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The future of car development could turn into a ‘weight race’ as opposed to a ‘power race’, according to the chief of a motoring marque partly-owned by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat.
During a keynote speech to automotive leaders and policy makers at an industry summit in London, Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren Automotive, said car-makers and governments need to work hand-in-hand to develop the synergies between future powertrain development and the clever use of lighter materials.
It will help save weight and, therefore, reduce the energy needed to power them, he said, as car companies look to address green concerns. He added: “We now have a fantastic opportunity to be at the very forefront of a new automotive ‘weight race’ that can help achieve increasingly tough environmental targets.
“While McLaren has a long history in using lightweight materials to boost vehicle performance, it’s something we are also heavily investing in as part of our future.
“It is clear to us that to be successful in light-weighting, industry and government need to continue to work closely to ensure we all capitalise on the benefits for the sector and for vehicle owners who will increasingly demand more efficient products that deliver the driving attributes they expect.”
While McLaren Automotive expects to hand-assemble around 4,000 cars this year, with 90 per cent of what it makes exported to more than 31 markets, the technology being developed could benefit the industry as a whole and road users more widely.
Lightweight carbon fibre has long been a part of its DNA, as the company introduced the very first carbon fibre chassis into Formula 1 in 1981. Carbon fibre’s innate strength and lightweight properties mean that the company has never made a race car, sports car or supercar without it since.
McLaren Automotive is itself poised to open a new £50 million McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in the north of England later this year. The Yorkshire-based centre will be where McLaren will innovate the process for making the ultra-lightweight and strong carbon fibre tubs at the heart of its luxury cars.
More than 40 of its employees are already housed at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. When fully operational, the team is expected to grow to around 200 people with the finished tubs then sent to the McLaren Production Centre in the English county of Surrey.