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Monday, October 18, 2021
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A vision of shared mobility

CEO Michael Cole and team discuss on how HMC is implementing electrification, building a hydrogen society, and helping to create smart cities at IAA Mobility

“I try not to worry but I do worry what happens if we don’t act,” says a concerned voice on a video clip unveiling Hyundai Motor Company’s (HMC) vision of a carbon neutral future at last month’s IAA Mobility event.

We’ve heard a lot from HMC over the past year about its work in a huge amount of areas which encompass all things mobility. From its green hydrogen fuel cells development to its fleet of Ioniq 5 robotaxis coming in 2023, the firm has hit overdrive in its push to develop new mobilities based on smart technology and clean environmental energy – such as its much-publicised Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Purpose-Built Vehicle (PBV).

During IAA Mobility, the firm put all of its advanced technologies cards on the table, to show – in its entirety – how HMC believes it can implement electrification, build a hydrogen society, and help create smart cities. The message during the event was that HMC has set itself some aggressive targets for a company of its size. Achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 will mean the total electrification of its roster and European president and CEO Michael Cole says HMC is well-placed to playing a leading part the revolution underway in the automotive industry.

The ultimate aim, says European president and CEO Michael Cole is to help society move closer to carbon neutrality.

He says the question of whether HMC will and can lead the move to electric is one he gets asked – a lot.

“It’s a question that I am asked all of the time and, of course, the answer is yes,” he chimes. “In fact we were already doing so before it became mainstream…as early as 1991 with the Sonata Electric!”

The latest in the long line of Electric Sonata descendants, the Ioniq 5, released earlier this year and has been widely lauded in the media for its modularised design based on the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which promises increased development flexibility, powerful driving performance, increased driving range, strengthened safety features, and more interior space for occupants and luggage.

“The IONIQ 5 has been able to open the next big chapter for Hyundai,” says Thomas Schemera, EVP, HMC, “All Ioniq models are built on the new platform and this goes hand in hand with a couple of customer benefits like faster charging, longer range, a spacious interior…”

“And we’re already working on the next development of the battery,” interjects Cole. “You know, for Ioniq 5, I think one of the great features is the vehicle to load technology which means that the customer can charge external devices through the power of the battery, (like e-bikes).

“This is going to open up even further opportunities for our customers over the next few years because the next development will be vehicle to grid (V2G) and that’s a great opportunity because that then means that the customer can send the power back from the battery to the grid during peak hours, maybe even at a profit. So, I think there’s a really great opportunity and exciting times ahead for our customers.”

Schemera adds: “Our commitment is in line with the global consumer trends. So electricity, so to speak, is our new fuel and the thing behind which underlines our way of thinking about things in a very holistic way is that we are already working on solutions to generate green power so in the end we decided to electrify the entire Hyundai model lineup in Europe by 2035 and in other major markets.

He continues: “I have kids and grandkids myself and I’m actually thinking about the future as well. Like all parents I want them to live in a very safe environment. I guess it’s quite natural”

“Of course it is,” Cole replies. “I mean I’m a dad too and it’s why I’m so proud to be working with Hyundai because you know we’re with a company that is very forward thinking we’re looking at how we do the right thing and that’s important because it’s more than just looking at electric vehicles.

“We’re looking way beyond that actually,” he adds.

“We are aiming for more mobility than ever with much less environmental impact,” his colleague Schemera says enthusiastically. “I guess this is, in the long run the key to success. How long will it take us to get there?”

“Well of course that’s the big question,” interjects Cole. “We are moving very fast and in reality we’re going to be introducing new technologies.”

The first off the rank in 2023 be the IONIQ 5 Robotaxi taxi, an SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle that can safely operate without a driver. And in 2028, the zero tailpipe-emissions Robotaxi will be followed by the electrified UAM air transporter.

For heavier and longer haul applications, Cole explains that it is also in a strong position with its FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) Xcient trucks and FCEV bus which also power the NEXO SUV.

“The good thing is that we have more than one route to get us there (to being fully electrified). Yes of course we can use batteries but we can also use hydrogen fuel cells,” he says. “And as you know both of these deliver high performance but they also reduce both CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions and of course Hyundai is heavily committed to both.”

“And we lead in both,” chimes Schemera. “From my point of view this is very, very beneficial. Hyundai BEVs are well known and have great reliability and long ranges.

“(Focusing on hydrogen for a while) Our fuel cell electric vehicles are game changers so to speak particularly for trucks because they don’t need loads of battery packs. That’s why we are eager to introduce more commercial vehicles with fuel cell technology in the coming years.”

