Czinger Vehicles Is Defining The Future Of High-Performance Cars, And Digital Automotive Manufacturing

Czinger Vehicles Is Defining The Future Of High-Performance Cars, And Digital Automotive Manufacturing

“I founded Divergent about seven years ago as a technology development company for digital manufacturing. We were a Google Moonshot company. Divergent is the 70 percent owner of Czinger Vehicles, which is the product company, and the Czinger 21C demonstrates what our digital architecture can do,” says Kevin Czinger, Founder and CEO of Divergent 3D and Czinger Vehicles.

Kevin Czinger and his son Lukas assembled a team of former Formula One and Le Mans race car engineers to work with his Divergent scientists and programmers. Czinger Vehicles’ 21C is the first-ever 3D-printed “digital” car, a proof of theory of Divergent’s architecture, a brilliant calling card for OEM contracts as a Tier 1 supplier. The 21C could just as easily be branded “QED,” quod erat demonstrandum.

Divergent’s headquarters in the nondescript industrial district of Torrance, California, in the shadow of the 110 freeway leading to the Port of Long Beach, you’d never expect to find an enterprise ready to redefine performance and luxury vehicles. Then again, Old World charm aside, Maranello and Gmünd were insignificant towns when Ferrari and Porsche were founded.

“A program like this is much more akin to a motorsports program,” says Ewan Baldry, Czinger’s Chief Engineer. “We built a team that is predominantly motorsports with a sprinkling of OEM on top so we don’t just build a race car. The Divergent structure crew are a blend of scientists, technologists…aerospace. We have people involved who have not designed a car before, so they are not bridled by convention and that helps us explore the possibilities of this manufacturing process.”

When Baldry joined us in the presentation room and gave his CV, I understood how a start-up could create such a vehicle. Baldry spent the late 1990s with Williams Formula One as a design engineer. For many years he ran his own firm, Juno, producing the sort of tidy little sports-prototype race cars that the English love for track play days. He also had stints at English cottage industry sports car companies Ginetta and TVR.

Czinger’s 21C is the most innovative supercar since Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1 of the mid-1990s, ensuring its immediate acceptance into the pantheon of hero sports cars. The prototype you see here, which is production-intent but not yet in its fully developed state, has shattered production car lap records at Laguna Seca on the Monterey Peninsula and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) outside Austin, Texas. See videos below. Kevin Czinger and Baldry assume that in six to nine months they can revisit these tracks and shave many seconds off those records. Bear in mind the COTA record was previously held by the brutal McLaren P1, one of the first three cars to wear the moniker “hypercar.”

The 21C is a 1+1 vehicle, passenger tucked directly behind the driver, both seated centrally along the keel of the 3D-printed chassis structure. The cabin draws on aviation architecture, from fighters and also obviously from gliders, with a glass canopy arching from the massive integral roll-hoop above the passenger to the extremely stout crash-worthy A-pillars and the leading edge of the dashtop. A second low-drag long-tail version will be available, tuned with less emphasis on abdomen-twisting high-downforce cornering capability and more on high-speed slipstreaming and continental touring.

We have several guys on our powertrain team who joined us from Mercedes-AMG’s Formula One engine program,” says Baldry. Those are Luiz Oliveira and Kevin Shelton.

“Chris Wright will be turning up in December from Honda Formula One with ten seasons to his credit, including Mercedes,” says Baldry. “And then Jim Maher, who has been at Bosch the last eight years working on similar hypercar programs like Mercedes-AMG Project One and Aston Valkyrie. He is head of powertrain.” If you want a team of speed assassins that bring the respect and provenance of a unique powertrain, this crew is a very fine start. After years of the Formula One circus—brutal travel regime, hours of labor in compressed timeframes, the inevitable divorces—settling in coastal Southern California with a Green card to create 3D-printed hypercars holds appeal. Czinger will have no trouble attracting the finest talent.

