CES 2020: Hyundai Shows Electric VTOL Air-Taxi Concept

Hyundai is the first automaker to join the Uber Elevate aero rideshare initiative.

The S-A1 eVTOL concept was developed to coincide with Hyundai joining the Uber Elevate aerial-rideshare initiative. (Hyundai)

Hyundai at CES 2020 revealed a fullsize electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) “air taxi” concept and confirmed it has joined Uber’s aerial rideshare initiative known as Elevate. Hyundai said the S-A1 concept, in addition to its VTOL configuration, is designed for cruising speeds up to 180 mph (290 km/h) for trips of up to 60 miles (97 km). Operating altitudes are targeted at between 1,000 to 2,000 ft. (300 to 600 m) for the four-passenger vehicle. The S-A1’s performance is within Uber Elevate’s broad guidance for urban aero-rideshare designs.

The S-A1 is designed for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operation. (Hyundai)
Hyundai’s design features distributed electric power to multiple rotors: several rotors are said to enhance safety and reduce noise. (Hyundai)
For now, the S-A1 cockpit is configured for a pilot and four passengers; the goal is for un-piloted operation. (Hyundai)

The craft’s distributed-electric, multiple-rotor configuration further increases safety, the company claims, while having several smaller rotors reduces overall flight noise. Hyundai added that the eventual goal is for the aerial taxi to operate without a pilot. But the most significant aspect of Hyundai joining Uber Elevate may be the automaker’s established capability in high-volume, high-quality vehicle production. Hyundai is the first automaker to join the Uber Elevate effort.

“Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. He told the media audience at CES that Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at far higher volumes than those of the the traditional aerospace industry, and with high quality and reliability. The goal is to drive down passenger costs per trip,” Allison said.

In the partnership, Hyundai said it will produce and deploy the air vehicles, while Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. And both companies are collaborating on infrastructure concepts for aerial rideshare services.

“Our vision of Urban Air Mobility is the democratization of flight,” said Jaiwon Shin, executive vice president and head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division.. “We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”

Hyundai’s Hub envisions a central area for takeoff and landing and trip collaboration with wheeled vehicles. (Hyundai)

Hyundai said it worked with Uber Elevate to develop the S-A1 by utilizing “innovative design processes to optimize electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for aerial ridesharing purposes. The Elevate initiative based this process on NASA’s historical approach of putting design concepts out publicly to inspire innovation amongst multiple companies.” This helps spur development of common research models to investigate novel aerodynamic concepts and catalyzing industry progress in wing design, noise, aerodynamics and simulation verification.

In conjunction with the S-A1 aircraft, Hyundai’s also revealed a new infrastructure concept called the Hub. The intent is for many types of electric wheeled and non-wheeled purpose-built vehicles (PBVs) to dock and connect to a Hub for connecting air and ground trips.