Is Lamborghini Betting on Hybrid Electric Performance?
- In the search for modern performance gains, Lamborghini is committing to its first road-going, electrified supercar, codenamed the LB744.
- Set for debut later this year, the LB744 will be powered by a newly developed 6.5-liter V12 and three 110-kW electric motors, for a total of 1001 hp and 534 lb-ft of torque.
- A new eight-speed double-clutch transmission was also developed for the incoming model, with an electric motor embedded in the transmission itself to provide additional torque off the line.
The Lamborghini name is synonymous with a symphony of 48 valves opening and closing, gated shifters clicking into place, and an overriding boisterousness that accompanies driving an Italian supercar. But inside these wedged-shaped packages is a historic pedigree of true performance, with both speed and handling honed and maximized by Bolognese engineers. As we move further into the 21st century, however, producing emissions-compliant large-displacement, naturally aspirated engines is increasingly difficult—and the results are often not as fast.
From Chevrolet and its new Corvette E-Ray to national competitor Ferrari and its move to hybrid power, electrification is no longer for environmentalists only. In fact, electrification has proven itself to be a useful tool in the development of power, and Lamborghini is now ready to tap into this technology. The company is unveiling some initial details about its first high-performance electrified vehicle, codenamed LB744, set to be debuted later this year.
For starters, the model will be powered by a naturally-aspirated 6.5-liter V12 mid-mounted engine augmented by three electric motors, with a lithium-ion battery pack installed in the transmission tunnel. Altogether, the LB744 is said to make 1001 hp and 534 lb-ft of torque, fed through a rear-mounted, electric-motor-driven double-clutch transmission. Best of all, the addition of these electric motors will allow the model to drive short distances in full-electric mode.
The LB744 will not be the first Lamborghini to use an electric motor—that honor belongs to the 2019 Lamborghini Sian—but it signals a new beginning for Lamborghini. And that’s not just a result of electrification. Lamborghini says that the L545 V12 it plans to use will be a newly developed one with a unique orientation, rotating it 180 degrees into a transverse position as compared to the current V12 Aventador. The company also claims this V12 has the highest output per liter of any Lamborghini V12 (set at 126-hp per liter), will weigh only 480 pounds, and has a maximum revolution range of 9500 rpm.
Augmenting this beast of an engine are three 110-kW electric motors, with two placed in the front axle and one on top of the double-clutch transmission itself. While the eight-speed double-clutch transmission sends rear power to the rear wheels through a traditional means, the two electric motors placed on each of the front wheels help provide additional traction and create a sort of electric four-wheel drive for the LB744. The third electric motor that works in conjunction with the transmission is used to supply additional torque to the rear wheels under certain driving situations, such as hard acceleration. Adding these electric motors not only benefits outright acceleration but allows the LB744 to benefit from a torque vectoring system and regenerative braking as well. EV mode on the incoming LB744 will propel the car through its front wheels, meaning there will be some select instances where the model is front-wheel-drive.
Similar to the Maserati GranTurismo Folgore, the 3.8-kWh battery pack is T-shaped and connects directly to all three electric motors as well as an internal recharging unit. In order to retain a similar interior feel and chassis design, the pack is placed where the transmission would normally be, allowing for similar weight distribution and a low center of gravity. When it comes time to recharge the battery, Lamborghini says it offers a 7-kW charging capacity that is compatible with ordinary Level 1 and 2 chargers, though the battery can also be fully charged through front-wheel regenerative braking or from the V12 engine itself.
While this addition to the Lamborghini lineup is historic on its own, the technological advancements aren’t anything particularly new, with the exception of the transmission design. In order to integrate both electric torque and V12 power, the company says it needed to engineer a whole new transmission unit that would serve as the nerve center of the hybrid plug-in unit, and the final product was an eight-speed, wet double-clutch transmission. And it’s positioned behind the V12 engine, in a transmission placement move that Lamborghini hasn’t employed on a road-going car since the launch of the Miura in 1966.
It’s a particularly small and light transmission, weighing only 425 pounds and taking up around 4.5 square feet of space. The gearbox uses two distinct shafts as opposed to the usual three, with one managing the even-numbered gears while the other manages the odd gears, and both shafts engage the same rotor. New features of this gearbox include different modes depending on the use of its electric motors, a true overdrive eighth gear, and a continuous downshift habit under braking when in automatic mode. Reversing is also handled through electric motors exclusively.
The future is looking increasingly electric and it’s no surprise that Lamborghini has decided to join the club. And while its newly announced hybrid technology isn’t particularly groundbreaking—save for its all-electric, front-wheel-drive reversing—jumping into the electrified performance market finally adds some pressure to its competitors from Maranello.