Last month we asked for your questions and put them to our founder and CEO, Christian von Koenigsegg. This is the 4th set of questions to be answered.
Part 1 addressed some general questions looking at why Koenigsegg focus more on handling than top speed, whether we’ll make mass-market cars and Christian’s vision for what might have happened with Saab back in 2009.
Part 2 dealt with the early years of Christian’s vision to make cars and the beginnings of Koenigsegg as a car company.
Part 3 looked at Racing and the different Technology used, or considered for use at Koenigsegg.
This is part 4, addressing questions about the Koenigsegg Regera, electric cars and possible future Koenigsegg cars.
Why did you decide the new supercar would be hybrid?
CvK: Because I don’t like hybrids (laughs)
To me, it’s not really a hybrid. It depends on what your definition of a hybrid is. It does have hybrid propulsion in the sense that it is a petrol-electric combination, but it’s not what people would traditionally define as a hybrid. To me, it’s more about it being like an electric transmission that avoids gears, giving you get direct drive from the combustion engine to the wheels. To me, that’s less compromised than a normal hybrid and that’s what is important here.
A traditional hybrid is either series or parallel. So far it’s mostly been series hybrids that have been made, apart from Toyota. Toyota has a funky gearbox that mixes the electric power with the combustion engine power. They have the patent for that and it’s the best ‘real’ hybrid solution I’ve seen. We’ll put that aside for a moment. The 2016 Chevy Volt also seems to have a pretty clever solution, but as I understand it, it is kind of two-gear solution, which is different to our solution.
Series is where you have a combustion engine connected to a generator that sends electricity to the battery and/or to the electric motors that send power to the wheels to propel the car. There is no direct connection between the combustion engine and the wheels. As soon as your batteries are depleted and you have to start the combustion engine, you have a really compromised system.
You have mechanical rotation on the engine and you have mechanical rotation on the wheels, and in-between you have an electrical conversion and that means conversion losses, especially if you go through the battery. So it’s mechanical-to-electrical then electrical-back-to-mechanical again at the wheels – horrible. As soon as you have to start the engine and generate electricity to drive, it’s actually worse than a normal internal combustion car. The reason for this is those conversion losses. Those losses are actually much bigger than what you get in a traditional gearbox (i.e. in a traditional car).
As long as you run that car in pure electric mode, it’s mostly fine. I say mostly because even in pure electric mode you’re carrying around the ballast of the combustion engine, the weight and the space. It’s just a nasty solution, especially if you’re on the highway. You have this electric engine that you could run on but you still have to fill up with gas to keep going.
The parallel hybrid doesn’t have that drawback, though it’s still compromised. You have a traditional drivetrain that provides power to the wheels. Then you have electric motors that also provide power to the wheels. You can run in pure electric mode, where you disconnect the combustion engine and it doesn’t do anything aside from weighing the car down. You can start it and run the car on the combustion engine, too, but then you’ve carrying around all these electrical motors and batteries and they’re weighing the car down while doing very little. But you have a direct path – a good path – to the wheels from however the energy is directed in the car.
This is still a poor solution, though, because you’re carrying two propulsion systems around with you. It’s the biggest, clumsiest, heaviest, most complex and expensive system you can have. You have an electric car and you have a traditional car all smashed into one. But it’s not as horrible on the highway in terms of conversion losses when you’re running on the combustion engine.
Our solution is different.
The Koenigsegg solution means getting direct drive from the combustion engine to the wheels without the complexity of a parallel hybrid. And the worst environment for a series hybrid – the highway – will be our best environment. We’ll virtually have no more components than a series hybrid but because we get direct drive to the wheels with no gearbox losses or electrical losses, driving on the highway will not involve any compromise.
The Koenigsegg Direct Drive has less components than a parallel hybrid and it’s the first time in history (that we are aware of) where you have a direct connection from the combustion engine to the wheels with no transmission apart from the final drive.
OK, the final drive is a kind of gearbox in itself. But it is a single speed “gearbox”, so the one gear is used all the time and there are no wasted gears hanging around for later use. What we are doing is that we’re taking out the middle component – the multi gear GEARBOX. The final drive itself usually costs about 2-3% in losses and the gearbox can cost 2-5% in losses, maybe even up to 8% during full load. Those gearbox losses are gone. Given this, we’ve halved, at least, the usual transmission losses that would normally effect a drivetrain and taken out a lot of weight, bulkiness and complexity of the equation.
So after all that….. to return to the original question….
