Tech

Lamborghini's EV push won't give us an all-electric supercar anytime soon

Sant\'Agata Bolognese, Italy - July 28, 2011: Lamborghini Luxury Sports Car Badge

$1.8B

The amount Lamborghini will spend to release electrified versions of its entire lineup.

Lamborghini

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Lamborghini is going electric. The Italian automaker, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, says it will spend $1.8 billion electrifying its entire vehicle lineup by 2024. Sadly, Lamborghini is kind of cheating here because the cars will be plug-in hybrids, with the automaker only committing to release an all-electric supercar in the second half of the decade.

As part of the announcement, the automaker says that it aims for a 50 percent reduction in the CO2 emissions of its operations by the beginning of 2025.

Performance — CEO Stephan Winkelmann says the greatest challenge in going electric is maintaining the extraordinary performance that defines its vehicles. “The reduction of the CO₂ emissions is interesting to the big brands of the automotive industry, but it’s even more difficult and even more impacting for a super-sports-car manufacturer like Lamborghini,” Winkelmann said in an interview with Bloomberg. “You need to reduce the emissions, but on the other hand you have to stay a performance-oriented, super-sports-car manufacturer without any doubt. So it’s a big challenge for us. In a very simple way, you have to change everything not to change anything.”

Electric cars are heavier than gas-powered alternatives because of their large lithium-ion battery packs. The battery in a Tesla Model X, for instance, weighs a whopping 1,200 pounds — more than a gas-powered car’s engine and transmission. The simple math is that weight is never good in a sports car where every bit of baggage lost can provide for a slight gain in performance.

Engineers at Lamborghini are trying to address that by developing new technologies and applying lightweight carbon fiber materials to keep weight down.

Supercar demand — Another problem is that stress on battery systems can create a lot of heat — Tesla struggled to keep the battery in its original Roadster cool, and had to develop a special cooling system. But doing so means creating an entirely new vehicle platform, and Lamborghini might not be feeling a lot of pressure to do so. Despite a global pandemic, demand for supercars is soaring. Lamborghini had its most profitable year ever in 2020, and sold 25 percent more cars in the first quarter of 2021 than a year ago.

Lamborghini isn’t the only supercar manufacturer to pass over a whole hog transition to electric in favor of hybrids. McLaren today announced the Artura, its first production hybrid supercar. Hybrid supercars take advantage of battery motors’ immediate torque in order to go from 0-60mph quickly, then switch over to a combustion engine once they get to high speeds.