Founded in 2007, Denmark’s only car manufacturer, Zenvo, is based in the picturesque town of Præstø where it produces every aspect of its cars from this Danish factory.
The first model offered was dubbed the ST1: a turbocharged V8 engine with an aggressive body styled by fellow Dane and distinguished designer Christian Brandt. Unveiled in 2009 to rave reviews, with the ST1 excited the world and the notion of a bespoke Danish hypercar intrigued the automotive world.
Since this first model Zenvo has carried out a huge amount of engineering internally, and by 2015 Zenvo had developed the world’s fastest single clutch gearbox in-house, paired with Zenvo’s own traction control, ESP and launch control. This technology has continued to develop in the time since, as has the capability of the Zenvo team.
The TS1 GT followed the ST1 and was launched at the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, an evolution that saw a chance to incorporate twin superchargers over the previous turbo and supercharged setup and a dry sump that allowed the engine to be mounted lower for an optimal centre of gravity. This car was also the first car to offer Zenvo’s unique ‘dog engagement’ helical cut 7-speed sequential gearbox (currently undergoing further development for a hybrid module) which has become a defining feature of the Zenvo driving experience. Offering lightning-fast shifts traditionally only found on race cars, but without the associated issues, this is a totally in-house innovation spearheaded by Troels.
Demand began to grow for a more hardcore, track-orientated model, and the Zenvo team started with the TS1 GT to create the TSR. Stripping 250 kilograms of weight, creating new engine management software for revised power delivery and revising the ratios on the in-house helical dog cut gearbox resulted in a fierce, focused track machine which sparked the idea of an innovative new aerodynamic solution.
This Centripetal wing, a patented Zenvo design, expands on the principal of active aerodynamics, seen commonly in supercars, using Zenvo’s own electronics to measure the ideal wing position in every scenario. The wing has two rotational axes that allow it to act as an air brake and a cornering stabiliser, tilting left and right depending on your inputs. This whole system was devised, tested and patented in-house.
All these innovations led to the creation of Zenvo’s flagship offering, the TSR-S, which is effectively a road legal version of the TSR track car. This hypercar was unveiled at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show and is without doubt Zenvo’s most recognisable model, boasting a 1,177 bhp twin-supercharged V8, and a 0-62mph time of 2.8 seconds and a 0-124mph time of 6.8 seconds.
Throughout all of this, production has remained within Præstø, though the factory has expanded greatly to accommodate increased development and production. Within this factory are a number of departments including composite manufacturing (including carbon fibre wheel production), drivetrain engineering (including Zenvo’s own dyno room), electronics, paint and development. Zenvo prides itself on creating genuinely limited edition production hypercars by hand. The current production capacity is five cars per year and each build is completely bespoke to the customer.
The future looks bright for Zenvo Automotive as it continues to forge ahead with its Danish determination, out of the box thinking, innovative design and engineering, as well as its growing and motivated team. While your media colleagues can’t tell you too much about the future plans and models of Zenvo, you can definitely expect some jaw-dropping innovations, specifications, plans as well as bespoke and fully tailored craftsmanship and material selection.
Interview with Zenvo Automotive founder Troels Vollertsen
Zenvo Automotive founder Troels Vollertsen is an automotive innovator, devoting his life to rethinking high performance engineering and pushing boundaries.
It’s fair to say that Troels is fueled by passion rather than fame. He’s been modifying cars from the age of ten and despite Denmark’s lack of car companies (Zenvo being the first) and the country’s automotive manufacturing infrastructure, he wasn’t deterred and followed two paths to starting the limited edition hypercar company we know today.
The first path was to take his passion for internal combustion engines and engineering, and start a business offering his expertise to bespoke tuning firms and for private clients chasing horsepower. The second was investing in education. When Troels had finished his studies, including spending his evenings and spare time reading Physics and Mathematics, he started a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Needing to work on the side to fund his university degree, and quickly growing the team to cope with demand, Troels had a decision to make: finish his degree or invest full-time in the future of his business. He took the latter, to step out of his degree (that was 75% completed), which has paid dividends to Troels’ knowledge, growth and leadership abilities.
Zenvo Automotive was born from this combined experience and an unrelenting desire to create his own hypercar. He began working on his first creation, later dubbed the ST1 due to its supercharged and turbocharged powerplant, then seeking out fellow Dane and distinguished designer Christian Brandt to pen the body for his machine.
Troels continues to push innovation and development within Zenvo Automotive, from masterminding the creation of the in-house gearbox technology to the now famous Centripetal rear wing. He has been integral to Zenvo Automotive’s success and pioneering thinking. From growing the team to integrating in-house development and production centres, including a bespoke dyno room and composite manufacturing base, Troels has always been at the heart of pushing the boundaries for the current crop of Zenvo Automotive hypercars as well as masterminding future models.
When not at the factory, Troels indulges further in his personal car projects with his son (who also works at Zenvo Automotive) as well as spending as much time as possible outdoors with his beloved dogs.
So you are the only car manufacturer in Denmark?
For some reason yes. There have been a few attempts in the past and other companies tried to build small one-person electric vehicles in the past but none were successful.
Is there a particular reason for this?
We are not a motorsport country like the UK. We have only three racetracks in Denmark there use is further limited because of environmental and noise restrictions. But we have still produced a number of great racing drivers. And Go-Karting is quite big but motorsport above that level is virtually non-existant.