What we’re doing is to address the inadequacies of both the hybrid model and even the traditional drivetrain that cars use.
Why did you make a hybrid supercar without a gearbox?
CvK: See above. It’s because we wanted to add directness, smoothness, efficiency and responsiveness to our most refined Megacar – The Regera.
And because we can!!
With a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) you don’t lose time shifting because you’re not shifting. The gearbox shifts in the background when you’re driving. You just change from one clutch to another. In a properly setup DCT you don’t lose any acceleration when you shift. In fact, you should actually gain acceleration because you’re slipping the clutches, you get something almost like a torque conversion effect. That all sounds nice but really, it’s one of the most horrible of all gearbox solutions because it’s effectively two gearboxes you’re carrying around. It’s double of everything and that means added weight, bulkiness and cost. It’s the opposite of what I want to do.
Even a normal gearbox – which is not overly complex or heavy like a DCT – has shift time. And shift jerk. Its good that you don’t get the jerkiness in a DCT but you still have all these extra parts (i.e. weight) that you could avoid.
We’re looking to get rid of all of that. I understand people who like the traditional sports car. They like ‘blipping’ and shifting down. That’s all good and I enjoy it, too. That’s why we have the Agera RS – to keep that traditional approach and perfect it. Given that the RS does not need batteries, it is still lighter and therefore in a way more focused than the Regera. Still, it is nice to have instant power – like a lightning bolt – anywhere in the power curve as we do with the Regera.
When you experience that, you’ll stop thinking “hmm, it’d be nice to shift”. Instead, you get electric response with an old school roar to back it up. You really become one with the car in a whole new way.
Can you comment on how driving Tesla’s P85 influenced your aspirations for the Regera? For mass-market, do you feel that EVs have turned the corner yet for daily driving?
CvK: Ever since I started building cars, I’ve been looking for ways of simplifying them, making them more clever and efficient. When you open up a performance gearbox and look inside it – it is beautifully engineered and horribly complex all at the same time. I’ve heard some engineers say “why make it easy when you can make it wonderfully complicated?” It’s like that.
So given that you’re only in one gear at any one time…. those extra gears are just extra ballast that’s rattling around, making noises and vibrations. So I’ve spent long hours thinking of ways to get rid of the gearbox and coming up with something better.
I looked a lot at CVT’s – continuously variable transmissions. I’ve driven a few CVT’s but they’re terrible gearboxes from a dynamic perspective. In order to have full control of the car and the power, you want to have a direct connection between your foot, the drivetrain and the wheels. A CVT makes it feel like the motor is connected to wheels via a rubber band. So while it’s good in that it does away with a lot of gears, it disconnects you from the driving process and due to the ”slipping” motion of the CVT they are not usually that efficient.
I started thinking about a hydraulic gearbox. You could have a hydraulic pump and some sort of displacement change with a dry pump on the other side, but then you have noises and more losses. It won’t really work well, or efficiently. And hydraulic whine is really difficult to overcome.
So I’ve been thinking about this forever, but coming to no conclusion. Then I drove the Tesla.
I got my first Tesla in the summer of 2013. I think it was either the first or second one that came into Sweden. I ordered it as soon as it became available because I was curious as to what the car could do. I loved it. Fantastic, amazing, incredible. It’s one of the best driving experiences ever, which is saying a lot for something that’s supposed to be a ‘normal’ car.
It has no gearbox so it has incredible electric response. I remember saying to myself Wow! The response is electrifying! Of course it is. It’s an electric car. It really is mind-boggling, almost better than a Formula One engine because it’s so instantaneous. Even the fastest performance cars have a tiny period where you wait for the response but in the P85, you don’t sit around and wait for anything. It just happens.
You can overtake much safer and easier. The car is more intuitive, more directly connected to your brain than almost anything else. It makes it safe and fun. You can drive more on the limit, in a sense, but it’s really less on the limit because it’s safer and so much more direct.
I got really frustrated that we couldn’t have that. We have an exceptionally good car with a great drivetrain, amazing power, a sporty gearbox and so on….. but it’s just not that. It got me thinking How can we get this without sacrificing what we have? We had to be able to use what we have and make it even better than the feeling from the Tesla.
Then it dawned on me that Tesla, right now, cannot do what we do in terms of performance. With the battery technology that’s available right now, they would need a lot more batteries to get the kind of power levels and endurance that we have in our cars. Even if they had all those batteries, while they might get close to us in terms of endurance, they won’t have the dynamic vehicle performance because of the extra weight they’d be carrying. It simply can’t be done with today’s technology. Extreme power is available to the wheels but it’s in short bursts. If you back off a little and make a daily driver, like they have, and you accept bursts of energy for a short period of time. When you use the power a lot you’ll have a much shorter range.
