Reports Claim Hyundai Has Halted Internal Combustion Development

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There is no official confirmation from Hyundai yet, but Korean Economic Daily and Business Korea are both reporting that Hyundai Motor Group has closed its internal combustion engine development office and shifted all its attention to developing powertrains for electric cars.

KED reports newly appointed R&D chief Park Chung-kook sent an email to the 12,000 employees at the Namyang R&D Center just before Christmas saying, “Now it is inevitable to convert into electrification. Our own engine development is a great achievement but we must change the system to create future innovation based on the great asset from the past. The immediate task is to develop innovative vehicles that can dominate the future market. This reorganization will be an important starting point for change ahead in the new year.”

The powertrain system development center, first established in 1983, will now become an electrification test center, while the powertrain performance development center will become an electrification performance development center. Researchers at the engine design unit have moved to the electrification design center, although a small group will continue to explore modifications to existing internal combustion engines manufactured by the company.

In addition, a battery development center has been created within the electrification development division to pursue advanced battery technology. It will have teams for battery design and battery performance development, and will also focus on the supply chain for the raw materials batteries and semiconductors will need in the future.

Hyundai Motor CEO Chang Jae-hoon said recently the company would take aggressive steps to transform into a manufacturer of electric vehicles as quickly as possible, with a target of selling 1.7 million EVs worldwide a year by  2026.

Motor 1 says the announcement coincides with significant changes in management at Hyundai near the end of this year. Albert Biermann recently announced his retirement as the company’s R&D head, and design boss Peter Schreyer is also moving to a new role. In addition, as many as 200 executive promotions have taken place — one-third of them in the R&D division.

“Many of the new appointments represent the next generation of leaders and have been recognized for their achievements and role in the ongoing success of the Group,” a company spokesperson said in a statement about the personnel changes.

Meet The Ioniq 7

Like the Volkswagen MEB platform, the E-GMP electric car platform from Hyundai Motor Group can be the basis for a range of cars in different sizes. It’s main claim to fame is its 800-volt architecture and rapid charging ability that is the equal of the best (that would be Tesla) and better than most (as in Volkswagen, Ford, GM, Volvo, Nissan, and just about any other electric car manufacturer you care to name.)

E-GMP is used for the Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6, and now it appears it will also be the basis for a 3-row, 7-passenger people mover known as the Ioniq 7. A concept version of that car was on display at the Los Angeles auto show this year, showcasing the company’s autonomous driving ambitions. The show car had no steering wheel, only a joy stick, for example.

Jose Munoz, CEO of Hyundai Motor North America, tells Motor Trend the production model is further along than you might think. “A lot of things can make it to production,” he says. “It’s going to be pretty close. You’ll be amazed.” The aerodynamic shape of the exterior of the Seven shows the production intent, says SangYup Lee, head of Genesis Global Design. Some older readers may see hints of the iconic Volvo 1800 ES from the 70s, one of the loveliest of all Volvo designs. Hyundai really needs to do something about that godawful front grille, though.

Image courtesy of Hyundai

The concept has the longest wheelbase of any Hyundai to date — almost 11 feet. It has pillar-less coach doors on the passenger side and symmetrical doors on the driver’s side. Expect the production Ioniq 7 to revert to conventional doors all the way around. “The interior is a little more visionary than the exterior because we have a vision of full autonomy,” Lee says. “In the meantime, we can give it [Ioniq 7] a regular steering wheel, but we still want to create a feeling of a family lounge space.”

Hyundai wanted a new in-car experience for customers with innovative use of space, said Thomas Schemera, Hyundai global chief marketing officer. To that end, the front and rear seats swivel to face front or back, there is a 77-inch panoramic screen on the ceiling, and a universal island with a 27-inch display that can be used to watch a movie or be a work space. Whether any of those features will make it into the production version of the car, which is expected to go on sale in 2924, is anyone’s guess.

The huge monitor on the transparent screen roof is doable, but might not make sense to bring to market now, says Gil Castillo, senior group manager, Alternative Vehicle and Advanced Vehicle Strategy, for Hyundai Motor North America. It was more an exploration of what is possible when vehicles become autonomous and interiors are recreated as mobile lounges.

The cabin features many recyclable materials such as copper and bamboo, Lee notes. Hygiene is a central theme that will make it into the production car. The Seven concept has many air filters and a “hygiene mode” to clean the car between uses. The air circulation system mimics that of an airplane, with ventilation that allows each row to breathe different air in a pressurized cabin. Among the many storage spaces inside is a box where shoes can be placed to clean and deodorize them while driving.

The Takeaway

Some legacy automakers are paying lip service to the idea of converting their production to electric vehicles. Truth be told, GM and Ford are making all the right noises about bringing electric trucks to market and that’s a good thing, but neither is talking about electric cars for mainstream drivers. The all new electric Hummer, at nearly 10,000 pounds, is an embarrassment — an excrescence that will appeal to a very limited range of (very wealthy) drivers just like the original Hummer did. Both are devices that allow middle-aged men who are worried about their sexual potency to parade around like stags during mating season.

There are very few companies that appear to be fully focused on building only electric vehicles. Right now today, that list includes Tesla, Volkswagen, and Hyundai Group. More power to them and God speed.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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