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Hyundai execs confirm N is moving to electrification

Mixed greens: The Ioniq 5 could be Hyundai’s first electrified N car, but the performance sub-brand seems to have more ambitious plans than that, potentially blending BEV and FCEV technology into one powertrain.

Battery-electric, fuel-cell electric and a combination of both on menu for Hyundai N

28 Apr 2021

HYUNDAI Motor Company (HMC) has confirmed what many have suspected for a while now with its N Performance division set to dip its toes into electrification in the coming years, largely facilitated by its new electric global modular platform (e-GMP).


Speaking at the global reveal of the new Kona N, HMC chief marketing officer Thomas Schemera revealed the first electrified N Performance vehicle was well into its development.


“One of Hyundai’s top priorities is electrification, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.


“We made some very good experience with the RM20e that was introduced in Beijing last year – very good character, fun to drive to make all of our N customers happy.


“There’s something in the pipeline not too far down the road – there’s something coming up.


“Maybe it rings a bell if you think about our e-GMP, our electric global modular platform, this shows a lot of potential and a lot of flexibility, so stay tuned.”


So far HMC has only revealed one e-GMP-based model, the Ioniq 5, however to date there have been two vehicles to utilise the platform with the other being the Kia EV6.


Taken at face value, it would be easy to assume Mr Schemera was referring to the inaugural Ioniq product – at this stage the only option – with more fuel added to the fire when examining the global line-up.


In its most potent form, the Ioniq 5 develops a decent, if not ground-breaking 225kW/605Nm from its dual electric motors, whereas the flagship Kia EV6 GT churns out a supercar-baiting 430kW/720Nm.


It’s clear then the e-GMP is – as promised – capable of handling immense amounts of power and there is quite clearly room in the 5 line-up for a performance hero, however it may not quite take the fight to Kia in terms of sheer firepower.


Instead, it is entirely likely an Ioniq 5 N would focus on dynamics and more specifically in the words of HMC research and development boss Albert Biermann, delivering the best “fun-per-dollar”.


“The N treatment, that has to follow our three base columns of Hyundai N; so make the corner rascal, make it an everyday sportscar and make it (have) racetrack capability,” Mr Biermann said.


“If you look at an N vehicle, of course it looks quite similar but there is many changes in the body are; we stiffen up certain areas depending on the model … completely different kinematics for more feedback, steering response, steering linearity.


“The brakes of course are much bigger for track driving – the whole cooling system is a lot more powerful that you enjoy track driving for several laps on a racetrack without degradation.


“The engine of course is more powerful, clearly following response, linearity, good control at the limit, it’s not so much going for the peak power or going for the peak torque, it’s all about how you control the engine, how much does it help you to get a lot of fun with the car on a track or country road.”


Mr Biermann went onto detail the other changes and enhancements made as part of the N makeover, including the interior and seats, driving position, tyres and cornering hardware.


The prospect of N moving into electrification was first teased by executives in November last year at the virtual debut of the e-GMP where various high-performance models were promised.


Performance BEVs are not the only avenue being explored by the N sub-brand at the moment however with hydrogen fuel-cell technology also being explored, including an innovative new blend of the two.


“We’re working on a rolling lab project actually, where we have a high-powered battery powertrain combined with a fuel cell,” Mr Biermann said.


“In this set-up, the fuel cell adds of course to the power but also to the range of the vehicle and that is a nice challenging exercise for our engineers to squeeze high power battery-electric powertrain and the fuel-cell stack into a sportscar.


It remains to be seen yet if this mystery “rolling lab” vehicle will make it to production with Mr Biermann adding that while nothing had been decided, several prototypes had been developed for road testing.


Questions have also been raised as to if HMC would be launching a mid-engined performance car in the ilk of the “playground” RM20e prototype revealed by the brand in September last year.


According to Mr Schemera, the RM20e’s platform is a test bed for the brand’s engineers to “validate advanced technologies” however there were still questions as to if a mid-engined N car was “the right model to come up with in the future”.


“Our credo is to address and to make our products and services affordable and accessible for a wide range of enthusiasts and coming with a super-sportscar in that price range, we haven’t made any decisions yet,” he said.


Mr Biermann was more clear-cut in his expansion of Mr Schemera’s comments, bluntly stating that it was likely the brand would develop and release a “mid-ship battery N vehicle in the future”.


Given the e-GMP architecture already houses its batteries between the two axles, it is anyone’s guess as to exactly what form this “mid-ship” EV will take – for reference, the RM20e concept is based on a Veloster shell.

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