In January 2020, the largest South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas presented its first eVTOL S-A1, unequivocally declaring its claims to air transport. At the same time, Uber announced that Hyundai has become a partner in the Uber Air air taxi network project. However, the project is not limited to just the vehicle: Hyundai is also developing infrastructure and software. For this, a separate company Supernal was even created.
The centerpiece of Hyundai’s urban air mobility concept is the S-A1 aircraft concept. The four-seat eVTOL will carry passengers at a cruising speed of 290 kilometers per hour (180 miles per hour), have a range of 97 kilometers (60 miles), and an altitude of 300–600 meters (320–650 yards). Recharging the batteries will only take 5–7 minutes. At first, of course, the device will not do without human control, but with the development of autonomy technology it will become unmanned. Thrust will be created by four rotary propellers for horizontal and vertical flight, as well as four sets of fixed propellers to create additional lift.
The fuselage will be built from a carbon composite and equipped with panoramic windows for admiring the sky and the earth.
The key property of the S-A1, which Hyundai itself puts in the first place, is safety. It is achieved through a distributed electric propulsion system of eight motors and seven batteries that drive the rotors and propellers. Even if some of them fail, the device will not fall like a stone. But if everything breaks down, the device will use an emergency parachute.
Among other advantages of its device, Hyundai names high-capacity batteries, low noise level, affordability, integration into the urban environment and the transportation system, and smart production of devices.
Hyundai paid special attention to passenger comfort. The seats are arranged in a 2×2 layout, so there is no fight between elbows in the middle seat. Each passenger will be able to enjoy the view from the window. A smart distributed propulsion control system will be able to change the power and speed of each motor separately, so that the device flies smoothly and smoothly in any weather conditions.
Hyundai is developing not just eVTOL, but an entire ecosystem that will reimagine urban mobility at all levels. Its important feature is the integration of new elements into existing infrastructure to reduce the cost of innovation for cities. The ecosystem consists of three key elements.
1.S-A1. This device will reduce the time that residents of megacities will spend moving around the city. Hyundai also provides a fleet of aircraft and infrastructure for their maintenance as part of the project.
2. S-Link PBV. PBV – Purpose Built Vehicle, ground vehicle. A special unmanned vehicle that will be developed for the specific needs of the customer. PBV can be adapted for a restaurant, a coffee shop, a hotel, a delivery man, a recharger of other PBVs, a pharmacy, a mobile health center. Of course, the machines will be controlled by artificial intelligence.
3. S-Hub. This is a station that provides a transfer between ground and air transport. There will be an eVTOL landing pad on the roof of this one-story building. Thus, passengers will be able to move from one transport to another without going outside. The basement will house passenger amenities, utility rooms and repair shops. An expanded version of the S-Hub, the S-Hub Skyport, will be a multi-story building with a waiting room and a landing pad for several S-A1s.
Of All Things Man Is The Measure
Hyundai’s future mobility philosophy is based on its close relationship with urban infrastructure. However, people must be at the center of urban planning. The company even organized a special advisory group to create a people-centred city. It included psychologists, architects, urbanists, logisticians, political scientists. They have identified new values that will become key for the cities of the future: to care, to provide, to vitalize.
Hyundai’s analysis showed that urbanization has reduced the efficiency of transportation systems in many cities. Air urban mobility will solve this problem using eVTOL devices.
Thus, the goal of Supernal is not only to create another eVTOL, but also to offer a comprehensive solution that will change the way people live and move in the city. The ecosystem will be integrated into the existing urban infrastructure, connecting it with a new type of mobility. Unlike other projects, Supernal is immediately focused on creating a commercially successful project, so it is actively looking for partners to implement it.
So, in February 2022, Supernal partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The task of NREL is to conduct a study of the infrastructure of Los Angeles, comparing the needs for movement city residents with what new urban mobility has to offer. As a result, NREL will create a business plan for Supernal and a network map with a perspective location of stops for eVTOL.
In March 2022, Supernal signed a letter of intent to develop urban air mobility with Miami. As part of the agreement, the City will hold public consultations to identify current urban transport issues and how air mobility can help address them. In addition, a program will be created to train personnel for a new mode of transport.
In April 2022, Supernal and urban air mobility infrastructure company Urban Air Port unveiled the first fully functional vertiport, the “airport” for eVTOL, in Coventry, UK. It is planned to be taken to several more cities to show how the new infrastructure can be integrated with the existing one.