Cars > Tech

Could future supercars be made of spider silk?

The strongest natural material known to man has a place in automobiles

This supercar hides a super material underneath: spider silk. PHOTO FROM VELOZZI

Most supercars these days are made from a combination of high-tech materials like titanium, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Spider silk, on the other hand, has so far been absent from hypercar spec sheets—but that might be about to change.

American firm Velozzi has unveiled plans to build a limited-edition speed machine that combines old-school oomph with super strong spider silk for a rather unique (and probably very expensive) proposition.

The car won't be fully constructed from this material. Instead, it will be blended with carbon fiber. PHOTO FROM SPIDEY TEK

Spider silk is widely regarded as the strongest natural material known to man, and it combines many desirable attributes not found in industrial fibers so far. It can be as strong as titanium and more elastic than rubber, while also being very, very light. No wonder that it has piqued the interest of scientists and engineers alike.

Now, rather than using real-life spiders and creating some sort of nightmarish living manufacturing plant, the fledgling car firm is working with a technology company called Spidey Tek to create and use synthetic spider silk.

The design kind of reminds us of the web-slinger. PHOTOS FROM VELOZZI

The underlying technology is being developed by Utah State University’s Synthetic Biomanufacturing Facility, where they have been working on it for some years. Spidey Tek is run by Velozzi founder Roberto Velozzi and USU professor Randy Lewis, who have joined forces to commercialize the research done at the university.

The plan is not to build the whole car from the material, but rather to blend it with carbon fiber to create an even stronger composite from which to build the body and the chassis.

Spider silk alone doesn’t make for a great supercar. For that, it also needs an appropriate powerplant, and to the likely delight of purists, Velozzi is not planning to make this machine an electric one. Instead, it promises to tingle your senses with the help of a bespoke, naturally aspirated V12 mated to a six-speed manual box.

Could this be Peter Parker's future vehicle of choice? PHOTO FROM VELOZZI

The company claims that both those components will come from the world of Formula 1 and be developed with a premier brand from the world of top-class motorsports. No names or performance figures are being given at this stage, but potential buyers are being promised that the car will comply with strict Euro 7 emission standards.

We can also take a good guess as to which third-party firm might be involved as the man behind the car previously worked as director for special projects at Lotus.

So far, the Velozzi spider car seems to be more of a concept than anything real, even if the technology they are planning to use already exists now and is being progressed for commercial applications. Expect it to take a few years before a working prototype will make an appearance, but when it does, we really hope the test driver wears a suit modeled after a certain superhero.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.