120 years ago, the Laurin & Klement company in Mladá Boleslav presented its first motorcycles powered by a single-cylinder-engine. A few short years later came transverse two-cylinder engines and – unique at the time – four-cylinder in-line engines.1905 saw the debut of the Voiturette A, the first automobile made in Mladá Boleslav. Soon, numerous advanced engines for motor vehicles, aeroplanes and even electric mobility developments were added to the fledgling Czech company’s product portfolio.
Christian Strube, ŠKODA AUTO Board Member for Technical Development explains: “ŠKODA AUTO today counts among the longest-established car manufacturers in the world, with its innovative engine developments having made a substantial contribution to the global evolution of individual mobility across many generations. This tradition and experience inspire us to this day. Within the Volkswagen Group, ŠKODA AUTO plays a pivotal role in developing and producing engines. The engines made here are installed in several of the group’s vehicle types and platforms. More than one-in-five engines used in Volkswagen Group cars has been developed by ŠKODA AUTO.”
Engine development started 120 years ago with a one-cylinder engine
In spring 1899, less than four years after the establishment of the Laurin & Klement company, an auxiliary petrol engine was added to its bicycle range. On November 18 1899, the fledgling company introduced a motorcycle powered by engines designed in-house: the Slavia Type A with output levels of 1.25 PS and 1.75 PS.
At this time, engineer and co-founder Václav Laurin, developed an innovative electric ignition and his own carburettor. 1902 marked the creation of the BB prototype that featured a transverse two-cylinder engine, with production of the V2-powered CC type starting the following year.
September 1904 saw the signing of a licensing agreement for the production of L&K engines in Dresden under the “Germania” name, and one of the world’s first motorcycles to be powered by a four-cylinder engine - the Laurin & Klement type CCCC with four connected one-cylinder units. By 1905, following further engineering development, this model featured a common crankshaft and a rear wheel driven by a metal chain rather than a leather belt. The era of Laurin & Klement motorcycles, which continued into 1910, reached its zenith in spring 1905 with L&K winning the unofficial world championship in Dourdan, France.
Transitioning from motorcycles to automobiles
In April 1905, the first automotive engine made in Mladá Boleslav was presented in Prague, and by autumn this engine had been built into the L&K Voiturette A - the brand’s first car. The water-cooled V2/55° litre-class engine produced an output of 5.2 kW (7 PS). During the following two years, the company also developed in-line engines with two and four cylinders. This development led to the Type FF (1907) eight-cylinder in-line engine, which was the first of its kind in Central Europe. The cooperation with inventor František Křižík culminated in a hybrid vehicle based on the type E and featured two electric motors controlled by rectifiers.
Highlights of the L&K era include the FCR racing engine with an extreme, 250-mm stroke (1909) as well as the four-cylinder EL engine that powered the brand’s first aeroplane (it first took off from Czech soil in April 1910). In addition to engines for motor vehicles, the Mladá Boleslav plant also produced stationary internal-combustion engines, engines powering ploughs and electric power generators.
Large-scale engine production from 1929 onwards
In the 1920s, the L&K/ŠKODA range included sleeve valve engines as well as the ŠKODA 4R and ŠKODA 6R vehicle models with Ricardo combustion chambers. 1929 saw Mladá Boleslav start up an assembly-line for the production of engines; the range-topping model was the ŠKODA 860 with an eight-cylinder in-line engine and a nine-bearing crankshaft.
General maintenance for this new vehicle generation became easier with the introduction of steel cylinder liners, which first used “dry” and later (1937) “wet” cooling. In 1937, ŠKODA also transitioned from SV valve control to OHV. The flagship was the ŠKODA Superb, powered by a six-cylinder in-line engine. There was even a limited edition using a 4.0-litre V8 engine (1939). In addition, ŠKODA developed affordable and very popular one-litre four-cylinder engines. Through consistent, ongoing optimisation, ŠKODA laid the foundations for reliable engines in the post-war era.
First aluminium die-cast engine blocks
The engine for the ŠKODA 1000 MB brought about a revolutionary departure for the Czech car maker. It had a die-cast aluminium engine block produced according to an original Czech patent, enabling a very low overall engine weight. This advanced production technology also proved its worth on the race track; for example, the ŠKODA 130 RS, was the winner of its class at the 1977 Monte Carlo Rally. This innovative engine and production concept prevailed even after the introduction of the new ŠKODA front-wheel-drive vehicle generation in the shape of the ŠKODA Favorit in 1987.
Engine supplier to other Volkswagen Group brands
ŠKODA joined the Volkswagen Group in 1991, and by 1997 the car manufacturer from Mladá Boleslav was supplying engines to other Volkswagen Group brands. These engines, designed in-house, initially consisted of 1.0-litre powerplants delivering 37 kW/50 PS.
In 2001 production for 1.2 HTP three-cylinder engines started, which were also used in the VW Fox, VW Polo and Seat Ibiza. Eight years later, the 1.2 TSI launched a generation of economical and eco-friendly four-cylinder engines with direct injection. The new Mladá Boleslav Engine Centre opened on 4 September 2014, which further consolidated the key role played by ŠKODA AUTO in the Group’s engine development.
Engines made in Mladá Boleslav are also used in Mexico, India and Africa
Today, the main ŠKODA AUTO plant in Mladá Boleslav produces type EA 211 engines with capacities from 1.0 to 1.6 litres for use in the EU as well as in Mexico, India and Africa. The most recent unit is the 1.0 MPI EVO, which has been in production since 2018, with outputs from 65 to 80 PS. The world’s biggest manufacturer of MPI engines is China with a share of around 60 per cent, produced in the Shanghai, Changchun and Chengdu plants. Vehicles for the Central and South American markets are equipped with engines from Brazil, while Russia produces engines for the local market.
The global production and vehicle assembly for three- and four-cylinder MPI engines developed by ŠKODA AUTO in Mladá Boleslav is in excess of two million per annum. All engines developed by ŠKODA AUTO comply with the most recent requirements and emissions standards applicable in the relevant markets. ŠKODA AUTO engineers’ exceptional expertise is underscored by their involvement in the development of the racing engine for the successful ŠKODA Fabia R5 rally vehicle. In addition, ŠKODA AUTO engines are used for industrial applications such as pumps and fire engines.
ŠKODA AUTO engine development alone employs more than 70 highly qualified staff. Engine Production in the main plant in Mladá Boleslav involves around 700 employees.
Milestones in the 120-year history of engine development and production in Mladá Boleslav:
The Laurin & Klement company was founded.
Auxiliary engine for bicycles available as an accessory. The first L&K motorbike produced.
Presentation of the first L&K automobile - the Voiturette A powered by a 1.0-litre V2 engine.
The Laurin & Klement FF - the first eight-cylinder in-line engine of its kind in Central Europe.
The first hybrid vehicle based on the type E.
The EL, the first aeroplane engine.
Merger of L&K with the ŠKODA company from the Czech town of Pilsen.
Changeover to OHV designs.
“Wet” cylinder liners.
Four-cylinder engine in the one-litre class for the Š 1000 MB vehicle, with a die-cast aluminium engine block, beginning of the era of rear-engine ŠKODA vehicles (1964–1990).
1.3-litre all-aluminium transverse engine in the front-wheel-drive ŠKODA Favorit.
ŠKODA becomes part of the Volkswagen Group.
ŠKODA supplies 1.0-litre four-cylinder aluminium engines to other group brands.
Start of production for 1.2 HTP engines.
Start of production for 1.2 TSI turbo engines.
Opening of the new Engine Centre in Mladá Boleslav.