Czinger’s 2.88-liter 950 horsepower twin turbo V8 revs to 10,000 rpm. The engine runs on gasoline, though it can be set up to run on methane, too. The powertrain has two electric motors up front, mounted inboard, and one motor-generator out back. Drawing heavily on Formula One and Le Mans thinking of recent years, Czinger is creating a unique engine to rival any in the world. Czinger is not buying batches of engines from Mercedes-AMG, Audi or Detroit like so many short-lived makers of supercars, or even established greats like Pagani or Lotus. Czinger is the exact opposite of the sort of vaporware supercars and kinky vanity project exotics I’ve seen over the past 35 years. With its first offering, Czinger proves it’s as real as it gets.

“Powertrain is fairly akin to what you find in an LMP1 car [Le Mans prototype race car]. The EV side has only 2.8 kWh of storage. We use the latest A123 battery like Formula One. Incredibly expensive and very high-power lithium-ion,” says Baldry. “The actual cells themselves are capable of 1200 horsepower in terms of their rate of work, but in our system that is reduced to 420. That’s still huge for a pack of this type. We have 950 horsepower from the twin-turbo V8 combustion engine. And another 300 from the electric front axle,” says Baldry. It runs on an 800-volt architecture, which is the consensus German standard for production battery-electric cars.

The X-Trac gearbox is one of the few pieces that is not Czinger’s own creation, but even here Divergent and Czinger are reaching beyond just selecting ratios. If I had to gamble, I’d reckon that elements of the gearbox will be unique to Czinger by time of launch, or perhaps in a follow-up vehicle. Divergent’s 3D printing will eventually touch virtually every element of Czinger vehicles.

“The high-downforce and low-drag versions of the car run the same gearset, but for the low-drag variant we may have an optional gearset for super V-Max performance with a longer ratio,” says Baldry. “In both forms, the 21C is a road-legal, full FMVSS, crash-tested, emissions-compliant vehicle.” The 21C will be homologated for sale in North America, the EU, and other major markets for specialty cars, with no need for low-volume waivers. The vehicle has crash structure to match any other supercar available.

Jon Gunner, Czinger’s CTO, states that “The 21C structure is engineered to withstand all worldwide safety requirements. These include roof strength testing. The federal roof test loads the top of the A-pillar with 3x the weight of the vehicle, that results in a local deflection of less than 4 inches. The occupants are also protected by frontal and side curtain airbags as well as pretensioning seatbelts. In addition to the regulatory requirements, Czinger has also engineered pyrotechnic bolts on the doors, so in an event the car is upside down, the occupants can still exit the vehicle safely.” To repeat, this is not a vaporware effort.

“Chassis-wise, very similar approach, recruiting from motorsports. We have Nick Alcock heading aerodynamics,” says Baldry. Alcock’s Formula One résumé includes Renault, Williams and Lotus. He also did a stint in the U.S. working for Don Panoz on the Panoz Indycar. Body panels are an unstressed carbon-fiber skin for aerodynamics, meaning the bodywork is not structural.

The car weighs 2910 curb weight with fluids, about what a McLaren 765 Longtail weighs. It is many hundreds of pounds lighter than other gas-electric hybrids, another measure of the weight-savings of the 3D printed pieces.

Cooper Keller is Director of Testing and Quality and leads all material testing plans, customer testing for Divergent and vehicle testing development for Czinger as well as quality. Cooper ensures that Divergent and Czinger are ISO 14001, ISO 9001, IATF 16949, and AS 9100 certified. That’s Tier 1 supplier quality, not vaporware. include but is worth mentioning is Cooper Keller our Sr. Director of Testing As seen in the photos of the brake assembly and rear frame, the shapes are like human tendons and muscles, growing thicker and thinner, everything curved and turned with complex but elegant radii. The pieces appear to be from an alien spacecraft. These pieces are the best sales tool for both the car and for Divergent as a Tier 1 supplier. Czinger should offer clients the option of suspension pieces or the rear frame mounted for display.

