Building a U.S. plant to produce flying electric taxis is Hyundai’s Supernal plan.
Supernal will construct a facility in the United States to manufacture flying electric taxis.
The CEO responds, “I have to have the confidence to get on it myself.”
The third-largest carmaker in the world based on sales, Hyundai Motor Group, intends to construct a plant in the United States where its air mobility company Supernal will produce electric taxis that can fly and are meant to be used by commuters.
Supernal Chief Executive Officer Shin Jaiwon announced that a prototype of the electric vertical takeoff and landing craft will be displayed at CES in Las Vegas in January.
The eVTOL taxi can carry four passengers and one pilot, and it can reach speeds of 120 mph (190 kph). A test flight is scheduled for December 2024, with plans to begin commercial service four years later, Shin stated in a Bloomberg News interview conducted this week in Singapore.
It will take some time, he said, given all the battery technology, infrastructure, and regulations that still need to be developed.
The largest technological obstacle to electric air mobility is batteries, which can make up as much as 40% of the weight of an eVTOL aircraft. Shin remarked, “That’s really the killer.”
He declared, “We don’t have air traffic management systems to govern these vehicles from the operation side.” “At this moment and for the foreseeable future, there are no artificial objects that are routinely flying below 500 meters.”
Based in Washington, D.C. In order to have the eVTOL licensed, Supernal will apply to the Federal Aviation Administration in the upcoming months. Companies and authorities must work together to determine the best course of action because the business is still relatively new, according to Shin.
“No infrastructure, no policy, no regulation—there’s nothing out there,” he declared. “The FAA doesn’t have an established certification method because it’s so new.”
While affiliate Kia Corp. has a plant in Georgia, Hyundai already has a facility in Alabama where automobiles are produced. Shin withheld information on the size, possible location, and investment amounts for the proposed Supernal project.
Supernal is the latest company to enter the increasingly congested eVTOL vehicle certification market. A step closer to reality, EHang Holdings Ltd. has been granted permission to start experimental aerial operations in China. Meanwhile, Joby Aviation Inc., located in California and supported by Toyota Motor Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc., has also received FAA license to test its flying taxis.
In an attempt to catch up, Supernal launched new R&D facilities in Fremont two months later and a new engineering headquarters in Irvine, California, in July. According to Shin, its employment has increased from the previous year to around 600, with many employees coming from Tesla Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co.
“We’re going to start the flight testing next year, so we’ll have to hire more people,” he stated.
According to documents, Hyundai, Kia, and Hyundai Mobis Co. have contributed over 1.2 trillion won ($920 million) to Supernal in the two years since the company’s founding. Supernal, which receives money from Hyundai, has no plans for an IPO, according to Shin.
Additionally, the business and Korean Air inked a collaboration agreement last month to collaborate on air mobility for the South Korean market. The airline’s CEO, Walter Cho, stated during a Tuesday speech at an aviation conference in Singapore that vertical mobility vehicles will probably be utilized for cargo transportation first, before evolving.
Cho remarked, “I have to have enough confidence to get on it myself.”
Air mobility craft like eVTOL taxis for people transportation will be initially restricted to “very progressive cities,” but Shin noted that once the public gets used to them and feels more at ease with them, they could spread quickly, much like how people got used to cell phones and elevators.
He predicted that “the inflection point will come real fast.”
Shin noted that Supernal is well-positioned to benefit from the growing need for alternative public transportation as more people move into cities thanks to Hyundai’s mass-production expertise. “Suddenly, the global market will require hundreds of thousands of these cars, so you need to be able to make them.”
70% of people on Earth, according to the UN, will reside in cities by 2030.
Shin stated, “Urbanization is happening like crazy everywhere.”
Though there is still work to be done in the areas of regulation and battery technology, 2028 is the “right timing” to aim for a commercial launch.
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