Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren AutomotiveEnlarge Photo
If you're a fan of horsepower, then you are living in a golden age. For example, there's a Dodge sedan out there with over 700 horsepower. If you're playing in the hypercar space, then you are also playing near the four-figure power club.
McLaren is no stranger here, as its P1 produces 903 total hp. Still, the automaker knows that the horsepower race will only take you so far. McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt instead wants to shift from rising power outputs to dramatically reducing curb weights.
Speaking at the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) summit on Tuesday, Flewitt spoke of the future weight race. Lighter materials will be key to reducing the amount of energy a vehicle needs to operate properly. McLaren plans to be a leader in this space and, although its cars make up but a fraction of all those on the road, the technology gleaned from its super machines will help standard cars and commuters as well.
Carbon fiber will serve as a backbone of this pivot away from a constant chasing of more power. McLaren has utilized the strong and lightweight material as far back as 1981. That's when the racing team produced the first carbon fiber monocoque chassis for Formula 1. Now McLaren is on the verge of opening a new Composites Technology Center.
The science here is simple. If a car weighs less, then it needs less power be it from an internal combustion engine or a battery pack and motors. Volkswagen just proved that a lightweight EV can provide tremendous performance, for example. Romain Dumas and the VW ID R electric racer on Sunday destroyed the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record. This was done in a vehicle where lightness was key, along with extreme aerodynamics. The idea of added lightness translates to road car performance as well, and McLaren wants to be at the forefront of this movement.
Mike Flewitt, speaking to the SMMT crowd, stated
"We now have a fantastic opportunity for the U.K. 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 with the opening later this year of the brand-new McLaren Composites Technology Center in Yorkshire. It will lead to innovations in the technology going into our cars and not only provide a significant boost to that region, to jobs and the supply chain but also to the U.K.’s reputation for innovation."
While the horsepower wars have been a blast, we look forward to the coming era of advanced car diets. Lighter cars mean more engaging driving dynamics for any type of vehicle. And it also means less pain at the pump, or outlet, as well.