Czinger will produce 80 copies of the 21C at $2 million, to be followed with more broadly capable, less extreme Czinger vehicles already under development, though clearly they intend to settle at the pinnacle of any given market segment. Don’t expect any Czinger vehicle to be produced in very low volumes. If Czinger does not have 70, 80 or 100 years of well-steeped provenance, well, Czinger has the aura of Iron Man, of California advanced technology, and that’s the future, that’s the best provenance any company can hope for.

Machine Behind The Car

It is impossible to understand Czinger Vehicles without first understanding Divergent 3D. Both enterprises are so technologically advanced that the father-and-son duo of Kevin and Lukas Czinger could be cast as the real-life Howard and Tony Stark, the Iron Men of the automotive world. To engineers and executives alike, the following may prove far more thought-provoking than the resulting hypercar. The following is the reason Czinger has immediate provenance, a place in the supercar firmament. The quotes that follow explain why serious collectors will want to own a 21C.

“When I first showed the spec and design of the machine,” says Kevin Czinger, “literally I had people saying ‘Are you trying to create the Jesus Machine? Is this a joke?’”

“This is our own software,” Czinger continues. “We call it bidirectional evolutionary structures. We invented, built and own all essential elements of the Divergent production system. Our hardware stack. We give the client a piece at this price with zero tooling, complete manufacturing value, flexibility. We bring down mass, increase performance. An agnostic production system.”

“We make the full range of purpose-built materials. And the circular sustainable economy system, dematerialization and closed looping. Mass production, stiffness, reduction in part count. Obviously, this manufacturing architecture collapses the supply chain and product development process as well.”

“This printer can do 12 lower control arms at 469 milliliters per hour. The fastest commercially available alternative today is probably doing 30 to 40 milliliters,” says Czinger.

After three hours in the facility, I drove to a long-planned lunch gathering with an automotive CEO and his top engineers. Within days they visited Divergent and within a week had a test project initiated. the CEO and top engineers of one of the world’s most storied brands made the trip to Torrance, and the result validated what I myself had seen. To any CEO or automotive engineer reading this, let me state that if you are not exploring application of this process to at the least your suspension components, you are derelict in your duties.

“This is completely fixtureless automated assembly,” says Czinger. “We developed a digital engineering platform. We have been working with several companies for four years now. We have been qualified by brands within three of the world’s top five OEMs. Our first OEM production programs have SOPs in the first half of 2022.”

“Here in all dimensions, you can optimize structure, then you can start to integrate all the functionality and make it much more efficient without tooling or fixturing. We fully qualify for safety structure, Tier 1. All quality management, all the ISOs, all the audits. We are fully audited, fully qualified. Both the structures and the production system

“You can design any piece with design complexity being equal in cost. All features for assembly are built in. So complexity is basically free,” says Czinger. Divergent and Czinger so tightly integrate and collapse the stages of concept, design, engineering and printing and assembly of performance and specialty car pieces that they eliminate multiple steps in the development process and integrate and simplify the components on an almost biological template.

“This is a clean-sheet architecture. I took a technology-agnostic approach,” says Czinger. “We need to massively reduce manufacturing impact on the environment by dematerializing. We are taking 20 to 70 percent of the mass and energy out of these structures. And then they are designed at the end of their lives to be re-atomized and turned back into a printable powder and reprinted. You trap all the materials, just like the can industry. Fifty years ago, a beer can required 83 grams of aluminum, almost all of it mined. Today that 83 grams has gone to less than 13 grams and 76 percent of that is recycled. We need to do that on larger structures and then cascade it down across our production infrastructure if we want a planet that survives.”

“We started doing programs producing a single suspension component. We would take the client’s hard points, their design, their load paths. Then generate that structure and test it against the existing structure. We were taking out 20 percent-plus of the mass from high-performance production vehicle components that were using the latest thin-wall aluminum casting technology. The OEMs were asking us to take out 5 percent, which would be a game changer. We were taking out over 20 percent.”

“I am trying to replace body-in-white tooling and stamping completely across all segments starting with a minimally viable version of this digital system,” Czinger continues. “We are looking for nearly 99 percent up time and zero waste.”

