We spoke with Christian von Koenigsegg about the future of engine technology.
In the first installment of "The New Measure of Performance Series," we discussed how hypercar maker Koenigsegg is leading the way through creating technology facilitating the most horsepower per liter output of any combustion engine. We had a chance to talk with Christian von Koenigsegg, founder and CEO of Koenigsegg AB, about his vision for the future of internal combustion engines.
As we mentioned in the earlier article, Christian believes he and his team are able to create such step change improvements in ICE performance because large automakers are not able to take on the risks associated with development and production of new technology. Christian and his group have undertaken an engineering exercise in order to demonstrate the applicability of their technology to everyday vehicles, "We are currently working on a 1.6-liter engine with Chinese carmaker Qoros that will have the potential to produce 400 hp or more. The same principles with which we designed the Agera and Regera engines can be applied to these smaller engines."
There is no current plan to use this smaller engine in a production vehicle yet, as it primarily serves as a proof of concept, and when complete it won't need to produce 400 hp. A majority of the energy losses in internal combustion engines occur through heat dissipation. As a result, larger displacement engines have an advantage due to their increased surface area in the cylinder. When asked about the synergies in large displacement engines that will be harder to replicate on an economy scale, Christian responded, "By reducing the bore and elongating the stroke of the piston, we are able to lessen the heat losses from the engine.
We've also used forged pistons, forged connecting rods, and higher quality valves that make engine as efficient as possible. These are more expensive parts, but will not be so much so in mass production. Currently, Koenigsegg has the world's highest specific output engine (horsepower power per liter). When we add Freevalve technology (sister company to Koenigsegg), engine efficiency will further increase 3-4%, which is massive." With this proven technology, economy car engines can be downsized without output compromised.
When asked about the competition and their use of electric turbochargers, Christian says "it is interesting in many ways, but a bit clumsy, expensive, and heavy when it can be done in a simpler way." Powering the compressor of a turbocharger with a motor will increase backpressure on the engine, which is less than ideal. Koenigsegg strives to maintain and/or increase a positive ratio between intake boost and exhaust backpressure and get as much heat from the combustion to the turbo as possible.
Many purists are unhappy with the death of the naturally aspirated engine. While Christian understands the sentiment, he adds that because of fuel consumption and emissions, producing engines for hyper and mega cars at desired performance levels without turbochargers is getting to be more of an unobtainium. With Christian and his team continually developing groundbreaking technology, the future of internal combustion engines is rapidly changing and is bound to be exciting.