Hyundai’s first electric N car, based on the Ioniq 5, promises to be rapid around a racetrack – but lap times are not the most important thing, says Hyundai Executive Technical Advisor and all-round N brand guru Albert Biermann.

Mr Biermann, now retired from his role as Hyundai Motor Group’s overall R&D head, was present at the fourth annual Australian N Fest at The Bend Motorsports Park in South Australia last weekend, where more than 200 N cars and their owners converged.

Naturally, talk swiftly turned to what comes next from the N brand, namely the Ioniq 5 N set for a 2023 launch.

“While our engineers keep banging on about what should be the lap time target for the Ioniq 5 N at the Nürburgring, I just say it’s not about that, it’s about the feeling you get when you’re throwing 2.5 tons around the Nordschleife – that’s what matters more than anything,” said Mr Biermann

“We don’t care about damn lap times, but of course it’s fast. When I go through Schwedenkreuz at 220km/h to 230km/h, I want to feel comfortable and I want the car to feel confident. That’s so much more important than any lap time could ever offer.

“We are not making this car for professional racing drivers, we want normal drivers in the car to enjoy the performance – that’s the whole idea of any N car. On that basis alone, the development of the Ioniq 5 N requires a whole different approach to only going after lap times as a measure of success.

“On a typical race track the Ioniq 5 N will just fly away from combustion engine cars, because it has so much instant power available. And, it’s not slow in corners, either. As you know, we have had several tuning sessions on the Nordschleife and it’s really brilliant.”

Tuning sessions at the ring typically involve both driver and an engineer who monitors all kinds of dynamic loads, but even at close to 2.5 tons, Mr Biermann still raved about the driving experience.

“When you go down Fuchsröhre at 230, 240km/h, you’re thinking this is completely crazy given it’s such a heavy car, and for sure there are moments you feel the weight of the car, but it’s still very capable.”

Unlike Kia’s upcoming EV6 GT high-performance EV developed on the same E-GMP architecture as Ioniq 5, the Hyundai has been developed with a track focus in mind, incorporating various changes especially in the cooling department.

Mr Biermann defines the EV6 GT more succinctly, given he also oversaw the development of the go-fast Kia EV.

“When we developed the Kia EV6 GT, of course we track tested it, but it was never supposed to be a track capable EV, like an N car. An N car has to be able to survive on track for a certain amount of time, whereas the EV6 GT is a high-powered GT following the spirit of the Stinger.”

When it comes to Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 N, Mr Biermann cited significant challenges in developing a track-capable EV of considerable weight and proportions.

“Our two biggest challenges are the emotional involvement of the driver into the cockpit, which is where we try to create this with sound, vibrations and a virtual gear shift. It’s also a massive challenge to make a car like this properly track capable. This is where the fun really starts.

“We’ve spent a lot of focus, time and money to make a car race track capable, because this is where the substance is. You can easily make a claim, but after one or two laps the fun is over due to the extreme degradation of most cars. Most cars are quite useless in a track environment.

“But with Ioniq 5 N we want to show you can still have some fun and be able to stay out on track for 20 minutes or so without major systems collapsing. The temperature goes up so much that you get battery and inverter degradation, but our E-GMP architecture is a great starting point to build high-performance EVs.

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“There’s a different battery in the Hyundai, as we place more emphasis on the cooling system so that you can push Ioniq 5 N on a track. When we first started testing at the Nordschleife we could do one lap, maybe, but now we can two, or even three laps in one session.”

Hyundai plans to wrap up development of Ioniq 5 N by April/May 2023 prior to its rumoured global launch later in the year.

Anthony Crawford
Anthony Crawford is a Senior Road Tester at CarExpert.
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