So looking at the TSR-S that Zenvo currently builds: Why go for a car like that rather than a ‘normal’ car?
Even though there is very little motorsport in Denmark, for all of my working life I have built cars and worked on sports cars for other companies. It was always in my blood. I don’t really know why it became a car like this. In the beginning, when I was first starting it was a smaller sports car, not a hypercar, but then horsepower took over! It just came out like that.
Did you have a plan in mind for a specific performance bracket?
I did not have a design at all. What actually happened was that I was just building the car as a frame. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to design and build the bodywork in house. So I started with the engine and gearbox and kept changing the layout until I was happy with it in terms of wheel placement and track. It was a wide vehicle with the engine in the centre which is why it has the look that it has now.
Then the exterior of the car was designed by a Danish Car Designer, Christian Brandt. He was limited by the frame and position of the wheels but that is the design he came up with.
Were you developing engines and gearboxes before you started work on the TSR-S?
Yes, I have worked on a few race cars but I have been working mostly on complete drivetrains and electronics. It sounds difficult to develop a drive train but engines are really not that complicated if you have been doing that all of your life. I would prefer to concentrate on engines to body panels. The interface between panels, the interiors too, for me it is far harder to do that than engines.
How do you see the future for Zenvo with a move to full electrification in 2030?
We are working on a hybrid drivetrain. It will not appear in the TSR-S but in our next model. It is nice to have an electric hypercar with 1,100hp but, in my opinion, it weighs too much and you only have full horsepower for ten seconds or so then you only have half of it, then after another 20 seconds you only have 25% of maximum.
I think a car is sold on the numbers but owning and a supercar should be for the emotion. It is not for general transportation, it is something you take out now and then when the weather is good. Then you’ll get the full emotion. The sound is a big part, the gearchange, the whole feeling which is often missing in an electric hypercar.
The are probably a better drive overall but there are disadvantages, for me driving a hypercar is mostly about emotion and I don’t get that from a pure electric car.
There was a report that something like 2billion internal combustion engines would still be built before every country switched to electric. So it is not too late to still put in the R&D to ICE cars. As long as that is in connection to hybrid technology.
Do you have a specific market? Or is there a particular type of buyer for Zenvo?
Not really, as I was developing the car I was doing a lot of work in the Middle East selling racing engines and performance upgrades to Ferraris and Mercedes etc. And I was sure that would be my biggest market. There was a high demand for that type of car back in 2009 when it was originally launched. But that is when the credit crash hit the area hard. So the first car was sold to a Russian customer.
Do you see the main market being outside of Europe?
Well, I wouldn’t have believed I would sell the cars in Denmark, the maximum speed limit is 130kph and these types of cars are not very popular with the general public, it is seen as a bit ‘over the top’. But we have now sold TWO cars in Denmark. We are also working hard to establish a dealer network in the USA and I have high expectations for that.
Is every car built to order?
Yes, everything is built to order. Even the pattern in the carbon fibre is built to the customer’s specification. We have an element of pre-production, such as the chassis work but body-panels, interior, wheels etc is completely down to customer choice. For this reason the cars are delivered roughly 18 months after ordering. We have a capacity of building maybe four cars per year.
You seem very proud of your Danish company and that all of the work that goes into the cars is Danish in origin?
It is not only that it is Danish. It’s easier and it also keeps our own country growing instead of shipping things to other countries. Everything that can be sourced or done in Denmark is done here. There are a few components which are sourced elsewhere, like brake disks from the UK, some gearbox components are from Italy and tyres, of course, from France, but only because these are not available from Danish suppliers.
All of the carbon fibre is produced in-house, as is all of the sheet metal and tubing parts. We do the paint job ourselves too, as we cannot guarantee the quality if we don’t do it ourselves. We can take the best pain sprayers but it still takes a couple of years working in-house before they are up to our standards.
How do you get to test drive the cars if there are not that many race tracks available in Denmark?
We have access to different tracks and there is an airfield nearby for certain tests. We also hire the Nardo Porsche test centre in Italy, which is the right environment for longer term testing. At home the weather gives us just one good day out of five, like the UK, so we go to Italy.
Why do you think the best hypercars are still being developed in Europe?
I am not sure. More than half of the hypercar market is in the USA but there are only a few people over there building American Hypercars, like Shelby, Singer and Hennessey. There is still this attitude outside of the US that Americans only build drag cars which go in a straight line and if you want something to go around corners you don’t buy an American Car. This is wrong, of course, I think the Ford GT is one of the best cars ever built and has proved that assumption to be wrong.
Does the same high vehicle purchase tax apply to a Danish built car that applies to other cars?
Yes it does, it covers all cars, not just imports. But it only applies once you register the car and put on number plates. We can sell the car plus VAT (if you are in Europe) to any customer if they use it simply as a track car. But if you want to add number plates then you need to sit down and get your wallet out. The Danish tax is 150% of the purchase price PLUS VAT!
If a UK buyer was interested in the TSR-S can you just swap the steering wheel over?
No, unfortunately not. We did not even think about that possibility at the time. The cost of redevelopment of moving the various components just is not feasible unless someone wants to order five cars. But I will guarantee that our next car WILL be available as right-hand-drive.