“We kind of had our future mapped out, and then we heard about the new Tesla Roadster and its insane acceleration numbers, and we thought ‘damn that’s put the gauntlet down’.” – Christian Erland Harald von Koenigsegg, founder and CEO of the Swedish high-performance automobile manufacturer Koenigsegg Automotive AB.
When the maker of one of the fastest production cars in the world – the Koenigsegg Agera RS tops out at 284.55 mph – says that another car is “embarrassing” his company by throwing down the gauntlet two years before it’s set to roll out of the factory, it highlights the fact that Tesla has come a long way from being the maverick company that Musk started in 2003.
Despite ongoing criticism from the auto world, Tesla critics within the auto industry are finally coming round to Musk’s side, albeit kicking and screaming. Going from saying that Tesla will never make it in the auto industry all the way to saying that they’re going to be better than Tesla some day is a tremendous ‘Point A to Point B’ for these executives.
Although it’s a hard pill to swallow, swallow it they must. At the one end, Musk is promising a supercar that will be a “smackdown to gasoline cars,” while at the other, he’s keeping his promise of making a mass-market car in the Model 3. Cheaper Tesla EVs will certainly come, but Musk had to get the attention of the entire auto industry with the Roadster 2008. It was hard going, but the company is finally a stone’s throw away from releasing a standard battery Model 3 for the originally-promised $35,000.
At the top end of Musk’s auto initiative is the Roadster 2020, which is now shaking up the supercar segment. If Koenigsegg’s creator is willing to publicly accept that Tesla’s new creation is “embarrassing” them, you can be sure that there are others being silently embarrassed by the Roadster 2020.
“We thought, ‘this is not OK’. We wondered whether it was possible, and yeah, it’s possible. Then we thought, ‘OK how do we deal with it? This is embarrassing.’”
Koenigsegg had clearly been working on the challenge, because two days later he came up with this:
“In two days we’d thought of a few things. The simplest way of putting it is like this: it’s combining direct drive, with the hybridisation we have in a different format with freevalve engine technology, in a peculiar layout.”
“What we see with our engines, we’ve noticed that we’re just scratching the surface of what we can achieve. Here’s an example: if we ignore fuel consumption for a moment… we have a fairly high compression ratio for our turbo V8 – 9.5 to 1 with 1.6 bar of boost. If we drop that to 8.8 to 1, we could boost to 2.2 bar, which is another 600bhp just like that, without putting more stress on your engine because your peak pressure doesn’t go up. And it would only consume about five per cent more fuel.”
That highlights something else. Traditional ICE makers need to think laterally to beat Tesla at its own game. The one point that stands out in Koenigsegg’s comments is that EV is not their game. Other automakers have joined the bandwagon and mostly committed to an EV future, but supercar makers like Koenigsegg will continue to cater to the super-rich who don’t really care about the price (or possibly even the impact) of gas-powered cars.
Even if Koenigsegg can put out a production car in the next two years that will do 0-60 mph in under 1.9 seconds, it can never represent what the Roadster 2020 already does – that the future belongs to EVs. The crown that was firmly fixed on the ICE head for a hundred years is rapidly coming lose. It’s only a matter of time before it comes off.