Christian von Koenigsegg: "I'd rather have complexity in a super-expensive sports car than add weight."
Koenigsegg went to an abandoned Geneva Motor Show to unveil not one, but two new cars to further build upon Christian von Koenigsegg's legacy. But while the Jesko Absolut may have stolen headlines with a theoretical top speed of 330 mph, the Koenigsegg Gemera became the first of a new breed for the Swedish hypercar company.
Dubbed a mega GT, it boasts an incredible 1,727 horsepower courtesy of a twin-turbo three-cylinder engine and three electric motors, while also boasting seating for four people in complete comfort - a first for the Koenigsegg brand. We hopped on the phone with Christian von Koenigsegg - founder and owner of Koenigsegg Automotive AB - to ask him about the inspiration and development of the Gemera, as well as to find out what else the tech from it could be used for.
It's a well-known fact that Christian von Koenigsegg daily drives a Tesla Model S, but when asked if it was the electric sedan that inspired him to build a high-performance four-seater like the Gemera, he tells us that the Gemera was in the pipeline all along.
"The Gemera as an idea as a four-seater Koenigsegg with all the features and our door systems and so on, that has been around longer than that [the Model S]" he says, but he goes on to tell us the powertrain definitely took inspiration from the Tesla. "I've been driving the Model S since 2013 and I quickly got used to the synaptic torque responses - like if you think of overtaking, you've done it.
"Anything with a combustion engine, if you overtake, [you need] time to think about it... maybe I'll wait because the reaction is not as fast as it needs to be. So I was thinking how can we get this kind of sensation into our cars without sacrificing what they are, and making it lighter with a smaller battery pack and having a roar from our fantastic engines and so on."
That was the influence for the hybrid systems employed in the Koenigsegg Regera and in turn the Gemera, with Christian claiming it's "kind of a result of the realization that shifting is fun, [but] synaptic response with even more power and lighter weight, and electric cars with the roar is even more fun".
The Gemera is technically an all-wheel-drive car, but we were puzzled by Koenigsegg's decision to mount the combustion engine in the middle of the car and send power to the front wheels via Koenigsegg's Direct Drive transmission. When asked why the brand decided on something so unusual, Christian tells us it was all about design and packaging: "My vision was that this is a mid-engined, combustion engine mega car; not a front-engine, not an electric car, where it's basically got no sense of engine in the shape. It's a mid-engine combustion engine mega car that looks like they're two persons inside. But given this unique layout of this unique engine, the packaging allows us to give space for four fully grown adults."
In terms of the packaging, the TFG engine (Tiny Friendly Giant, as Koenigsegg calls it) is ultra-compact by virtue of its three-cylinder design, and according to Christian, the "electrical motor sitting on the combustion engine actually sits directly on the block in the back and right next to the other two electrical motors" that power the rear wheels. "This way, we have concentrated all the energy creation in one spot in the car, both for the front and the rear, and we only have one small prop shaft going forward to a very small differential. And it means the front end package is very, very tight."
The TFG engine only outputs 600 hp, while the bulk of the system's output is courtesy of the three electric motors developing in excess of 1,100 hp. When asked if it was in the cards for Koenigsegg to use this motor configuration to build an all-electric hypercar, the answer from Christian was simple. While he says that by removing the combustion engine from the equation you can "add another electric motor and make 1500-1,800 horsepower from such a layout", he's also adamant that that isn't the Koenigsegg way.
"We have all the technology; we have the inverters, we have the motors, we have the battery technology, we just need to put a bigger battery in, so for sure that is possible. But it's not on our agenda because we work for the principle as long as we can make a better car by making it slightly more complicated by combining combustion engine with electrification and making it several hundred kilos lighter for the same kind of power output and responsiveness and torque, then that's what we want to do."
He also said that there's no need to go electric when Freevalve technology and the flex-fuel nature of the brand's engines make them environmentally friendly. "Of course, if our combustion engines would be super polluting, maybe we would accept that, okay, we have [to have] a weight penalty and we don't have a sound but it's better for the environment, then that's what we need to go forward, but with the Freevalve technology and being able to run [the engines] on renewable fuel sources, it is as environmentally conscious as an electric car, maybe even more so."
Emotion is part of the Koenigsegg brand, and Christian would rather take the difficult route and retain that than simply go for easy power. "It actually would be much easier for us to just do a pure electric car, because we could throw away complexity but add weight. But I'd rather have complexity in the super expensive sports car than add weight."