So there’s a compromise that you have to accept with the Tesla as a high performance car. If you can do that, you’ll see that it makes for an outstanding sedan with very sporty characteristics.
For us as manufacturers of dedicated high performance cars, however, that is not acceptable. It would not be a Koenigsegg. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Our combustion engine weighs just 198 kilos. Our fuel tank is 82 litres, which equates to around the same weight in kg when it is full. When you include everything else – fuel pumps, exhaust system etc – it totals to about 340kgs. Then we have around a 100 kg batterypack and 120 kg of electrical motors and inverters. Including the final drive, driveshafts, HV cables etc, our 700 hp electrical motor setup and 1100 hp combustion engine weighs around 610 kg in total. To get similar endurance and performance from a fully electric drivetrain with today’s battery technology, you´d be looking at a minimum weight of 1.5 tons.
So we are really ahead of the curve when it comes to power density. We will have more losses from the combustion engine, but we will come out ahead based on the technology available today. It’s worthwhile. Even though I believe that electric propulsion will eventually take over completely for normal cars (see below), the lucky thing for us right now is that it can’t kill our niche – for the time being.
So we have a few years to figure everything out and in the meantime, we can outrun everyone 🙂
The power density we get is enormous, actually. We have the most power-dense engine in the world and we will turn that into the most power-dense ‘electrified’ engine in the world. We’ll get all the positives that I love in the Tesla but with another 1100hp AND 600kgs less weight.
Steven Wade [moderator]: To the second part of the question – have EV’s turned the corner yet for daily driving?
For the segment that Tesla is in – commuter cars – the answer is yes.
It’s not affordable for everyone to buy yet, but Tesla has hit the mark with the P85D in combination with their Supercharger network. To me, it’s better than an M5 to drive due to its response and low centre of gravity. And it’s no more expensive than an M5. For sure the M5 is better after a few laps on a racetrack, but is that what it’s for? So the Tesla is there (on the mark), and it’ll be even more there when they bring out 100kWh pack or higher, which should happen very soon. The Model X will be there and the Model 3 will be there in its segment, too. I am sure. They just can’t touch our segment right now and probably that is not what Tesla is looking to do.
A big reason for why Tesla is “there”, comes down to their Supercharger network. Without that, they wouldn’t have such a great overall product because the total ownership experience wouldn’t be as practical as it is. But you can now travel pretty much right across Europe (and the US) in any direction. Without the Supercharger network, you’d have to stop for around two to six hours, every third hour, and that’s IF you could find a place to charge. You’d go nuts.
We just did a family road trip during the summer. We had 2 adults and 2 kids in my P85D, with all our stuff. It was around 2,500kms one way and the same coming back. I estimated the trip took around three hours longer, one way, than it would have in a petrol driven car.
The One:1 has a traditional handbrake but for the Regera – and I’m guessing all future Koenigseggs – you’re switching to an E-brake like most major manufacturers. What’s the benefit of that in your opinion? I’m asking because the functionality is hardly the same, and I’m trying to figure out why are we losing proper handbrakes almost as quickly as manual transmissions.
CvK: The main reason for getting rid of the manual handbrake is packaging in the interior. We have limited space inside the car and the E-brake gives us more flexibility, which is important when you have a battery pack to consider and you want to offer a more luxurious interior. With a mechanical handbrake you have cables going from the interior, they have to be routed around the engine and to the wheels. It’s a very hot area so you have to make space, have appropriate insulation, etc. It’s cumbersome and it’s in the way.
We’re going to do what Tesla has done, which I haven’t seen anyone else do as yet: we won’t even have a handbrake switch in the car. When you stop the car and put it in park, the handbrake will be on. You won’t forget it and you won’t forget to release it when you drive off again. It’s a better, safer way that works for our vehicle packaging and it’s not annoying the way other e-brakes with fiddly switches can be.
OK, you can’t do handbrake turns anymore but that’s not going to be much of an issue. The owner can just floor it instead and powerslide through the corner 🙂 . Or maybe we could develop a button for handbrake turns?
Which part of the Regera are you most excited by?
CvK: I’m excited that we’ve been able to do the thing that came to mind as a solution to the problems we saw. The simple fact that we were able to do that is very exciting.
