On Jan. 6, 2020 during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Uber and Hyundai Motor Company announced a new partnership to develop Uber Air Taxis for Uber's future aerial ride share network and Hyundai also unveiled their new full-scale electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft mock-up named the S-A1. In November 2021, Hyundai renamed its urban air mobility division to Supernal. The company has offices in Washington, D.C., Fremont, California (USA) and Irvine, California.
"Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years."
—Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate
Hyundai’s future mobility vision stems from the idea that mobility is closely related to city infrastructure. The company established the Human-Centered City Advisory Group with top global experts from fields such as psychology, architecture, urban design, transportation, political science, and conducted research on how future cities should be designed to foster new human-centered values. The advisory group derived three key values for future cities: care, enable, vitalize; and decided to place priority on the vitalization of cities.
Mega-urbanization taking place around the world has resulted in the reduction of transfer efficiency in many cities, according to Hyundai. UAM enables runway-free urban air travel with Personal Air Vehicles capable of electric vertical takeoff and landing flight.
Several key areas Hyundai sees for their eVTOL aircraft to be a success:
Passenger centered design making comfort and connectivity a priority for air, landing pads and ground vehicles
High energy batteries
Distributed Electric Propulsion, providing redundancy, increased flight control, higher efficiency and more
Autonomous flight, when it becomes available
Ground vehicles for travel to and from the landing pad
The Hyundai S-A1 eVTOL aircraft will hold four passengers and one pilot. When autonomous technology becomes available, the aircraft will not need a pilot and fly autonomously. The eVTOL aircraft will cruise at 180 mph (290 km/h), have a range of 60 miles (97 km) and with a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet (305-610 meters). The recharging time for the aircraft will be 5-7 minutes.
The aircraft has multiple safety features including distributed electric propulsion (DEP), powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. An emergency parachute will also be a standard feature in case a catastrophic would occur.
Passenger comfort is included into the design of the aircraft, with comfortable 2X2 seating, eliminating the middle row, allowing each passenger to sit next to a window and enjoy spectacular views during their flights and in addition, have enough room for their luggage. Due to DEP, the flight computer can quickly change each electric motor's speed independently of each other which keeps the aircraft horizontal, providing a much smoother ride, even in gusty wind conditions.
Hyundai sees three systems for a complete UAM ecosystem. The UAM aircraft, the PBV ground vehicles, and the hubs to make transfers easy from ground vehicles to aircraft and the reverse.
S-A1 eVTOL PAV (Personal Air Vehicle). This will reduce transit time in urban areas for the passengers. Hyundai will also offering fleet service and maintenance for their eVTOL aircraft.
S-Link Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV) (ground vehicle). The ground vehicles will be an eco-friendly ground shuttle and will be personalized for diverse lifestyles. The PBV can also be fitted to have multiple functions such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, home delivery, a charging vehicle (which can charge the PBVs by wireless technology while the PBVs are enroute), pharmacies and health clinics. Will use autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI) to travel using optimal route. The PBV is inspired by San Francisco’s iconic cable car.
S-Hub and S-Hub Skyport. The S-Hub is a one story building which a landing pad on top and with docking stations for the ground vehicles on the first level. The hub allows for indoor transfers for ease of use and protection from the weather, for passengers. The hubs are also meeting places for the passengers. The basements will include restrooms, an emergency shelter, a warehouse, utility areas and repair rooms. Hubs can be built next to each other and connect to each other. The S-Hub Skyport is a multilevel building with a roof top landing pad which has a passenger waiting area and will have parking for multiple S-A1 eVTOL aircraft.
Here are some of the Purpose Built Vehicle design features:
Oval type shape
Uses a unique hard ball wheel type (Uses multiple small hard balls underneath the vehicle instead of wheels)
Has interactive exteriors
Has interior wall displays
Can be outfitted for shuttle service and multiple other types of uses
Has a large sun roof
Has a roof top solar panel
An air filter system
Uses swarm technology
Autonomous wireless charging while vehicle is traveling on the road
Hyundai will produce and deploy the air vehicles, and Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicles.
In November 2021, Hyundai renamed its urban air mobility division to Supernal and plans to start serial production of their eVTOL passenger aircraft in 2028.
Aircraft type: eVTOL
Piloting: 1 pilot, will be initially piloted and will transition into an autonomous aircraft
Passengers: 4 seats for a very comfortable ride (no middle seat) with enough space for baggage
Passenger experience: Will have Internet of Things for a better passenger experience
Cruising speed: Up to 180 mph (290 km/h)
Range: 60 miles (97 km)
Cruising altitude: 1,000-2,000 feet (305-610 m)
Recharging time: 5-7 minutes
Propellers: 8 propellers total. 4 tiltrotor propellers (with 5 blades each) for forward and vertical lift and 4 sets of stacked co-rotating propellers (each propeller with 2 blades) used only for vertical flight.
Forward flight: Uses 4 propellers
VTOL flight: Uses all its propellers
Electric motors: 8 motors
Batteries: 7 high density batteries with quick recharge capabilities
Fuselage and wing construction: carbon composite material
Wings: 1 main high wing with a slight forward swept design
Tail assembly: 1 V tail
Windows: Wide windows for spectacular views for the passengers
Landing gear: Tricycle retractable landing gear
Low noise: Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines.
Safety features: Distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. An emergency parachute will also be a standard feature in case a catastrophic would occur.
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