The first prototype of McLaren's new Monocell carbonfibre tub has been delivered from the firm's new £50 million Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in Yorkshire to its main production facility in Woking, Surrey.
Codenamed PLT-MCTC-01 (Prototype Lightweight Tub, McLaren Composites Technology Centre, Number One), the lightweight chassis is the first step towards saving weight across the company's model range in preparation for complete hybridisation by 2024.
McLaren will now subject the prototype to a thorough crash test programme in Woking, ahead of the 2020 launch of its first Monocell-based production model.
Wes Jacklin, the MCTC's plant director, said: "It's increasingly clear that with future heavier powertrain requirements, exploiting innovative lightweighting techniques and technologies is going to be a significant key to unlocking all the handling and agility characteristics that our customers demand."
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McLaren's second production facility was officially opened in November by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by the Crown Prince of Bahrain. It's located in the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe, between Sheffield and Rotherham.
Full-scale production of the Monocell is anticipated to begin next year, with the current 60-strong workforce set to swell to more than 200.
Currently, production of carbonfibre tubs for McLaren production models, including the Speedtail hypercar and upcoming grand tourer, is sub-contracted to a company named Carbo Tech that's based in Salzburg, Austria. This firm will continue to supply carbonfibre components to McLaren, with the MCTC producing only Monocell tubs.
The British content of McLaren’s cars will increase from 50% to 58% when the MCTC-made tubs are used.
Forty-five McLaren employees are located at the nearby University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which is now partnering McLaren. This team is set to grow to 200 and is working on pushing advances in carbonfibre tub technology.
Pre-production versions of Monocell tubs are being built in association with the university, while apprentices are being trained to work at the new facility.
In November, the unveiling of a commemorative carbonfibre plaque at the MCTC's opening ceremony was watched by representatives from Sheffield and Rotherham district councils, a number of senior local stakeholders and the facility's team of engineers.
At an event to celebrate the facility's opening, a McLaren Senna hypercar performed doughnuts to ‘christen’ the newly laid factory floor, which spans 75,000sq ft.
Speaking at the unveiling, Ken Smart, project director for the MCTC, said: “There are two key reasons why we are developing this facility. First, taking control of the manufacture of the tub enables us to build in more design flexibility. So, as we develop the vehicles, we will be able to design the tubs to meet the features of those vehicles – things that matter to the customer, such as vehicle dynamics, ergonomics, space in the cabin, the driving position, visibility, ingress and egress.
“Second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to continually learn from the development process. Every time we solve a problem, we learn something new.
“That gives us the ability to modify the design for its structural integrity and gives us the ability to optimise the manufacturing processes yet further. Taking this technology in-house is giving us the opportunity to increase the pace of the design and development of the carbonfibre tub.”
The new facility will also lead to a cost saving in the region of £10m, according to McLaren chiefs, and there's potential for the MCTC to supply carbonfibre components for other companies, because McLaren’s production targets for the foreseeable future will leave the plant with surplus capacity when it's fully operational.