Hyundai launched its fifth N performance model yesterday but the brand also revealed some radical and bold plans for its future. The South Korean giant wants to use both electric power and hydrogen fuel cells – and even a combination of both – to push its N expansion into new territory.
Speaking at the launch of the all-new Kona N model, the company also took the opportunity to launch a new brand slogan for N – ‘Never just drive’ – and open up (slightly) on its plans to expand into EV and hydrogen powered performance cars. The company has already shown off its ability to create battery-powered sports cars, presenting the RM20e concept car at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show. It packed a 596kW/960Nm powertrain into its Veloster-based body.
However, the most likely first candidate is the recently revealed Ioniq 5 model, which is underpinned by the company’s new ‘E-GMP’ modular electric architecture. As Kia has already demonstrated with the EV6 GT the new electric powertrain can be turned up to a whopping 430kW of power and 740Nm of torque.
While Thomas Schemera, Hyundai’s chief marketing officer, stopped short of saying it directly, an Ioniq 5 N seems like it will be revealed soon.
“One of Hyundai’s top priorities is electrification, there’s no doubt about it,” Schemera explained. “We had some very good experience with the RM20e which was introduced in Beijing last year; very good character [and] fun to drive… If you add one and one, there’s something in the pipeline not too far down the road. There’s something coming up. Maybe it rings a bell, something electric. Our E-GMP global modular platform shows a lot of potential and a lot of flexibility. Stay tuned, so to speak, but something is in the pipeline.”
It likely won’t be the last either, with Hyundai expected to push its sleek Prophecy concept into production in the next few years – where it will likely be known as the Ioniq 6. Hyundai has even teased a N version of the Prophecy, albeit as an April Fool’s joke last year.
It may sound laughable but performance EVs look set to become the next big thing in the car industry and Hyundai is determined not to get left behind. In fact, the company is trying to get a leap on the competition by developing high-performance versions of its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. Albert Biermann, head of R&D for all of Hyundai Group, revealed that prototypes are already up and running with a ground-breaking combination of a battery-powered EV and fuel cell power.
“We’re working on a rolling lab project actually, where we have a high-powered battery powertrain combined with a fuel cell,” Berimann explained. “In this set-up the fuel cell adds to the power but also the range of the vehicle. This is a nice challenging exercise for our engineers to squeeze high-powered battery powertrain and fuel cell stack into a sports car. With this rolling lab vehicle we have not decided if we want to sell this one day or not, but we are testing a lot now. We have already a few prototypes on the road. We wanted to demonstrate the different fuel cell applications.”
Hyundai has only launched one fuel cell model, the Nexo, and Beirmann said if this experimental powertrain combination ever makes production, it would need a unique chassis and body to accommodate it – although a supercar like the N 2025 FCV concept seems highly unlikely.
“Our first prototypes are based on an existing platform, but when we might decide to go with the fuel cell-powered N vehicle we might probably need some more changes to an existing platform.”
Hyundai is determined to push the performance boundaries of fuel cell technology. It announced earlier in 2021 that it has teamed up with Forze Hydrogen Racing, a team of student engineers and designers, to build a prototype racing car powered by a pair of fuel cells.