By July this year, the Xcient had racked up more than 1 million km of driving since it entered fleet service in October 2020. In total there are now 46 trucks working in logistics, retail and supermarket fulfilment.

“Hyundai is already running the fuel cell heavy duty truck in the Swiss Alps but we plan to have around 1,600 vehicles operating in Europe by 2025,” remarks Cole, adding that: “This will definitely mean that commercial transport will be climate-friendly and emission free.”

Schemera says that the OEM is now planning to sustainably expand its fuel cell portfolio and introduce two new fuel cell electric passenger vehicles – an MPV and large-sized SUV – by 2025: “As well as a redesigned nexo and four commercial vehicles (Tractor, Pavise, Mighty and Neptune) later in this decade.”

He adds that it will not stop at road vehicles. “We will also provide fuel cell technology for different use cases like ships, trams, forklifts and even construction vehicles.

“Let me dream and think big for a while…I can imagine that Hyundai will play an important role in providing holistic services for mega cities like offering energy and mobility solutions.”

Cole interrupts: “That is the real validation of hyundai’s leadership in hydrogen solutions and of course it also makes one thing very clear hydrogen is going to have a far-reaching impact on mobility, on the environment, in fact on the very way that we all live.”

Feeling Motional
To develop the Ioniq 5 Robotaxi, HMC is working alongside driver-less vehicle specialist Motional.

The Ioniq 5 Robotaxi features a technology-driven design that celebrates the innovation behind the autonomous operation. The vehicle’s sensor suite is prominently displayed across the exterior, easily distinguishing the robotaxi from human piloted vehicles.

The robotaxi has more than 30 sensors – a combination of cameras, radars, and lidar – that provide robust 360-degree perception, high-resolution images, and ultra-long range detection of objects for safe autonomous operation in diverse driving environments. The robotaxi will be outfitted with Motional’s proven driverless technology, which includes advanced machine learning systems – trained on decades of real world data – that enables the vehicle to safely navigate challenging and complex driving situations.

The IONIQ 5 robotaxi is Motional’s first commercial vehicle and signals a pivotal milestone in the company’s roadmap and Carl Janyema, president and CEO, Motional says he is excited to see how the public embrace taking a journey in the vehicle when it enters service in two years time.

“I’ve been developing autonomous vehicles for my entire adult life; the Ioniq 5 Robotaxi is the product of extensive collaboration between Hyundai and Motional we’re excited by this vehicle because it’s our first commercial product and it’s also the first time many people will experience driverless technology.

“So, we look forward to launching this system and we look forward to serving hundreds of thousands of riders with the Ioniq platform,” he says.

According to Janyema the societal benefits of driverless vehicles are “enormous” and claims that on one of the biggest will be to improve road safety.

“Motional’s driverless technology promises to greatly reduce or even eliminate the vast majority of accidents,” he states. “But beyond safety driverless technology, it will make transportation more efficient more reliable and more affordable.”

Motional and HMC’s emphasis on passenger safety and comfort is evident throughout the vehicle. There are safety redundancies across every function, such as the navigation, steering, braking, and power, for a safe and smooth ride every time. Motional will also be able to provide Remote Vehicle Assistance (RVA) to the IONIQ 5 Robotaxis should they encounter an unusual road scenario, such as road construction or flooding. In such an event, a remote Motional operator could instantly connect to the vehicle and direct it to a new path.

Most of the robotaxi’s 30 sensors sensors are mounted on the roof of the vehicle giving a distinctive and instantly recognisable exterior. Janyema says this is part of the experience.

“We have celebrated our technology and prominently incorporated our sensors in the design so you know when you approach this vehicle that you’re getting into a Robotaxi. And we think riders will really be excited by that,” he says.

According to Janyema, it was clear from early in the design stages that the Hyundai E-GMP platform lent itself for the use as a commercial people mover.

“It ensures a spacious interior and, in the Robotaxi, passengers are free from driving so they can enjoy a comfortable living space while they relax, work or socialise,” he enthuses.

“This platform will allow people to have greater freedom of movement in their everyday lives, whether that’s a family with kids who just need some extra transportation resources; a young professional who wants to make better use of his or her commute; or elderly or disabled riders who don’t have great access to transportation today.

“The Ioniq 5 is the right vehicle platform from a sustainability perspective as it brings together the two of the most transformative technologies in mobility electrification and autonomy… a zero-emission Robotaxi will not only make transportation safer and more accessible but it’ll make it more sustainable and that was incredibly important to us as we thought about the role of autonomous vehicles in helping to create greener cities through smart mobility.”

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Stephen Whitehttps://truckandfleetme.com/
Stephen White was formerly editor of Big Project ME.
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