A new era has dawned on the automotive industry in the last decade. It is commonly known, that the World is changing, and there are climate shifts occouring. Eventually, although probably in the very distant future, fossil fuels will become depleted, and the inevitable rise in the prices of fuels to a ridiculous level are sure to accompany the fact. These are further strengthened with the constant social unrest in the Middle-East and their effect on fuel supplies.
Alongside these factors, we have a major issue; pollution and sustainability; people are aware of the negative implications of industries and manufacturing, and thus industries need to find solutions to these problems. One leading ideology about pollution and its’ widespread, is that cars cause the problem; and this is especially true in highly congested areas with a concentration of population, such as cities and town centres. To transcend towards a sustainable future, technologies are changing, and are being developed to brighten the prospects for humanity.
In the last two decades we have seen the envisioning of plug-in hybrids brought to life with cars such as the Toyota Prius, which combined with Toyota alternative energy vehicles, by the end of 2013 had already sold more than 6 million units. (Corporatenews 2014) It has adapted to our environment, held its own and it feels right at home on our roads filled with standard ICE (internal combustion engine) cars; with customers, with the population and with industry. The popularity of the cars as well as legislations regarding EVs (Electric Vehicles) and Hybrid cars, blossomed into other manufactures jumping on the bandwagon as well. In 2010, a legislation was released that by 2050 the UK is to cut greenhouse emissions by 80%. Obviously with legislations come incentives, although it is projected that EVs won’t be expected to make a major contribution to emission reductions until 2020. (Parliament 2010)
This means only five years to go until that expected massive shift towards EV manufacture; by most car companies anyway; and starts to outweigh the productions and carbon emissions of current levels and fossil fuel powered cars. Manufacturers from all corners of the Globe have had an early start and started adapting their manufacturing methods and their model line-ups, although there is concern about the energy taken to produce battery powered vehicles, as well as the disposal of said batteries and vehicles. The manufacture of these batteries is pricy and offer relatively low range for vehicles; however new technologies such as lithium batteries are being developed and implemented to improve the overall performance and range, and to lower manufacturing stresses. (ft 2015)
There are quite a few examples of EVs and hybrids on the market today, such as Nissan with their all electric Leaf, Mitsubishi with their i-Miev, as well as adaptions of existing ranges such as VW’s E-Golf, and the Audi E-Tron just to mention a few. (Plugincars 2015) Even smaller production manufacturers have become involved, and not only have risen to the challenge, but are now leading innovators. Tesla is a prime example of that, and have managed to concoct a solution of luxury, performance and electric technology. Although, sales figures suggest that the Tesla Model S’s were only modest compared to large OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) companies last year, the Model S has been hitting records sales.(Ibtimes 2015) This, combined with tax incentive solutions by countries such as Norway, and the release of the all new Tesla S P85D, resonate undoubted success to the future of EVs in not only the largest, but smaller companies as well.
This of course means changes are to come, and will inevitable have to also affect sports, and supercars. BMW stumped the World when they announced their initial concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, (Wikipedia 2015) the BMW Vision Efficient Dynamics Concept. It was a proposition of a BMW Plug-in Hybrid vehicle in the form of a 4-seater sports car featuring a brand new design language. It was not only radical in aesthetics but in nature; a proposal of a hybrid sports car was still doubted as the brilliant 2008 Tesla Roadster was still in its very early stages of sales. This car of course has since then blossomed into the currently available BMW i8, and it’s baby sister the BMW i3. A rapidly climbing amount of examples can be seen cruising the streets of cities and towns, especially in the UK and throughout Europe.
Sportscars, are usually followed by the niche markets, and therefore, supercars. 2014 saw the release of three very special cars to join the Hybrid plug-in category. This truly gave a new meaning to hybrids, and combined conventional petrol engines, with electric engines, not only to decrease emissions, but to also increase performance levels. These new prodigies of the hypercar market came in the form of the Ferrari Laferrari, McLaren P1, and the Porsche 918. These cars truly show the best of both worlds, and demonstrate the effectiveness and sheer power you can get from joining the positive attributes of both the ICE and the electric world.
An obvious question raises; if this is where the future is heading, how long until all companies are manufacturing EV’s and Hybrid vehicles? Well, it seems, probably not that long at all; and one of these companies happens to be Lamborghini. Although with having to uphold such a lavish name and brand, Lambo needed to follow suit and keep with the times, and so, had to take the inevitable step forward and introduced their first ever plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Lamborghini Asterion at Mondial de l’Automobile 2014 – Press Conference (Lamborghini 2014)
Stephan Winkelmann, the boss of Lamborghini, was quite hesitant and not very interested at first, but he knew what had to be done. “Even if we might be granted an exemption as a small manufacturer, there is the issue of social acceptance. Things are changing. People are more aware, more sensitive…” (Stephan Winkelmann 2014 cited in Top Gear 2014)
The Asterion is a GT car, and rather than being the signature supercar range that Lamborghini is so renowned for, the design shifts its purpose from being the competitor of the Laferrari, McLaren, or the Porsche to more of an everyday plug-in hybrid super sports car. (Autocar 2014) This takes the company right to the forefront of lavish luxury everyday cruising, and challenges the likes of the BMW i8, and the upcoming Audi R8 EV and plug-in hybrid ranges, (Carmagazine 2015) which happen to be owned by the same parent company; Volkswagen.
