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Filippo Perini is Lamborghini's head of design, and the Aventador Superveloce that debuted in Geneva is his latest project. We caught up with him at the show to discuss not only the company's design process, but also the innovative materials the company is using, such as forged carbon fiber.
The "forging" process transforms randomly chopped up bits of carbon fibers and, under very high pressure forms them into shapes that unlike woven carbon fiber are equally strong in all directions. This new material's first use outside of the Sesto Elemento is an optional package that puts it on display in the engine bay of the new Huracan.
In addition, Perini filled us in on how Lamborghini's design team transformed the already brutal Aventador into an even more aggressive (in his words, "arrogant") Superveloce model.
R&T: Tell us about this unusual carbon fiber we see in the engine bay of the Huracan on the show stand.
FP: This is carbon fiber that is random - we call this forged carbon fiber, it's a material that is pretty new. The fibers are random. It is structural, and aesthetic. I love this material because it's giving us a natural effect. It's very far from the tweed effect of carbon fiber. It reminds me of the roots of a tree, kind of a black wood.
The first time we used this material was in the Sesto Elemento concept car, and we discovered a lot of potential of this material. And now we're starting to introduce it in production.
Where can we expect to see this in the future?
You will see it in a lot of applications. Interior, exterior. It doesn't matter. It can be structural. But at least it is a material that can be used in a very different way, but with a lot of positive effects.
What is the cost compared to traditional carbon fiber?
It's not less expensive. The cost per kilo is the same. The tooling to do it is more expensive. But what is interesting for us is the process. It allows different uses of the material that were impossible with the twill (traditional woven carbon fiber) because of the cost. It uses heavy pressure. It's a totally different business case. But what is interesting for us is that it is easier to have a production line with forged carbon fiber.
Now it's just a matter of the capability of the process and the production. We have a huge carbon fiber center in the company. When you see it painted and shiny, it's really deep. Pictures don't tell the truth. When you change positions, you can see different things through it. I like it. The next application will be in the interior.
What was the design process for the Aventador SV?
We started as designers with the clear commitment to work in the direction of performance. So you can see typical first impact in the design is the rear wing. It's fixed, but it has the possibility to change position from neutral to low and high downforce. And from this rear, heavy element we started to work on the underbody, the rear diffuser, the rocker, and the front—are driven by downforce, the first need of this car. We worked closely with the technicians.
All the additional parts are in carbon. In view, or painted, it doesn't matter. There is a lot of carbon because we were asked to try to reduce weight. For example, avoiding moveable fins [in the intakes feeding the engine cooling system aft of the side windows]—they are heavy—we decided to use fixed fins that are serving the oil and gearbox cooler directly.
So in the front … [w]e were trying to increase the downforce to balance the huge downforce that comes from the modification to the rear. Since the beginning of the project, when we were delivering our proposal to the aerodynamics guys, we worked very closely with them.
This is important: we increased the cooling a lot for the engine by having a very well-profiled airflow [at the front fenders]. These surfaces guide airflow directly to the cooling system intakes [in the rear of the vehicle].
The rims are very important. We did a huge job with the technicians because we were asked to save a lot of weight, and you know, these are rotational masses, and we decided with the technicians to use this almost spoked design. These arms are so thin you can almost say they're spokes.
How did these additions affect the overall design?
For the exterior, we were trying to do the modifications to respect the initial concept of the car. It's always a risk to do modifications like this, to lose the homogeneous effect of the car. It's a radical, arrogant design but I think that it's clear that continuing the work done with the Aventador. And when we did the Aventador [initially], we were clearly thinking about the derivations and now the SV. It wasn't done at the time, but we were thinking about it.
I see bare carbon fiber in the SV's interior, and that seems new. Can you tell me about that?
It was very tough for us, because we were asked to take away—not add. There are new door panels, with a single layer of carbon. New seats, with carbon fiber shells. These come directly from the Veneno. Now they are tested for broad use. The dashboard, you can see the massive use of lightweight materials. Alcantara is one, but you can see the twill carbon as well as the "carbon skin"—this is our flexible carbon fiber. And we love to use all this material that comes from our activities with the concept.
Last but not least, but to leave on view the real material of the monocoque: carbon fiber. Now we can leave it in view—as you can see it's really naked. You can see the materials used in the construction. The rest is basically Aventador, but we were taking elements away for weight reduction.
Carbon skin? Where am I going to see this in future Lamborghinis? What else will you use it for?
One thing is to use it for concept, one for production. For production, a material has to fulfill all the requirements of durability, and this is very tough. We follow really demanding tests for all materials. So when you see an application, it is ready for production with the quality needed for the [Volkswagen Group], not just Lamborghini.
We have a really modern carbon fiber production center in Sant'Agata and we want to use it.
Don't forget, Lamborghini is a very small company. We have this potential in house, we will continue to use it, and designers are the first guys who can suggest new possibilities for this kind of material.
Is it difficult to design functional additions to a car like the Aventador without taking away from the car's character?
No. For me, it's the difference between a designer and a stylist. We are asked to do design, and that means we have to know how aerodynamics works, how the materials are impacted in the process of making the parts. For example, if I'm working with an aluminum fender, or a carbon fiber fender, I can do something different. This is the way to do design.
When we propose something, we already know that it works. So it's related to our expertise. So it's not a challenge.
For example, the rear wing, we're not starting with a profile that's a dream of ours. We ask for a NACA profile, placed in the right place from the technical department. We are always asking: send me the profile that you want to start with for the wing. Send me the dimensions and the right positioning. We start like this: doing a profile around the brief we get from the technicians.
One of the last things we did was the exhaust system. We had a problem: now the engine had 750 hp. The previous exhaust system was burning everything [when used with the higher-output engine]; literally, it was shooting flames! 70 cm! We have a nice picture on the technical department from at night [of that].
How did you change the exhaust to control this, well, flamethrower effect?
The grille around the exhaust was made to keep safe the carbon fiber. We were using a thermal paint on the black part. And now we have a totally different muffler, it's smaller, and we were obliged to open all the rear grille. It's typical for an SV. It's all completely open.
The engine can … burn everything. It's something else. The sound is … [incredible].
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