Hyundai to bring an automotive edge to Uber Air


Japanese car manufacturer Hyundai unveiled its urban air mobility plans this week and has partnered with Uber to help bring urban transport to the skies.

Hyundai revealed a holistic urban air mobility (UAM) platform at US technology conference CES 2020 this week. It’s ‘Smart Mobility Solution’ includes an eVTOL personal air vehicle (PAV), an air taxi hub and a ground-based transport system for point-to-point transport, which it calls the Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV).

As well as flying its personal air vehicle on its own UAM platform, the auto manufacturer will be lending its eVTOL to Uber’s upcoming Uber Air project – despite having the capital to compete with its own service.

‘New class of vehicles’

A Hyundai spokesperson told Helicopter Investor: “Uber has been spearheading the build of the UAM eco system and it is the leading ride-sharing company in the world. With Hyundai’s strengths as a major global auto manufacturer, our partnership with Uber is a logical path to create seamlessly integrated smart mobility solutions for the public.

“In this partnership, 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.”

Other automobile manufacturers are investing in UAM, but companies such as Audi are focusing on developing an aircraft – which it is doing in partnership with Airbus. We also have companies such as Porsche and Geely which are investing in UAM start-ups. Hyundai is developing technology that covers every aspect of UAM.

However, we will not be seeing Hyundai’s PAVs over city skies within the next five years. Despite Uber’s plans to launch its Uber Air air taxi service in 2023, Hyundai told Helicopter Investor: “You can expect to see mass-produced PAVs enter the UAM market in 2029.”

So far, the auto manufacture is only supplying aircraft for Uber’s service, however, the company also claims to be lending its ‘automotive-scale manufacturing capability’ to the service.

eVTOL quick look

A closer look at Hyundai’s eVTOL prototype shows a very familiar design. The aircraft draws on the groundwork of NASA’s own eVTOL concept, which it created as model for urban aircraft. Hyundai refers to the PAV as ‘NASA-inspired’.

The PAV is designed for cruising speeds of up to 290kph at an altitude of 300-600m and a range of approximately 100km.

Hyundai confirms the aircraft will be 100% electric, utilising a distributed electric propulsion system to power what appear to be eight propellers. Like many recent eVTOL designs, it is designed to transition between rotor-propelled lift and wing-borne horizontal flight.

The aircraft will be piloted initially but is designed to be compatible with fully autonomous flight further down the line. The cabin seats four passengers.