Bringing Motorsports-inspired technology into production models with the ‘Rolling Lab’
6 minute read
Can Hyundai Motor Company build a midship sports car? Some might doubt it, while others may be waiting for the reveal already. But, no one would say that it’s just a mere fantasy – and that’s all because of the RM project. What is the RM project and the ‘Rolling Lab’? Find out more, here.
Put simply, Hyundai Motor Company's RM project is a ‘Rolling Lab’ that acts as a bridge between racing cars and N production models. The purpose of this lab is to test and develop high-performance technologies and to showcase the brand’s technological potential.
In the automotive industry, a car like this is often referred to as a ‘Halo Car’. This is because it has a ‘halo effect’ on mass-produced models, and goes on to create a dynamic and positive image for the brand.
The RM Project, which started with the RM14 that was revealed in 2014, worked as a testbed for various high-performance technologies and has laid the foundation for N Performance.
RM, The Racing Midship
The RM project, which started in 2012, was set up to realize extreme driving performance the likes of which Hyundai Motor Company had yet to attempt.
RM stands for ‘Racing Midship,’ and it was revealed at the 2014 Busan Motor Show after two years of preparation. The first model, the RM14, was a midship model that looked just like a Veloster; a 300 HP 2.0L theta turbo engine sat where the rear seats used to be. It was used as a test car to develop and verify new technologies as well as the characteristics of a high-performance car.
Hyundai dubbed the hybrid lightweight body structure - or HLBS - for the RM15 and revealed the RM16 with an electric supercharger with increased responsiveness. Then, in 2019, the RM19 was revealed with the drivetrain of a TCR race car housed at the center of the body.
The latest RM20e has the same body as the RM19, but it is the first all-electric vehicle with an electric motor.
Where to put the engine and which wheel drive to use are very important questions that ultimately determine the overall characteristics of a car.
Most general passenger cars are FF(Front Engine Front Drive), in which the engine is placed on the front of the body and uses a front-wheel drive system.
On the other hand, FR(Front Engine Rear Drive) in which the engine is in front – the rear wheels are driven is widely used in luxury cars and high-performance cars. The front wheel is for steering while the rear wheel is solely for driving; which is advantageous in terms of performance.
‘Midship’ literally means the engine is placed in the center of the body (between the passenger seat and the rear wheel) and is driven by the rear wheels. Agility is heightened when you place the engine – the heaviest component of a car – close to the center of the body. However, this does mean that you have to give up the back seat – which is why it’s difficult to find a midship layout in a regular passenger vehicle.
Nevertheless, sports cars, especially supercars, use midship designs because it is advantageous for sports driving. A small body with a midship structure, specially designed for the RM project, is the perfect choice for Hyundai Motor Company because it is a way to test the technologies on a vehicle that is a little too sensitive to drive. This is why the project was named Racing Midship, RM.
Technologies for mass-produced cars
The technologies verified through the RM project are applied to various Hyundai models, including N, to enhance driving performance.
The most notable example is the Corner Carving Differential (e-LSD), which was first introduced on the i30 N in 2017 and is currently installed in most N models. The e-LSD, which has been tested through RM16, is a device that electronically controls the torque of the left and right wheels. It suppresses understeer caused by the turning difference between the left and right wheels when going through tight corners. By doing so it reduces slip on extremely slippery roads and aids fast acceleration.
The 8-speed wet DCT(Dual Clutch Transmission) is also a technology that has been tested through the RM19. Among the N models, it was first introduced in the Veloster N in 2020, and has since been applied to the i30 N, Kona N, and Avante N(Elantra N). For reference, the 8-speed wet DCT was developed for high-performance engines. Unlike the conventional dry transmission without a high permissible torque limit, a wet clutch with oil cooling can handle higher torque.
Exhaust sound design, which has been continuously tested since RM16, is also a technology housed in Hyundai Motor Company's latest models. In high-performance models, sounds that arouse emotional excitement are an important factor. In the latest N model, the Avante N or Elantra N, the technology has been further developed as an N Sound Equalizer(NSE), which even provides the exhaust sounds of a TCR race car.
In addition, the roll cage used in racing cars was applied to the rear part of the body in the form of a simplified partial roll cage in the RM project. This increases rigidity and minimizes distortion of the vehicle body when driving.
The rear brace bar of Avante N or Elantra N is derived from this. The rear spoiler, which is a representative aerodynamic part, is also notable. Hyundai Motor Company's aerodynamic performance has been continuously upgraded through the RM project. Although the rear spoilers on all N models might look similar, every rear spoiler is optimized through numerous experiments to complement each model’s performance.
Carbon outer parts, which have been used since RM15, have also been continuously researched to reduce weight and improve rigidity for mass production.
The i30 N Project C, which was introduced in 2019, has a carbon hood and bucket seats, reducing the weight by about 50 kg. For reference, 600 units of the i30 N Project C produced were sold out for the first time in Hyundai Motor Company’s C-segment in Europe.
These are only a few of the core technologies derived from the RM project. As described, the ‘Rolling Lab’ plays a key role in allowing us to predict new technologies to be applied in future production models.
Bringing Motorsports Technology onto Roads
Hyundai Motor Company's brand image within the global automobile market is constantly changing thanks to its active role in the motorsports field and its commitment to innovation through the N brand.
Thanks to N, people are enjoying and experiencing the pleasure of driving cars that have been developed directly from race cars.
The RM project, referred to as the ‘Rolling Lab’, has played a very important part in Hyundai Motor Company's high-performance roadmap.
Just like the quenching and tempering of great swords, Hyundai Motor Company has and will continue to broaden its high-performance model line-up for both daily cars and sports cars.
What kind of future will the RM project bring about in its next phase? The new slogan of the N brand, ‘Never just drive.’, demonstrates the brand’s dream and willingness to pursue the fun of driving at every moment even in the era of electric vehicles. As such, the RM Project will continue to play an active role in realizing this dream in the future.
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This article was written by automobile critic Sujin Lee for the N zine. "Excited about the 1991 establishment of the first domestic auto mania magazine (Car Vision), I sent a series of long letters there that led to an unexpected hire. 27 years have passed since then, the years of plowing through the writing struggles of an auto journalist. After becoming an editor for Car Vision, I came to my current position as the Editor-in-Chief (in Car Life). My recent interests include cutting-edge techs like electric cars, connected cars, and autonomous driving, but the ‘otaku’ in me doesn’t want internal combustion engines to disappear either."