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Jets help carbon fibre push

"Every new Lamborghini will make the best use of carbon fiber to reduce weight."

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is helping carmakers to migrate from old-fashioned metal construction to the lightweight strength and safety of 21st century carbon fibre.

All of the world's leading motoring companies are looking for a way to switch carbon fibre from the high-priced exotic favourite of Formula One teams to something suitable for the humble Toyota Yaris

BMW is investing heavily in an American factory, and has plans to double its output in coming years for the battery-powered i3 and i8 models, while Lexus doing the groundwork for Toyota with its exotic LF-A supercar.

But it is Lamborghini of Italy, which is running the point for the giant Volkswagen Group, that currently claims leadership thanks to its radical Aventador flagship and a partnership with Boeing. "We have learned so much from Boeing.

About the process of developing carbon fibre and how to put it into production," says Casper Steenbergen of Automobili Lamborghini. "We are the only company with a full carbon fibre monocoque on a car, with our Aventador."

The two biggest challenges for carbon fibre use are cost and the complication of construction, which has meant the use of giant autoclaves to combine extreme heat with vacuum forming. 

But Steenbergen shows Carsguide how Lamborghini now uses a different type of carbon fibre, combined with pressure forming under heat, to create its products.

Apart from the Aventador, Lamborghini - the closest rival to Ferrari in the exotic world - is using lightweight carbon fibre parts through its Gallardo range and passing the knowledge to its owners at Audi and up through the Volkswagen family. 

"We are re-defining the future of our supersports cars around the two main reasons to buy: design and performance. That means the key is in reducing weight," says Stephan Winkelmann, the Lamborghini CEO who forged the ties to Boeing and the establishment of a high-tech laboratory in the USA. 

"From the middle of the Eighties, the average weight of our cars has increased by 500 kilos because of active and passive safety, comfort and emissions reduction issues, and this is something that we have to change. "Since we cannot reduce safety or comfort in our cars, we have to reduce the weight by using new materials. The magic word for this is carbon fibre."

He believes Lamborghini is the world leader and points to the 787 project as the sort of resource available to his company. "We started working with carbon fibre . . . over 30 years ago and today, with our two laboratories in Sant’Agata Bolognese and in Seattle, we are mastering a broad range of technologies which put us in a leadership position for low-volume production," Winkelmann says.

"Every new Lamborghini will make the best use of carbon fiber to reduce weight." It's clear that work will eventually migrate throughout Volkswagen, although no-one at Lamborghini is able to give any timetable. Yet.