Why is a small Swedish car manufacturer a decade ahead of the rest of the industry?

Why is a small Swedish car manufacturer a decade ahead of the rest of the industry?

Why is a small Swedish car manufacturer a decade ahead of the rest of the industry?

A bald man stands to the right of a silver Koenigsegg supercar
Magnify / Making a success of the supercar game is not easy, but Christian von Koenigsegg’s company has survived two decades and continues to develop innovative new technology that is years ahead of the competition. Ars spoke to him to find out what he’s most proud of.

Franco Gutierrez

It would be mixing ad campaigns if not metaphors to say that Swedes think differently about design, but I think there’s something to it: Saab was known as left field, right down to where it placed the ignition switch; Volvo carefully goes its own way with safety foremost in mind, but with a sharp modern design. And then there is Koenigsegg.

Located on a former Swedish fighter jet base, this company has plowed its own furrow through automotive superlatives: supercars, hypercars, now megacars. But always in its own way – how else to explain a three-cylinder engine with pneumatic actuators instead of camshafts, a V8 without a flywheel, or a gearbox with seven clutches that is both a nine-speed automatic, but also a six-speed manual, with clutch pedal no less?

At this year’s Monterey Car Week, few are as close to automotive royalty as the company’s eponymous founder, Christian von Koenigsegg. The company’s booth at one end of The Quail was among the most mobbed of the day, as young TikTokkers in their best suits vied for his attention, or perhaps just another look at his latest creation, the CC850. Part 50th anniversary gift to itself, part celebration of the company entering its third decade, it’s a new version of Koenigsegg’s first offering, the CC8S.

It started with a door

“We started trying to innovate from the start, because I didn’t think we could survive just doing what everyone else was doing, because I always felt the need to bring something new to the table to be worthwhile and viable and interesting. And we just kept going with it over the years. And we got away with it all the time. So we just got wilder and wilder about fulfilling our ideas or wild dream,” von Koenigsegg said.

For example, the characteristic doors. A dramatic door opening is almost mandatory unless your name is Ferrari or Porsche, and the CCS8’s doors opened dramatically, popped out and then rotated up through 90 degrees. “We figured out the hinge very early, and then we robotized it, and it’s very practical; it cleans up the whole space and doesn’t move out that far. So compared to other solutions, I think it’s a great way to do it, ” he said.

I wonder how many other automakers would go back and remake their first car, with all the lessons they learned along the way?
Magnify / I wonder how many other automakers would go back and remake their first car, with all the lessons they learned along the way?

Franco Gutierrez

Koenigsegg also pointed to the convertible roof on the CC8S. “I think our integration of the roof was very unique at the time, that when the roof is on, it’s a compartment—there’s no giveaway, there’s no extra split lines, no nothing. And when you take it off, it’s a ultra roadster and looks completely natural that way. So I think the way we integrated the roof was beyond anything I’d seen at the time. And we kept at it for all the years and the different models,” he continued.

Big power, but emissions compliant

However, innovative design extends far beyond the car’s style. They’ve all had to be road legal, for one thing. “On the early cars, the CC8S, we patented the catalytic converter solutions. Also twin supercharger solutions with feed valves and things to give better response and less noise. And actually we required special solutions to be able to homologate such a powerful car.

“A couple of years ago, we patented a new catalytic converter solution that integrates with the wastegate so that we don’t have too much back pressure. I mean, these are kind of hidden gems that allow us to have higher power than other cars of a similar type. nature,” explained von Koenigsegg. Horrible power outputs are a Koenigsegg thing – back in 2002 the CC8S boasted 655 hp (488 kW), today’s CC850 generates twice as much if you feed it with E85 petrol.

“But then you have the more visible things like the LST transmission or the direct drive of the Regera without gears and three electric motors integrated with the internal combustion engine,” he continued.

When you want to row your own, the CC850 is a six-speed manual.  But push the stick over to the right and into D and it will shift itself through nine gears.
Magnify / When you want to row your own, the CC850 is a six-speed manual. But push the stick over to the right and into D and it will shift itself through nine gears.

Koenigsegg

Earlier this year, it revealed a new in-house electric motor that it says “looks at the fundamentals of magnetism, materials, cooling and packaging rather than following the norm,” blending aspects of both axial flux and radial electric motors. And that was just weeks after the debut of a new in-house 750 kW silicon carbide converter. And then there’s the six-speed manual/nine-speed automatic transmission in the CC850, complete with shifter and clutch pedal. And seven clutches. (For an excellent and in-depth explanation of how it works, I highly recommend this Engineering Explained video.)

“And the reason we can do this kind of wild mechanical stuff and high-voltage stuff is because we control our electronic platform from the ground up. We design the circuit boards, we design the full-stack software, we have our own OTA, and we do it throughout the car . So that means we come up with an idea that seems interesting. We’re not blocked by external vendors who have different strategies or other interests or other priorities; we can control the whole universe ourselves. So, and then I can control Koenigsegg and I can be as silly as I want about it,” he said with a grin.

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