Frankfurt insight: Brave new world for Hyundai

By Willem van de Putte Time of article published Sep 27, 2019

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Frankfurt - Whether you like it or not, future generations will look at the cars we currently drive with the same nostalgic look we give ox wagons and horse carts, as they push the start button and move forward without a sound.

They will have charging points the way we currently have fuel stations and range in their electric cars won’t be an issue.

Determined to be a major player and a leader in the field of electrification, Hyundai are going all out with research and development across a broad range of options.

“We’re covering all our bases because we know that one of the technologies will become the preferred option,” said product public relations manager for Europe, Matthew Davis.

“We’re looking at hybrid, electric, hydrogen and anything else that may be an option in the future. Currently the technology is very much in its infancy and when one of them becomes the ‘right’ one, we’ll have our cards stacked right.”

Intriguingly, Hyundai are one of only a handful of manufacturers that are focusing their attention around hydrogen fuel cell power.

It’s proper high-tech, well, at least for us Average Joe types, and once the technology has been perfected completely, Davis says this will be a genuine zero emission charging system.

“Our Nexo crossover is showing that hydrogen is a proper alternative and we’re spending a lot of money on fine tuning it.”

Hyundai's product public relations manager for Europe, Matthew Davis.

Without going in to the really technical aspects, it’s basically reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to run the electric motors.

And with electric being the future, Davis says governments have to come to the party as well.

“We are talking to as many people as possible and, obviously some countries are lot more energy friendly than others.

Different countries, different policies

“One of the challenges we and, in fact, the whole industry faces, is that different governments have decidedly different policies, and while they are all saying the industry has to change, we find ourselves spending millions of euros and dollars in R&D with one goal in mind, but even neighbouring governments have different incentives and plans for electric.”

“That being said, electric vehicles have given designers free reign and the cars we see today are a marvel of design.”

A view certainly shared by Thomas Bürkle, Hyundai’s chief designer for Hyundai Design centre, Europe. “The fact that you don’t have to worry about so many moving parts associated with combustion engines and that you work with a flat floor-pan has given us a whole new basis to work from.

“If you look at the front end of the Hyundai 45, you’ll see some of the most fantastic attention to detail.

“The interior of the car too, not having to worry about exhausts, shafts and everything else under the body, there’s a whole new design space that can be utilised.”

But while electric is certainly the future, for now, regular vehicles still form the biggest part of the industry and a car like the Hyundai i10 needed to be refreshed as well.

“It’s always a pleasant challenge taking an existing product and improving on it. We had to move the wheels to make more space and also redesign the exterior to give it a fresh new look.

“Also, because we wanted to make the interior more upmarket, that also needed attention. We used new materials and loaded it with technology because that’s what owners want now, and we have to also be aware of what the competitors are doing if we are to beat them. Overall, I think we did a very good job.”

And how does he see the future of vehicle design?

“We have to be more environmentally friendly when we build cars.

“Who knows, perhaps they’ll find an affordable alternative because, at the moment, almost everything that makes up a car comes from the earth and there has to come a time when that stops.

“Already leather is becoming an issue, as you know, fossil fuel is top of mind and, certainly, autonomous driving is also going to become a reality that designers will be faced with.

“I’m excited about it though, and look forward to the next chapter.”


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