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How Koenigsegg’s Tiny, Ultra

Jul 23, 2023

Christian von Koenigsegg invented a new type of motor that makes 335 hp and weighs just 63 pounds.

Koenigsegg has just revealed the details on its new electric motor. Called the Quark, it’s an entirely new design for automotive motors, packing 335 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque in an amazingly compact unit: The complete motor weighs just 63 pounds, and in photos, Koenigsegg used an energy drink can for scale. To learn more about how this new motor works, we spoke with company founder Christian von Koenigsegg.

The Quark uses what von Koenigsegg calls a "Raxial Flux" layout, combining traits of the two most common electric motor designs. Most commercially available electric motors are radial flux. Imagine a pair of concentric circles, with an inner shaft spinning within a stationary outer ring. (Some designs flip the layout, with the outer ring spinning around a stationary center.) Electromagnetic energy, or “flux,” flows radially between the inner and outer parts, spinning the motor. An axial flux design resembles two stacked coins, one spinning, the other stationary. In this type of motor, the flux path is parallel to the axis of rotation.

Radial flux motors are less expensive to build, and thus, they’re the only type you’ll find in production EVs. But they have their drawbacks, requiring more revs to generate peak power, hence why a number of automakers—like Porsche and Rimac, and soon, Mercedes-Benz and Polestar—add a reduction gearbox, meaning additional weight and complexity. An axial flux motor offers better low-end torque, no gearbox required, but its rotor experiences significant centrifugal force, so it must be constructed using extremely lightweight and strong (and thus, expensive) materials.

Von Koenigsegg wanted the broad powerband of an axial flux motor, but didn't want to give up the peak power of a radial-flux design. So he designed a motor that encompasses the desirable features of both.

"From an architectural point of view, it's pretty straightforward,” von Koenigsegg said. “Imagine your axial flux motor, but then you let the rotor extend beyond the coils [...] the coils have a certain adaptation so that you can have the magnetic flux also reach the radial top edge of the coils, and then you get this combined effect."

Fundamentally, von Koenigegg describes this as an axial flux motor "with a significant and meaningful amount of radial fluxing going on." This raxial flux design allows for a compact motor with lots of low-RPM torque and high peak power. The Quark doesn't require a reduction gearbox, and peak power of 335 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque is available for 20 seconds, after which output drops to 134 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.

The Quark was designed for the Koenigsegg Gemera, a four-seat hybrid hypercar. A 600-hp mid-mounted twin-turbo cam-less three-cylinder gasoline engine drives the Gemera's front wheels with assistance from a Quark motor; two additional 500-hp motors drive the rear axle. (These are slightly different from the Quark motor; Koenigsegg will say more about their design in the near future.)

Koenigsegg revealed the Quark motor last month. Already, the company is getting inquiries. "We really want to share these components because, of course, there's a lot of effort and energy and cost put into developing them and setting up," von Koenigsegg says. "I mean, we have set up a complete test lab with test equipment to make sure we can achieve the lofty goals we have. And it just makes sense to share it as they're very modular and can fit many different needs." Von Koenigsegg hopes the marine and aerospace industries will take notice of the compact, lightweight and power-dense Quark, and he says the company will license the motor design to interested parties. It's also possible to create a less costly variant of the motor that doesn't require as many exotic materials—as it sits right now, the Quark uses Koenigsegg’s own CarbonCore hollow carbon fiber and motorsport-grade high-strength steel for the rotor. Using more conventional materials would reduce peak RPM by about 700, says von Koenigsegg, but "it would still be amazing, and, of course, drastically less expensive."

The Swedish company is also marketing a self-contained electric drive unit called the Terrier, made up of two Quark motors, a planetary gearset for each, and an inverter. The Terrier weighs just 187 pounds, but offers a peak of 670 hp and 811 lb-ft of torque with full torque-vectoring capabilities. "When we started seeing the size and the shape of the motor and the inverter, this really lends itself to very neat packaging and integration," von Koenigsegg says. The powerful package will be used to drive the front axle drive of a future Koenigsegg hypercar.

Koenigsegg only recently began designing its own motors. For a while, von Koenigsegg didn't see the point. "When I drove the first Tesla Roadster, and I looked at that motor, I said, wow. That’s small, and smooth, and responsive, and light, and so powerful,'" he recalls. "The motor seemed so refined already. But when you start digging into the details, there's still a wonderful universe of unexplored opportunities, which surprised me," he says.

After using motors from English supplier YASA in the Regera, von Koenigsegg decided it was time to develop electric motors in-house. Controlling the design allows for better integration and packaging, but von Koenigsegg's motivation was as much philosophical as mechanical. Going in-house allows Koenigsegg to put its own stamp on its motors, determining the way power is generated and deployed, the sound, and more.

"All these nuances, I think, we would like to put out there to show the difference, the excitement,” von Koenigsegg says. He compares the possibilities to what we have in combustion engines today, with boxer, vee, and even Wankel designs each offering their own unique experience. "There are all these competing technologies that are still around and quite different, and that can be the same with electric motors when you start really digging into it."

A common fear among enthusiasts is that cars will lose some of their distinct character once everything goes EV. When everything from a mass-market crossover to a supercar shares the same basic powertrain design, it’s easy to imagine them all feeling similar from the driver’s seat. You could never accuse Koenigsegg of building convention-following cars, and with this new Quark motor, it seems the company will continue on that path even as it transitions to fully electric vehicles.

A car enthusiast since childhood, Chris Perkins is Road & Track's engineering nerd and Porsche apologist. He joined the staff in 2016 and no one has figured out a way to fire him since. He street-parks a Porsche Boxster in Brooklyn, New York, much to the horror of everyone who sees the car, not least the author himself. He also insists he's not a convertible person, despite owning three.

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