Two years after first announcing plans to develop an eVTOL aircraft, Hyundai Motor Group this week announced the rebranding of its urban air mobility division under the name Supernal. The South Korean automaker confirmed its intention to bring the five-seat SA-1 vehicle into commercial service from 2028, adding that it expects to start the FAA's type certification process in 2024.
In a November 9 announcement, Hyundai described its Washington, D.C.-based Supernal subsidiary as the “binding component of the group’s future mobility vision.” It said that intends to develop a family of vehicles to serve an advanced air mobility (AAM) market that it doesn’t see gaining momentum and public acceptance until the 2030s.
Supernal is one of 50 companies within the Seoul-based group working on developing Hyundai’s ambitions to become a “smart mobility solutions provider” rather than just a car maker. The group, which employs around 250,000 people worldwide, intends to support intermodal transportation options, including eVTOL air taxis, trains, and private cars, with passengers able to access these via an integrated app.
“In adding a new dimension to mobility, we are on a mission to transform how people and society move, connect, and live,” said Jaiwon Shin, Supernal CEO and Hyundai Motor Group president. “We have bold ambitions at Supernal but being first to market is not one of them. We are working on the right product and the right integrated market, and we will leverage Hyundai Motor Group’s scaled manufacturing expertise to ensure AAM reaches the right price point and is accessible to the masses.”
As design work continues on the SA-1, the Supernal team said it is also working on plans to develop the infrastructure required for AAM operations. The company is involved in partnerships in Los Angeles, the UK, and Canada. It recently announced the expansion of its Airspace Management Consortium, which is developing a draft concept of eVTOL operations to be considered by policymakers.
Under the leadership of COO Pamela Cohn and CTO Ben Dichuan, Supernal is broadening its engineering workforce. In January 2020, when it was named as a partner in Uber’s now-abandoned Elevate urban air mobility platform, Hyundai said it would invest $1.5 billion in the new sector through 2025.
The S-A1 will be designed to cruise at up to 180 miles per hour and fly at altitudes of around 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet above the ground on trips up to 60 miles. Plans call for the PAV to be 100 percent electric, using distributed electric propulsion that power multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe. Hyundai said this approach reduces noise and increases safety by decreasing single points of failure. During peak hours, the propulsion system would require about five to seven minutes for recharging.
Hyundai anticipates the aircraft will be piloted initially, but over time would be used autonomously. The company intends that passengers would be carried to and from flights in new electric S-Link Purpose Built Vehicles that it is developing for ground transportation.
When its plans for the new eVTOL were first floated in November 2019, the company aimed to have a prototype flying in 2023. This timeline appears to have been pushed back by a year, but this week’s announcement from Supernal provided no further details.