What do a Lamborghini supersports car, a Boeing Dreamliner and a Callaway golf club all have in common? The answer is that all three use the ultra-light yet extremely strong material carbon. The supersports car producer, the aircraft manufacturer and the US company Callaway all work together on developing this material. One of the pioneers of lightweight automotive construction, Lamborghini has used carbon fiber materials for almost 30 years.
This particular freight was one that the captain wanted to inspect for himself. Captain Werner Knorr, Head of Flight Operations at Lufthansa and in charge of 5,000 pilots whose uniform caps bear the company’s stylized crane logo, could be said to have plenty of kerosene in his blood. But there is also enough petrol coursing through his veins for him to crave a close-up of a very special car during a stopover at Bologna Airport in Northern Italy. The car in question – Lamborghini’s latest masterpiece, super sports car Aventador1 – is being flown to its future owner in the United Arab Emirates. In spite of its 700 PS and – in the best Lamborghini tradition – high-revving, naturally aspirated V12 engine, the 6.5-liter unit still weighs no more than 235 kilograms. Nonetheless, it sounds every inch the sports car, with a moderate, throaty rumble at lower revs that rises to a snarling crescendo at full throttle.
WELL USED TO POWERFUL ENGINES –
yet still impressed by the performance
of the sports cars from Sant’Agata:
Captain Werner Knorr, Head of Flight
Operations in charge of 5,000 pilots
Purring softly, it glides in and takes its place in the bare hall like a modern sculpture. Knorr, a man who has seen his share of powerful engines, approaches the shimmering pearlescent Aventador with a mixture of curiosity and unconcealed respect. The aircraft expert is captivated by the new Aventador and is eager to find out more. How is it produced? What does it weigh? What materials are used? And, more than anything else, he would like to get behind the wheel and drive it. Knorr, a self-confessed sports car fan who currently drives a roomy family car to cater for his three children, is toying with the notion of acquiring “something a little faster”. A Lambo, perhaps? He makes a non-committal answer, but his expression suggests that he would have no objection to parking a car with a charging bull emblem in his garage.
LIGHTWEIGHT EXPERTISE IN SANT’AGATA
Answers to Knorr’s questions are readily provided by Luciano De Oto in the brand new Advanced Composites Research Center built in 2010 at the Lamborghini plant in Sant’Agata Bolognese, not far from Bologna. The 40-year-old Italian was responsible for developing the entire body of the new super sports car before taking over at the helm of the Research Center. Here, some 30 specialists from various disciplines work on construction and production methods, primarily for carbon fiber components.
Carbon is the sixth element in the periodic table – a material that is prized by aircraft constructors and automotive engineers alike. It is as light as a feather yet extremely hardwearing. And every kilogram of weight that is saved helps to reduce consumption and emissions – both in the air and on the roads. These days, carbon fiber-reinforced plastics are among the most important materials used by automotive manufacturers to control the weight spiral, as increasingly elaborate safety and comfort features add extra kilos to vehicles. This additional weight must be offset elsewhere on the vehicle, but without compromising safety, driving comfort, or dynamics. Which is where carbon fiber comes in.
Lamborghini is regarded as a pioneer in the use of this ultra-light material. Back in the early 1980s, the first prototypes had already been developed with a chassis made of carbon fiber-reinforced materials. Starting in 1985, they were used as standard parts in the legendary Countach model. 25 years later, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4 Superleggera lived up to its “super-light” epithet. Through the use of carbon fiber parts in the body, interior and technical components, it weighed around 70 kilograms less than its predecessor, the Gallardo LP 560-4. Even the body-in-white of the Lamborghini Murciélago, which was phased out in May 2010 after its 4099th unit, contained 93 kilograms of carbon.