I’m excited by how sophisticated it feels in combination with its brutality. It’s exciting that we got to raise the bar in terms of comfort and luxury to another level while retaining the car’s brutality and uniqueness. That’s a very, very exciting combination.
I like the fact that it’s old school and it’s this amazing, futuristic technology all mixed together. This big, powerful V8 in combination with this high-tech electric drive that will be beyond anything that anyone else will have. It’s a fire-breathing, old school, muscle car and a futuristic rocket ship all in one.
How can that not be exciting?
The BHP Project:
When will the Regera be ready for test drives and for customers?
We expect to be able to offer customers the opportunity to be in the development car in November. That’s slightly later than we hoped but it’s way ahead of what other manufacturers achieved with their hybrid-type vehicles. The good news is that we’ve further developed the car since Geneva. The batteries will be much better than we first envisaged, for example. So it’s coming along very nicely.
We’re in the middle of crash-testing right now. That’s something we have to do, just like the big players. It’s sort of exciting and sad all at the same time. We have to do 18 or so tests, but it’s not 18 cars, of course. We’ll go through about 8 front ends and hopefully just one or two monocoques.
I’m very impressed by the KDD Drivetrain in the Regera. There are many mind-boggling facts about the car, one of which is the battery system: 500 kW from a comparatively small 9,3 kWh battery pack results in discharge rates of more than 50C. How do you achieve this impressive rate?
CvK: It’s a very special, customized cell and it’s a very special, customized cooling system.
As far as we’re aware, for automotive use, this will be the world’s first fully-flooded battery pack. All other battery pack cooling for cars has consisted of tubes or hoses of some sort, which are routed around the batteries and touching them as much as possible. You run cool liquid through those hoses and it cools down whatever it touches, etc. We’re not going to do that.
We’re going to flood the battery pack completely. We’ll push the coolant through and the coolant will touch everything, everywhere. Hopefully you can imagine how extreme that will be in terms of cooling. You can try as hard as you like with the cooling tubes/hoses but they will always miss something. We’re going to hit everything. It also means the mass of the cooling liquid is everywhere, so it also acts as a heat sink. It means the pack is a little heavier compared to a series of silicon tubes with fluid in them, but the coolant is evenly distributed and the cooling potential is so much higher.
Basically, we have a cooling system that’s more efficient to a factor of 10 and in combination with the unique cells that allow a massive instant energy draw, we can also have a factor of 10 in C-draw, compared to traditional cells and cooling systems.
Do you want to stay a manufacturer of exclusive hypercars, or are you also expanding to the supercar range (500-700 hp)?
CvK: Right now? No.
Presently that segment of the market is a hornet’s nest. You have Porsche trying to outdo Ferrari. You have McLaren trying to outdo Ferrari. You have Ferrari trying to outdo McLaren, Porsche and Lamborghini. There may be a bit of over-production going on there, too. I’m not sure.
The big players have been at that game for along time now. They’ve perfected that game.
I think we could make a very exciting, very interesting car in that horsepower range. A car that would be desirable to a lot people. However, as we are a small company compared to the others, our cars would be much more expensive due to our production methods and production setup. Is the market willing to pay a lot more for something truly unique at that level? I’m not sure.
The end question becomes Why?
Why stretch yourself to enter a market that’s already saturated? I’m not sure that everyone in that market, even if they do a good job, I’m not sure that they’re making money, anyway. But they’ve certainly got a whole lot more stress. Porsche and Ferrari definitely make money in that market but their volumes are quite high compared to us and some of the others in that area of the market.
It would be fun to throw a few more hornets in the nest but right now we have other priorities.
Have you ever considered building a 4 seater car?
Are there any plans in the works for a smaller Koenigsegg model powered by a V4 engine based upon your existing V8?
CvK: The thought has crossed my mind but it’s unlikely, for the same reasons as the answer about 500-700hp cars. It would be cool, but we don’t have the capacity and would there be a market for such a car at a high-end price with a V4 in it?
It’s an interesting exercise from an intellectual point of view, but I’m not sure it’s anything more than that.
Would you consider building an even more extreme version of the One:1, like an ‘Evolution’ version, only for the track?
CvK: That is something we are thinking about. But it wouldn’t be a One:1 because that was optimized as a road car with incredible track performance. This would be a track-only car, which therefore has a different philosophy.
Are there any aspirations to produce something else apart from cars?
Have you ever thought of or considered creating a Koenigsegg motorcycle?
