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Image credit: Lamborghini, Volkswagen Group

Some concept cars seem more like a lark than anything that might end up on the road, with features designed to make the newest technology look hot rather than solving any enduring automotive problems. The Lamborghini Terzo Millennio concept car seems to fall firmly in the realm of the former, but its hooks – self-healing skin and carbon nanotube body panels that can push it to supercar status – are certainly eye-catching.

The car, a project of Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was profiled on CNN Money on Friday. Electric batteries currently available on the market would not be able to push the vehicle to the supercar speeds the team wanted. Instead, teams overseen by Lamborghini Head of Research and Development Mauricio Reggiani turned the body of the car into a supercapacitor by installing exotic carbon nanotubes. It was conceived by two MIT labs and Dinca Research Lab led by Prof. Mircea Dincaand the Mechanosynthesis Group led by Prof. Anastasios John Hart. 

The carbon nanotubes take the place of the car’s body panels. They’re tough and flexible enough to do double duty, and can store and release energy faster than batteries.

Although it is still just in the concept phase, the researchers found that the carbon nanotube body had another neat side effect. It could be “self-healing,” with sensors detecting cracks in the surface of the body and filling those using internal channels. The process is limited – only shallow cracks and dings could be healed this way – but the team is quick to assure that larger dents would also be detected by sensors and brought to the attention of the driver and Lamborghini technicians.

Don’t expect to see the Terzo Millennio, or Third Millennium, hitting the electric race track soon. The name refers to how the concept is in line with “a third millennium which requires new concepts, innovative solutions, and the adoption of electrified powertrains.”

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