Although the Asterion is only in concept form at the moment, designed to be a “technology demonstrator”, (Autocar 2014) prospects of making a production model are looking up. This car would evolve Lamborghini’s portfolio into a new age and widen the horizons, as well as help form a new image to the brand. It was based on the Aventador’s and the Hurican’s monocoque chassis, and the hybrid unit had been tested in an Aventador for the past few years, while it was under development.
The combination of both petrol and electric engines have resulted in a massive 910bhp power output, the highest any Lamborghini has ever injected into any of it’s raging bulls, and skyrockets the car from zero to 60 in just three seconds. It makes use of a V10 petrol engine for normal road driving and combined with a dual-clutch automatic transmission system, coupled with a recovery system. Similar to a KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), whereby batteries are charged by the kinetic energy forces caused during braking, this system also helps charge the batteries although does so by making use of a motor in the transmission while the car is in normal driving mode. (Autocar 2014)
The car makes use of two electrical motors for each front wheel, and is purely a front-wheel drive car in full electric mode, while being able to reach a top speed of 78mph (126 km/h) in EV mode. The motors also assist the car with torque vectoring and allow the wheels to apply different torques, which also assist the handling as well as the output and efficiency of the normal engine. (Autocar 2014)
How Lamborghini’s Asterion LPI 910-4 technology works (Lamborghini 2014)
It seems then, that Lamborghini has paid careful attention to the world around us, have changed with the times, and progressed into a new way of thinking. However, as with previous, potentially successful endeavours, one can never know with Lamborghini until the day of release arrives. Needless to say though, a hybrid Lambo will be inevitable at some stage in the future, and the Asterion makes a brilliant and impactful introduction.
Autocar.co.uk (2014) Lamborghini Asterion could make production – plus exclusive studio pics [online]. Available from <http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/paris-motor-show/lamborghini-asterion-could-make-production-plus-exclusive-studio-pics>
Carmagazine.co.uk (2015) Audi R8 (2015): tech chief confirms plug-in hybrid and EV [online]. Available from < http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/Secret-new-cars/Search-Results/Spyshots/Audi-R8-2015-tech-chief-confirms-plug-in-hybrid-and-EV/>
Corporatenews.pressroom.toyota.com (2014) Worldwide Sales of Toyota Hybrids Top 6 Million Units [online]. available from <http://corporatenews.pressroom.toyota.com/releases/worldwide+toyota+hybrid+sales+top+6+million.htm>
En.wikipedia.org (2015) BMW i8 [online]. Available from < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_i8>
ft.com (2015) September New battery aims to transform electric cars [online]. available from < http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/01b47ecc-6126-11e4-b935-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3OCJyJ0bV> [2 November 2014]
Ibtimes.com (2015) September 2014 Tesla Model S Sales: CEO Elon Musk Says Global Sales Hit a Record [online]. available from < http://www.ibtimes.com/september-2014-tesla-model-s-sales-ceo-elon-musk-says-global-sales-hit-record-1714929> [28 October 2014]
Parliament.uk (2010) Postnote – Electric Vehicles [online]. available from<http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn365_electricvehicles.pdf>
Plugincars.com (2015) Cars [online]. available from <http://www.plugincars.com/cars>
Topgear.com (2015) Meet Lamborghini’s big boss – Topgear [online]. Available from <http://www.topgear.com/uk/car-news/tg-chats-lambo-boss-2014-12-10> [10 December 2014]
Electronic Visual references:
Auto News (2014) Lamborghini Asterion LPI910-4 Premiere. [online] available from < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3iaPXSTE_U> [4 October 2014]
Lamborghini (2014) How Lamborghin’si Asterion LPI910-4 technology works. [online] available from < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agaYcay0Dro>
Dailytech.com (2015) available from <http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/model-s-photo-gallery-08.jpg> [9 October 2014]
Gopixpic.com (n.d) available from <http://www.ausmotive.com/images/BMW-Vision-EfficientDynamics-01.jpg>
Phys.org (2003-2015) available from <http://cdn.phys.org/newman/gfx/news/hires/2012/toyotaprius.jpg> [28 August 2013]
Planete-gt.com (2014) available from <http://www.planete-gt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/laferrari-mclaren-p1-porsche-918-comparo-top-gear-2.jpg> [12 November 2014]