“If you look at the brake caliper and carrier here,” Czinger says, taking the brake assembly in his hands and then passing it over, “we are reducing mass by about 40 percent. Imagine the same thing with an EV motor. Take the rotor and stator, everything for hydraulics, all conduits for thermal management and electronics, and those disappear, and you are simply taking the rotor and stator into the crash area of the vehicle and generating structure around it that has all these features.”

“No human could design these pieces,” says Ewan Baldry. “It could not be realized without these powerful tools.” Lukas Czinger adds that “the software interprets the load path. It puts the material where it’s needed for that exact load path.”

If Divergent can reduce unsprung weight of the suspension and braking systems by 30 or 40 percent, it signifies a seismic shift in the design and the ultimate performance of sports cars. Divergent and Czinger are 3D printing all the major components of a hypercar chassis and producing a gas-electric hybrid hypercar that is hundreds of pounds lighter than equivalent cars from European car companies.

“If you cut a cross section of that frame, it would look like the inside of a human bone,” says Kevin Czinger. “Just like nature is competing for material and energy, and selecting material over eons, this is doing the same thing but in hours.”

“These are all invented materials,” he continues. “No such thing as a printable high elongation aluminum with enough ductility for crash other than the one you see here. There is no such material as a high-modulus aluminum with enough stiffness other than what you’re seeing here. These are all patent-pending materials.” Short-hand is to call it powder-bed laser sintering to create the part.

“In our R&D space, we are looking at renewable fibers for future body panels,” says Lukas Czinger, the VP of Operations and Manufacturing, and the developer of much of the Divergent 3D automated assembly and manufacturing system. “Thermo-plastics that with heat we can manipulate and reshape to have a more recyclable body system, more environmentally friendly body system. We have already taken a lot of the body engineering out by having the full 3D-printed chassis structure. The body is really about aero and styling more than it is part of the chassis.”

How is this all possible? “For Divergent we have wrapped three tech pillars into one fully integrated system,” says Lukas. “The first is generative design. We don’t have your typical CAD engineers doing surfacing and CAD design. We built a software team that created algorithms for designing those parts. Our design process for, say, an upper control arm is this: here are the attachment points, here’s the load cases it supports, here’s the volume that it can consume so it doesn’t collide with any other vehicle systems, essentially press play, run these design algorithms, and that component is produced as a 3D model.”

“This system is already about 3 to 5 times more attractive than body-in-white economics. We are assembling at about three parts per minute,” says Lukas. “If you were to build out a welding line, you would spend about 3X what we are spending today.”

“Our system is replacing all body-in-white welding with a cell-based assembly method, not line-based. It is completely automotive-grade capable, but this is assembling at near-aerospace accuracy. And all the tooling stays consistent between assemblies. We can shift from one assembly to another without changing the system,” says Lukas. Divergent has its own bonding agents and its own means of bringing together and joining complex and sometimes heavy pieces like rear frames with extraordinary accuracy.

“If this was an old school method,” says Lukas, “we wouldn’t have a system where you can just change the software with no hardware changes. There’s no hardware that changes when the design changes. It can produce a structure that’s end tolerance is about 2 times as accurate as your usual OEM. It is doing all of its software programming, so all the robot motion paths, all the IPC programs, is all done offline in automation software that we have written. We are doing full tool pathing, full motion paths, full signal for the IPC generation in our own software package offline. Then we are downloading onto the cell. When we download those programs over the air onto the cell, we already have virtual assembly with the full process, and we have qualified that the parts are designed perfectly for that assembly process.”

Divergent may not change the entire auto industry overnight, but any chief engineer or CEO whose company produces performance cars or high-end specialty luxury cars should make the pilgrimage to Torrance, California. With the ability to reduce component weight and mass by 20 to as much as 40, 50 or even 60 percent, and to integrate multiple functions into a single 3D-printed piece, Divergent will become a critical supplier to all sports car makers, and in time have significant impact on luxury vehicles of all varieties.