The day the Lamborghini engine no longer roars

Asia's Tech News Daily

The day the Lamborghini engine no longer roars

‘Welcome to Sant’Agata Bolognese, home town of Lamborghini’, reads the proud message on the place name sign of the small municipality near Bologna. Everything in the surrounding area, in the prosperous northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, seems the Italian love for the super sporty – luxury sports cars – to breathe. Cafés refer to the cars or to the Emilia-Romagna race track. The headquarters of Lamborghini’s arch-rival Ferrari, in Maranello, is also nearby. And the Maserati cars roll off the production line in nearby Modena.

Luxury sports cars are iconic examples of „made in Italy”: artisanal and locally produced high-quality products, in this case in the field of technology and design. Lamborghini collaborates for its technological developments and innovations with top universities such as MIT in Boston and the Politecnico in Milan. In the car factory, workers use graceful chalk lines to draw the patterns on the leather sheets for the interior. In the color room, the customer can choose any shade (and even the number of coats of lacquer) for his customized fashion model. Three robots drive up and down the production line of the Urus, Lamborghini’s all-terrain vehicle. But the finishing touch and strict quality control remains human work.

The downside of all that luxury: the cars are by definition not sustainable. Due to their extremely powerful engines, Italian sports cars often emit much more CO2 and particulate matter than other cars. And that should change very soon. The European Commission aims to achieve zero emissions for all new vehicles put on the market from 2035. From that year on, this ambition has de facto curbed the sale of cars with combustion engines.

Like dinosaurs

“This is a small segment of only a few thousand luxury cars per make, per year,” says German car expert Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management research institute. But if brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini do not evolve, they will disappear from the rapidly changing market, Bratzel predicts. “Cars with internal combustion engines are like dinosaurs. Their time is really over.”

The brands themselves like to talk about their “social responsibility”, but Stephan Winkelmann, the German chief executive of Lamborghini, acknowledged during a meeting at the headquarters that regulation is an important driver to work on the switch to hybrid cars. With a limited production of about eight thousand cars per year, with which you do not drive from A to B every day, Lamborghini cannot be regarded as a major polluter, says Winkelmann in the same breath. But the rules against CO2emissions and the higher taxes on polluters force him to embrace the transition and pursue innovation. “That, but also the wishes of a new generation of customers who want a socially acceptable car.”

The Sian, on display at Lamborghini’s headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese. This is the automaker’s first hybrid model.

This new generation of customers is not only located in Europe or the US. Expensive luxury cars are also hot in communist China. After the US, that country is the second market for Lamborghini. More than twice as many all-electric cars are sold in China as in the European Union (nearly 1.8 million in China in the first nine months of this year, compared to 800,000 in Europe). “Not China, but the world is pushing us in this direction,” says Winkelmann. “We didn’t have to make a hybrid car to break through in China, because we are already there.”

Now that the hybrid evolution has started, Lamborghini (with 1,800 employees) also wants it to move forward. First, the Aventadór model will be hybrid, then the Urus all-terrain vehicle, and finally the Huracán. By the end of 2024, the entire range of models should be hybrid. The company aims to reduce CO . by 20252emissions from its vehicles have halved.

The day the Lamborghini engine no longer roars

Also read: Mega car maker Stellantis puts all the balls on electric car

At the same time, work is underway on the very first fully electric Lamborghini. But the launch date doesn’t get any more concrete than “in the second half of this decade”. Winkelmann makes it clear that he does not believe that hybrid and electric cars are sufficient to drastically reduce emissions in the short term. “If we really want to reduce emissions faster, then a solution must also be found for older cars with a combustion engine, and certainly also for boats and aircraft.” According to him, alternative fuels, such as e-fuel or synthetic fuel, should also be investigated for this purpose.

Auto expert Stefan Bratzel understands why a company like Lamborghini is thinking about e-fuel. The ecological transition is difficult for all car brands, but even more difficult for luxury cars. “The luxury sports brands produce a limited number of cars and have a limited number of clients who hold on to tradition and the legacy of the brand.”

Lamborghini likes to emphasize that its entire offering will be hybrid by the end of 2024. But the competition is not standing still either. The considerably larger Ferrari already has three hybrid cars in its range. And the very first e-Ferrari will be ready in 2025.

It is noticeable that Ferrari is switching faster, while Lamborghini belongs to the German Volkswagen group, which has had experience with electric cars for some time. The Fiat Chrysler group to which Ferrari first belonged was lagging behind in this respect and merged with Peugeot, among others, into the much larger Stellantis group to bring in that electrical knowledge and experience.

The day the Lamborghini engine no longer roars

SUV urus, in production here, will become hybrid in a few years.

“Given the group to which Lamborghini belongs, say 2027 is rather late for a first electric model,” says Bratzel. It has everything to do with volume and money. For example, the money for the transition to electric, you first put that in a brand that has a larger volume. Audi was therefore a higher priority in the Volkswagen group. Porsche, another member of the Volkswagen family, is a different story. The fully electric Porsche Taycan has been driving on European roads since 2019, but Porsche made that electric transition on its own, and then transferred its technology to Audi.

At Lamborghini, the transition to hybrid represents the largest investment in the company’s history. Spread over four years, this concerns an investment of more than one and a half billion euros. By way of comparison: in 2020 Lamborghini achieved a turnover of 1.6 billion euros.

New factory wing

The transition to a hybrid production of three models and a new all-electric one also presents a practical challenge. In 2017, Lamborghini opened a new factory wing for the production of the Urus off-road vehicle (the best-selling vehicle in the range with 5,000 out of 8,000 cars). In the new factory you will not see a traditional assembly line, but large modular production blocks that can move. This agility will soon facilitate the production of hybrid and electric cars, says Ranieri Niccoli, chief manufacturing officer.

Those new vehicles will not lose out performance, driving pleasure and speed, luxury car makers say, hoping to reassure their nostalgic customers. The inevitable ecological transition is pushing these producers into a historic revolution. “Electric mobility transforms the DNA of these brands, which also carries a lot of nostalgic emotion,” says Stefan Bratzel.

According to those nostalgics, you have to hear a supersportiva roar loudly and deeply before you see ‘her’. Fabio Barone from Rome, Ferrari driver, says he has already digested the farewell to the manual gearbox very badly. He will never miss the smell of gasoline, “which produces that fantastic sound.” “I hope I’m out of the pipe before Ferrari goes all electric.”

The day the Lamborghini engine no longer roars
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