Aircraft

Hyundai spins out its eVTOL air taxi business, naming it Supernal

Hyundai spins out its eVTOL ai...
Hyundai and Uber team on the S-A1 at CES 2020
Hyundai and Uber team on the S-A1 at CES 2020
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Hyundai and Uber team on the S-A1 at CES 2020
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Hyundai and Uber team on the S-A1 at CES 2020
The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year. Hyundai is one of the partners
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The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year. Hyundai is one of the partners
The SA-1's four propellers swing up for vertical take-off and landing
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The SA-1's four propellers swing up for vertical take-off and landing
Hyundai's air mobility company is now called Supernal
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Hyundai's air mobility company is now called Supernal
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We've known for some time that Hyundai is making some serious moves to break into the eVTOL air taxi market, and now it's spun off a company dedicated purely to air mobility. Supernal expects its electric VTOL aircraft to enter service in 2028.

The dictionary says Supernal means "celestial, or pertaining to the sky, or of exceptional quality or extent" – and coming to us through latin, it's got a bit of a biblical slant to it. Indeed, the only place I've personally ever heard it used before is in a Christmas carol, Unto Us is Born a Son, which is also memorable for the fact that it's one of very few carols to have a baby slaughter section in the lyrics.

At least it's a little harder to misspell in English than Hyundai, though, and with the new branding comes a few hints as to what Supernal's got cooking. Not just one eVTOL aircraft, "a family of electric air vehicles."

Hyundai's air mobility company is now called Supernal
Hyundai's air mobility company is now called Supernal

And not just aircraft for sale, either. Hyundai group's vision is one of a total multi-modal transport ecosystem, all linked, coordinated and booked through a single app. You might take an electric scooter from the office to the vertiport, then an eVTOL over the top of city traffic, then a rideshare car to your door. Hyundai, through its many subsidiaries, wants to build all the individual pieces and link them together with smart software to control the user experience end-to-end.

Doing so could be a hedge against a fast-approaching era of autonomous vehicles, in which car ownership will stop making a whole lot of sense and mobility becomes more of a service than a product for many people.

With offices is Washington D.C. and across California, Supernal is getting heavily involved in the legal and political side of air mobility in the USA. It's also working on swarm and air traffic control.

Supernal's first aircraft, it says, will not begin the certification process until 2024 – when bleeding-edge companies like Joby Aviation are planning to start their services. Supernal doesn't expect to be flying customers anywhere until 2028. But while first-mover status is exciting, there are also benefits to hanging back a little with brand new technologies like this.

The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year. Hyundai is one of the partners
The "smallest airport in the world," dedicated to eVTOL air taxis and drone operations, will open in Coventry later this year. Hyundai is one of the partners

One thing the company may be waiting for here is the ability to run passenger missions autonomously – Supernal says its aircraft will be autonomous-capable from day one. Another, and we're reaching here, might be the maturity of hydrogen fuel cell systems. South Korea, as well as Japan, are famously bullish on building a "hydrogen economy," and Supernal lists hydrogen powertrain specialists HTWO as one of its key partners in the air mobility venture. Mind you, it's also working on high power/high density lithium batteries.

The company wants to make the most of its high-volume automotive manufacturing heritage, with as much automated production as is practical. It's working with Boston Dynamics to "improve all aspects of [its] supply chain and operations," and says it's gearing up to produce eVTOLs "at an unprecedented rate for the aerospace industry."

Check out a needlessly smug video below.

Supernal: We know the future because we make it

Source: Supernal

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6 comments
6 comments
Towerman
Great if it leads to progress, i have yet to see an actual flying demonstrator from them.
FB36
Conditions for a proper flying-car/air-taxi (IMHO):
1: Fully electric drive (+ biodiesel/biofuel (NOT H2!) gas turbine generator)!
2: Hexacopter/octocopter! (It needs to be able to fly/land OK w/ 1 propeller failed!)
3: Needs to be able to fit into 1 (or 2) car parking spaces!
4: Needs to be able to carry 3 people (or 2 people + baggage)!
5: Its propellers need to be able to do auto-rotation in case of total power failure (for soft landing)!
6: It needs to self-correct (w/o power) to always fall upright!
7: It needs internal (+ external) airbags!
gybognarjr
When someone travels with larger package of work or travel related luggage, at each change of transportation mode, the luggage must be carried, dragged, lifted, and handled and place in suitab;e and available space. People, who live and work don't just leave their home, office or place where they stay without anything just their hands in their pockets, as the cartoon like illustration, that show these futuristic transportation modes. The personal vehicles serve the purpuse best, load it up at start and unload it on arrival. That is what we all want and not combined applications and many changes from one vehicle to another - we already have that, it is called public transportation.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Just another toy for rich people so they can fly over the masses
Steven Clarkson
@FB36

Let me correct the mistakes:

1.No biodiesel et al ICE technology is needed, H2 drives is progressing by the month, the technology is already ready.
2.It already t DOES fly with one propeller out, and in some cases can fly with more than one propeller out.
3.As long as it fits into any spaces smaller than a helicopter it's do-able.
4.Do-able
5. Not required, this cannot be compared to manual Gas engined technology. Autototation is not failsafe, many a times it fails to work properly. Systems simple divert the crafys balance to the remaining motors, and you can land safely at a point of your choosing.
6.No planes goe in inverted helicopters sideways, this is ludicrous.
7.Rotorcraft does not have this, why should multicopters.
Bruce H. Anderson
It will go from helipad to helipad. There are real infrastructure challenges here, let alone the staggering inefficiencies of VTOL. It will crash, not due to aerodynamics or power source, but because there is no market. BTW "supernal" is one of my least-liked words.