Carbonskin: the new leather

Theoretically Carbonskin can replace any fabric, including convertible roof materials.
Theoretically Carbonskin can replace any fabric, including convertible roof materials. Marcus Thomas GLACARS

THE pursuit of increasingly lighter cars has reached a new height; lightweight fabric. Lamborghini has invented a new lightweight fabric made from carbon fibre that weighs significantly less than traditional leather or Alcantara material.

Dubbed "Carbonskin" by the Italian supercar maker, it made its debut on the Aventador J at this week's Geneva motor show. The dashboard was trimmed in Carbonskin, which looks like carbon fibre but is flexible and easy to cut into shapes.

Lamborghini says the Carbonskin is made by soaking woven carbon fibres in a special epoxy that stabilises the material but keeps it soft.

Theoretically Carbonskin can replace any fabric, including convertible roof materials; potentially saving precious kilograms from future models. It could also eventually be used on high-end clothing.

Speaking at Geneva Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann says he is hopeful the Carbonskin will be widely available soon.

"I hope so," he says. "We have to now make all the quality tests and checks to make sure we can do it as an option on other cars. Ok, it's looking good but it also reduces the weight. We have leather, we have Alcantara and the soft carbon. If you take the soft carbon and feel the difference of the weight, it's incredible. The leather is twice as heavy as the carbon skin."

Lamborghini is no stranger to carbon fibre, having invested heavily in the technology as it tries to cut weight in search of better performance.

The Aventador uses a chassis and roof made from carbon fibre and Winkelmann confirmed to Drive last year that a limited run of the Sesto Elemento concept car would be built for collectors.

But he cautions work still needed to be done to ensure carbon fibre is cost-effective before it is used more widely.

"It's clear that everything is a cost factor," Winkelmann says.

"The Sesto Elemento is not something we can do, in terms of normal street cars. This would be pushing it to the limit. It's also too expensive, we could not do a production car. But it's clear that the power-to-weight ratio is one of the things we are always looking into. It always has to be the right amount [of car] for the right amount of money; otherwise you lose your credibility."

Topics:  lamborghini

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