteries as much as new materials and a future design direction for the brand.

Take a seat

Traditional instruments are replaced by a virtual cockpit that can be tailored to the driver's tastes or driving mode.

But Lamborghini is also hinting at driverless possibilities with the Terzo Millennio.

The radical concept has a Piloted Driving mode that allows the driver to go for an expert high speed ride around a track.

The car can then hand control back to the driver and coach them around the track, with the aim of improving lap times and getting the most out of what promises to be a fast and futuristic driving experience.

When – or if – it makes it to production…

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