The margins for OEMs in the automotive industry are small, which may explain why partnerships between once-rival manufacturers are becoming the norm as they seek to take advantage of pooled resources and engineering expertise.
So it is a surprise when, into such an environment, a new company forms and releases a vehicle of its own.
The company in question is Elemental, and the vehicle is the lightweight, road-legal Rp1 sports car – the ‘Rp’ stands for race project, referencing the founder’s past involvement in kit car racing.
“The market is a crowded one, but there is still an opportunity to be different, to think about things in a different way, and to offer something that is a bit different from everyone else,” says John Begley, Elemental’s technical director, whose brainchild is the Rp1.
Having spent many years working in high-performance vehicle engineering and chassis design at McLaren and the British touring car championship team Triple Eight, Begley had ambitions beyond his experiences in the automotive sector up to that point. So he personally sought out people with the required engineering abilities to form a team that could help realise the vision he had of building his own ‘clean sheet’-designed vehicle.
“The goals with this vehicle have evolved over time,” he says. “Originally it was a hobby – just something to do, make it for ourselves. As it went on, we felt we could do certain things better. Then people started saying ‘I wouldn’t mind having one of those if you’re going to do this’, and then it got carried away and got turned into a business.”
From first concepts, the vehicle that the group of seven engineers have developed has been more than four years in the making.
The original intention was for the Rp1 to be fitted with a motorbike engine. But lack of availability, plus the need to meet emissions regulations, led to Elemental opting for Ford’s EcoBoost unit.
Both a 1-litre, three-cylinder (134kW) and a 2-litre, four-cylinder (239kW) engine are options for the vehicle, with the latter capable of a top speed of 265km/h and reaching 100km in 2.8 seconds from a standing start.
Equipped with the larger engine, the vehicle also has a slightly more uneven weight distribution at 46/54, compared with 48/52 of the 1-litre.
“We obviously want a lot of power, and we want to be able to sell the vehicles globally, and that means it is all about emissions,” says Begley. “As with everyone else, the way is turbocharging to reduce the capacity of the engine but still produce power and torque as required. So the EcoBoost is the engine of choice – it is a global engine, which was an important point.”
The Ford engine has been modified somewhat to assimilate into Elemental’s vehicle, with a smaller wet sump lubrication system that is more appropriate for the Rp1’s lower profile. “Our engine would be sticking up in the air if we had the original sump.
“We have also ditched the dual-mass flywheel and that sort of palaver, as it doesn’t really work, weighs a lot and doesn’t give us the clutch changes we are after,” says Begley.
In its place, a lighter flywheel with a 184mm dual plate clutch have been installed, while the low-inertia alternator, custom-designed stainless-steel exhaust and intercoolers are an in-house design of the company. The ECU also has an Elemental map.
|tags:||Elemental Rp1 High Performance|