Mobility

Hyundai's New Horizons Studio pushes design limits with robotic Ultimate Mobility Vehicles

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai Motor Group, the parent company of Hyundai, has announced the formation of a new unit - New Horizons Studio. The new venture is focused on the development of what Hyundai calls Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs).

New Horizons Studio is part of Hyundai's larger focus on the future of mobility. Unit workers will work to envision vehicles that wander with "unprecedented mobility". These products will focus on target customers that have unconventional travel needs whether it be to access places they have never been or adapt their mobility limitations to their surroundings.

Hyundai 'Elevate' Walking Car Concept

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

New Horizons Studio is led by Vice President Dr. John Suh, who has held several leadership roles at Hyundai Motor Group since 2011. He served as founding director of Hyundai Ventures, and then led Hyundai CRADLE (Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences) as its founding director based in Silicon Valley. He brings over 35 years of expertise in the automotive and emerging technology sectors, including roles at Stanford University, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC; formerly, Xerox PARC), and General Motors Company.

"We aim to create the world's first transformer-class vehicle, also known as the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle," said Dr. Suh.

Dr. Ernestine Fu will move to New Horizons Studio as Director of Product Management. She has led research on human operator and autonomous vehicle interactions at Stanford University's Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, as well as scaled emerging technology companies for over nine years as a venture capital partner at Alsop Louie Partners.

The Hyundai Elevate is the first vehicle being developed by the Studio. It debuted at CES 2019 and does not rely solely on wheels to makes it way across urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. The unit sees the Elevate as being able to respond in emergency situations like natural disasters or assist with persons who do not have access to an ADA ramp.

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Kia has begun research and development into a new round of military vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia is looking to strengthen its position to win military contracts. The company has revealed plans to develop a new standard platform for next-generation military vehicles. The project is a joint effort between Kia and the South Korean government and part of Kia's larger Plan S mid- to long-term strategy.

The development program will replace the Korean military's current 2.5- and 5.0-ton vehicles. It will also develop new bullet resistant vehicles. Each of the standard vehicles will be equipped with the latest commercial technologies, including a 7.0-liter Diesel engine and transmission system, anti-lock brakes, an anti-spin regulator, rear parking assist, around view monitor, satellite navigation, and hot wire seats.

The platform approach will allow Kia to develop additional vehicles for derivations in the future. This includes models with a range of weapons systems and those with more specialized technologies. The vehicles, which use the bare chassis of the Kia Mohave SUV, are also able to be used in a variety of fields outside the military including industrial and leisure.

Kia has developed a conceptual brief of the All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). The company is actively carrying out advanced research and development into several areas of vehicle tech including autonomous driving technology, which Kia says could help deliver supplies.

Additionally, efforts are being made to understand how hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can have a place in future vehicle endeavors. Kia's parent company, Hyundai continues to strengthen their position in regard to the future of hydrogen in the place of gasoline as a fuel for vehicles. Fuel cells can also supply electricity in combat environments.

Kia will begin manufacturing prototypes of mid-size standard vehicles this year and have them undergo evaluations by the Korean Government in 2021.

The technology and knowledge gained from this testing is expected to be employed in future road-going SUVs.

Kia has already produced a range of vehicles for the Korean military, among others. This includes 0.25-, 1.25-, 2.5- and 5-ton models. To-date, Kia has supplied nine model types and 100 derivatives, and produced a total of 140,000 military vehicles.

Kia created Korea's first multipurpose tactical vehicle, a light tactical vehicle that replaces the existing 0.25- and 1.25-ton vehicles. The model was equipped with the engine, automatic transmission, and brake system from the Mohave, and added commercial technologies and military specifications, including electronic four-wheel drive.

The automaker intends to have their vehicles ready for military deployment from 2024, following standardization and initial production tests.

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Ram will welcome an electric member to its family in the future.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV and all-electric Ford F-150 are coming soon. It would ludicrous to think that Ram wouldn't be joining the other two members of the Big Three in producing an electric pickup truck.

Today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley confirmed that one is in the works during the company's third-quarter earnings call. He provided no additional details.

In response to an industry analyst's question on the matter, Manley said, "I do see that there will be an electrified Ram pickup in the marketplace, and I would ask you just to stay tuned for a little while, and we'll tell you exactly when that will be."

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk The 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is one of the least fuel-efficient vehicles FCA makes, but the Ram TRX is even less efficient.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The confirmation was a strategic, given that just one quarter ago Manley more or less ducked the question saying "Obviously, pickup trucks is a key franchise for us, and we're not going to sit on the sideline if there is a danger that our position gets diluted going forward," during that quarter's earnings call.

Ram isn't just facing competition from General Motors and Ford. It also has pressure coming from startups including Rivian, which is currently tooling as it gears up to produce the R1T, and Lordstown Motors, which is substantially backed by GM, and already has 40,000 reservations for fleet vehicles. Tesla has promised that the Cybertruck will come to market.

FCA is more than a touch behind when it comes to electrification. Its U.S. lineup is aging with the mid-generation Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as its only plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) currently on sale. Ram offers a few mild-hybrid engine options for buyers and the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid is on the horizon. The company recently debuted PHEV 4xe versions of the Jeep Wrangler, Compass, and Renegade but only the Wrangler 4xe will be sold in the U.S. in the coming year.

In the meantime, FCA continues to push out fuel inefficient vehicles for buyer consumption in the U.S. where emissions regulations are not as stringent as they are in Europe and China. This includes the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (EPA-estimated 15 mpg combined) and Ram 1500 TRX (EPA-estimated 12 mpg combined).

The way forward for Ram may be complicated by the forthcoming FCA-PSA Groupe merger, which is set to be confirmed by the European Union in early 2021.

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