Will internal combustion-powered supercars have a place in an electric world? Some automakers, like Porsche, are hoping synthetic fuels could present the answer to that question. Koenigsegg has a more extreme — and decidedly more Koenigsegg — solution.
The Swedish builder of hypercars that gave us the Regera’s transmission-free twin-turbo V8 and the Gemera’s camless engine wants to power some of its future speed demons with methanol derived from the CO2 emissions of volcanoes.
Koenigsegg wants to create cars powered by volcano juice.
Of course, it’s more complicated than that. But rather than stumble my way through an inadequate, juvenile explanation, I’ll let living Norse folk hero Christian von Koenigsegg explain it as only he can, courtesy of Bloomberg.
It’s a very interesting way of creating an environmental benign propulsion energy source.
So there is this technology from Iceland, it was invented there, where they cap the CO2 emittance from semi-active volcanoes and convert that into methanol. And if you take that methanol and you power the plants that do the conversion of other fuels and then power the ship that transports the those fuels to Europe or the U.S. or Asia, wherever it goes, you put the fuel completely CO2-neutral into the vehicle.
And of course with the correct aftertreatment systems, depending on the environment you’re in, you can kind of clean up the particles in the atmosphere while you’re using the engine. So you can be very much environmentally conscious doing that. It’s just a fun aspect of renewable fuels that are not talked so much about, but there are many, many other technologies that are coming up.
I really admire Koenigsegg’s penchant to find technological solutions to engineering challenges that also happen to be metal as fuck. But the deeper message here — and one explored in von Koenigsegg’s interview with Bloomberg — is that the company isn’t married to electrification, internal combustion or any single energy source for its cars.
In trying to balance an objective toward carbon neutrality with building uncompromising machines, von Koengisegg and Evan Horetsky — who recently joined Koenigsegg by way of Tesla — are entertaining any and all methods to achieve their goals.
We electrify in a different way with more extreme cell technology for power output. And then we have extreme combustion-engine technology running on renewable fuels, but very good aftertreatment systems, and our free-valve technology where we can really make sure we combust extremely efficiently with very small engines to make the car lighter, more exciting, have better performance, but still being environmentally benign.
What we mean by [propulsion] agnostic is that we mix and match whatever makes the most sense at each given time and for each model. We’re not stuck in traditional combustion technology. The technology we develop there is really next-generation beyond anything else I’ve seen out in the marketplace, and also next-generation electrification, and combining these technologies in an interesting way to make our product stand out and be as competitive as we can with as little environmental footprint as possible.
As a boutique automaker that currently builds fewer than 100 cars annually, Koenigsegg has the luxury to move with a bit more agility with respect to experimental and emerging technology. It doesn’t have to commercialize a single engine or technical solution at scale, across a wide variety of models sold in markets around the world. But, because of that, the company has a unique opportunity to see these radical ideas out. It’s commendable they’re entertaining all of them.
None of this is to say Koenigsegg isn’t trying to grow and industrialize. The CEO said two years ago he was eyeing production volume in the quad-digits, rivaling what the likes of Ferrari and McLaren are able to churn out. And in the Bloomberg interview, Horetsky — who has essentially been placed in charge of helping Koenigsegg grow at scale, but sustainably so — said the company is researching “different ways we can impact the world with mobility solutions” produced in greater numbers than any of the firm’s current nameplates.
I’m rooting for Koenigsegg to hit its targets, and legitimise volcano sauce as a creditable fuel for sports cars. That’s not what it’s called — its trade name is Vulcanol — but I think my alternative might be a little more marketable. Feel free to lift it if you like, Koenigsegg.