CvK: I love motorcycles but if we were to build something like that it would have to be super-extreme in order to be a Koenigsegg. I am not sure that is a good idea really – a 500 hp superlight all carbon bike.
In a sense it would be much easier than building a Megacar. You have almost no panel gaps to worry about, no crash testing, no interior ergonomics, very little class A surfacing, no HVAC etc, etc. But while I love motorcycles and I’ve done some riding over the years, I think we will leave that market for others to explore.
Things other than motorcycles?
I’ve thought about boats a little bit. Furniture. Stuff.
Anything that involves innovation, good design and nice materials. Anything like that is interesting to me but it should be groundbreaking in some way. I’m not interested in slapping our logo on any old thing. It’s got to be something worthwhile and it’s got to improve on what’s already available in terms of function and not just looks. It has to be created by us, otherwise it’s not Koenigsegg. It has to have some meaning. As long as you have those factors, it could be anything.
Will there ever be another Trevita, another white carbon Koenigsegg in future? I seriously would want to see a RS or Regera with this pattern sir. Why stop at 3 when it’s so beautiful. 1 or 2 more won’t hurt!
Note: The timing of this question was interesting as it was asked before the news broke about a new celebrity owner of a Trevita, which put the car all over the internet. That means it also came before the widespread realization that only two Trevitas were made, not three, leaving the possibility of ‘one more’ something to be considered.
CvK: We have thought about it and we still have a little of the material left, but the simple answer is “no”. It was such a pain to work with!
I won’t go into the difficulties here but suffice to say that while the result was stunning, the materials were almost impossible to work with and it’s a positive for our owners that it’s such a rare edition. Even more rare than first thought.
Where do you think we’ll stand with internal combustion engines after 15-20years? Are they dead? Are hybrids the future?
CvK: I like electric cars and I believe in the technology. I think battery technology will improve remarkably over the coming years.
But I think there’s so much room for improvement in the combustion engine that it probably makes sense to burn some stuff that we have laying around that we could turn into biofuel. Instead of putting it into the ground, if it’s recyclable and it’s available and you have a super-compact, light, small combustion engine that’s much more efficient than they are today due to technological advances…. then why not? If the engine can be improved – and we know it can – then it makes sense.
I think it’ll make sense and end up cheaper than batteries for the foreseeable future, if we use combustion engines this way. Maybe there are areas in developing countries where they grow crops and they could use the residue for fuel. Maybe that would be cheaper than putting power lines through, or building a charging network or solar panels for electric vehicles. In those circumstances the combustion engine may make some sense for a while as a transportation solution.
The end-game is pretty clear if you look forward far enough, however: we won’t really need cars in the volumes produced today.
In a 15-20 year timeframe….. somewhere in that time, the number of combustion cars sold in developed markets will dwindle due to other options emerging.
I said something three years ago and people thought I was crazy back then. Right now in Norway, in 2015, 5% of all new car sales are electric vehicles. In Sweden it’s 1% and it’s gone from virtually zero to 1% in just a few years. These sales curves typically have a slow beginning and then they pick up quickly. Apple had slow sales of its portable technology at first but a few years later it went off and in short order, Nokia was basically dead.
So a few years ago I said that in 2020, in developed countries, there will be more electric cars sold than combustion engined cars. People thought I was crazy for saying that and there IS a big chance that I’ll be wrong, but let’s put it another way….. I think that around that time, the cars offered on the market will be 70-90% combustion engined cars and 10-30% electric cars but people will be walking away from combustion cars in big numbers. There’ll be huge delivery times for electric because people will not want the old technology once they get used to the new. Sales of old technology will go down dramatically. Cars will also be autonomous by then and a family will only need one car because it’ll be picking up and delivering the family members and their stuff all day long.
There will be a bloodbath, I think. And most of the cars sold by then will be electric. It might be 2020. It might be 2023 or 2027. It might be 30% or 40% instead of 50% but I do think it’s coming and it will only gather momentum when it does.
However! Our little niche will be like the Swiss watch. The electric car will be like a Casio and Seiko for the mass market: efficient, afforable, good. But some connoisseurs will want to have the mechanical complication, the engine scream, the hand built feel. The bespoke nature and uniqueness of a hand built combustion engine. It will also be allowed by governments because there will be reduced concern about a vehicle’s threat to the environment. These cars will run on Co2 neutral biofuel, be highly efficient and will be produced in miniscule numbers. Also, they will mostly be used on weekends for a track day or looking for winding road. So virtually zero environmental impact.
The future looks bright 🙂