Hyundai recently lifted the lid on a brand new manufacturing facility in Singapore that will revolutionise the way it manufactures cars and, perhaps more importantly, the vehicles we use to navigate cities in the near future.
You see, Hyundai believes today’s urban areas are already almost at breaking point with congestion and things are only going to get worse. With that in mind, it is investigating purpose built vehicles (PBVs) for ride sharing, as well autonomous taxis, hydrogen-powered buses and numerous other forms of alternative transport.
One innovation to beat the jams is electric vertical takeoff and landing craft - or eVTOL for short - which Hyundai claims will be available as early as 2028.
Thanks to its partnership with Supernal, an Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) company that has been operational since 2020, Hyundai hopes to accelerate the technology to the point that it is available to major city dwellers before the next decade.
At CES 2024 in January, Supernal will reveal its latest eVTOL concept vehicle that Jaiwon Shin, ex-NASA man and head of Hyundai’s AAM unit, says will offer a "safe, clean and accessible solution" that will "open up new routes in urban and underserved locations".
By next year, he says, Hyundai and Supernal will be flying a full-scale technology demonstrator that will be used to hone in on a final, production-ready version vehicle.
The four-passenger/one-pilot eVTOL craft will eventually be offered alongside some of Hyundai’s other notable future methods of transport, which already includes the fully-autonomous Ioniq 5 robot-taxi. That is now being produced en masse in the company’s recently opened Innovation Centre in Singapore to try and speed up adoption.
"The key to successfully launching AAM vehicles is to ensure they are safe and that we can manufacture them in a cost effective and mass production way," Shin explained at a private event T3 attended in Singapore.
"Unlike the aviation industry, where just a few thousand aircraft are essentially hand-built in a long and labour-intensive way, but serve the world’s travellers, the AAM industry requires operating on a much larger scale to make it work effectively.
"The opening of Hyundai’s Innovation Centre will allow us to work towards producing moderate volumes of AAM vehicles using the innovative production methods of the cell-based smart factory. HMGICS will be the testbed for us as we work out how to scale this up properly," he added.
Shin also admits there has been a rush to try and get the new technology online by many companies that have experienced huge financial investment, but it requires a sharing of information between the manufacturers and the safety regulators to ensure the systems work and adhere to the same rigorous standards seen in the today's aviation industry.
However, with companies like Germany's Volocopter, as well as EHang and Xpeng of China pushing to be the first to release the technology, we could see it arrive even earlier than Hyundai believes.
In April 2022, Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Aviation Services said it intended to launch eVTOL flights from the Atlantis hotel on The Palm in 2026, using up to 35 eVTOL aircraft from Embraer spin-off Eve Air Mobility, according to Flight Global.
Think that sounds a bit far-fetched? Well, the initial design and testing of "Vertiports" - or the facilities where these craft will takeoff and land - is already underway in places like France, the Netherlands, Dubai and Australia.
Needless to say, our skies could get a lot busier in the next few years.