Announced by the group’s Executive Vice Chairman, Euisun Chung, at its New Year’s address, the Group’s ambitious plans are designed to bring it to the fore as a leader in EV and autonomous technology, as well as expanding its hydrogen endeavours. He said that the key objective is “…taking a leap as a game changer capable of setting the rules of the market”.
Lofty ambitions, then, but what does the £66bn and elevated rhetoric translate to in practice?
Hyundai and Kia aren’t exactly lagging in the area of AFVs. The Kia e-Nero and its sister car, the Hyundai Kona electric are compelling options given their price and specification. Both brands have a fairly advanced range of PHEVs and hybrids, and Hyundai is one of only three big name manufacturers that will sell you a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in the shape of the Nexo.
In total, the brands currently offer a none-too-shabby 24 AFVs. But by 2025 this will have almost doubled to 44 electrified models, “…including 11 dedicated BEV models, by bolstering the development of EV platforms and core components,” said Chung. This line-up will include 13 hybrids, six plug-in hybrids, 23 battery electric vehicles (including 11 new dedicated EV models) and two FCEVs.
We won’t have too long to wait for Hyundai and Kia to get cracking on bringing these plans to fruition. In the first instance, and perhaps unsurprisingly given their global domination, the brands’ SUVs will be getting the hybrid and PHEV treatment. This year, electrified versions of the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tuscon and Santa Fe will hit the roads, most likely in the USA at first, with Europe sitting a little further down the pecking order. In 2021, the group will launch its first dedicated EV model, beginning that increase from 2019’s nine EVs through to 2025’s 23.
From 2024 onwards, both Hyundai and Kia EVs will benefit from an entirely new, EV-specific architecture which will share numerous components across the brands. Like VW with its scalable MEB platform which will be used across VW brands, the Hyundai Group effort will be designed to cater for the global market and establish Hyundai and Kia alongside manufacturers like VW at the top of the EV pile.
You’ve got to hand it to Hyundai when it comes to FCEVs. Their unwavering pursuit of the technology for mass-market use against a backdrop of apathy, non-belief and even suspicion by its contemporaries is laudable. Now, not only is the group going to continue to work on its leadership in the field of hydrogen, it wants to expand it further.
Developing an ‘ecosystem’ for hydrogen, in a similar vein to the way EVs have benefitted from such initiatives, is top priority for Chung: “In particular, in our fuel-cell electric vehicle business, where we boast the world’s top technological competitiveness, we will hit our stride by providing fuel-cell systems to customers not only in the automotive industry but also in other sectors,” he pointed out. “Furthermore, we will add momentum to expanding the hydrogen ecosystem and its infrastructure by cooperating with partners around the world.”
Whilst expansion into mass-market, personal transport isn’t realistic for FCEVs any time soon, Hyundai has already been busy laying the foundations for the tech in other, potentially more receptive sectors. In 2019, the Group signed an agreement with Cummins to jointly develop and commercialise electric and fuel-cell powertrains combining Hyundai’s fuel-cell system and Cummins’ electric powertrain, battery and control technologies. This partnership will begin bearing fruit quickly, with electric generators hitting the US and European markets before 2020 is out.
For a taste of how this project might be applied to the real-world, check out our recent interview with British fuel cell generator company, AFC Energy whose technology is similar.
One of the major growth areas for hydrogen in the coming years will be the wider transport sector. Hyundai plans to supply fuel-cell systems to covering vehicles, vessels, rail and forklifts, as well as the power-generation sector covering electricity production and storage, thereby delivering some 200,000 fuel-cell systems per year around the world by 2030. The Group will simultaneously establish a 500,000 units-per-year capacity for FCEV production in Korea.
Another of Hyundai’s major focuses for some time is autonomous driving technology. Its ‘45’ EV concept, revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show, featured a cabin which the brand called a ‘living space’ – largely because thanks to autonomous driving, you could theoretically put your feet up and enjoy the ride. But now, it’s refocussing on putting concepts into reality.
The Group aims to accelerate the development of the autonomous driving software technology and commercialise self-driving vehicles with SAE Level 4 and Level 5 technology (with four representing hands and feet off driving, and five being full self-driving) in the near future to lead the industry.
After developing an autonomous driving platform by 2022, the Group will operate autonomous vehicles in select regions in 2023, and lead to commercial productions by the second half of 2024
“In the autonomous driving industry which is the core of future vehicles development, we will attain the world’s top safety and technological innovation competitiveness through our US-based venture to be jointly established with Aptiv, targeting the commercialisation of the technology in 2023,” said Chung.
It’s clearly ‘all systems go’ at the world’s third largest automotive manufacturing group. The level of forward-thinking coming out of Korea goes hand-in-hand with Hyundai’s unapologetic ambition to not only grow in size, but to compete with VW in areas such as innovation, product quality and consumer opinion. Where we’re particularly impressed with Hyundai is the timescale it’s working to; five years is a very short time in the automotive world, especially when set against other big brands which will barely have their first round of electrified or full EVs in markets by that time (Ford, we’re looking at you). Hyundai’s strapline, “Step into the Future”, is clearly ingrained in the corporate culture, and that’s to be applauded. We’re looking forward to the Group’s next generation of EVs.