Revolution.Aero Uplift: Hyundai’s UAM division reborn as Supernal
South Korean automotive giant Hyundai is widely known for its cars. But the company also makes buses, trucks, trains and ships. In early 2020, it decided to bring its expertise to the air – by joining Uber’s Elevate programme with its concept eVTOL SA-1 – and complete its mobility portfolio.
Cut to today – Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility division is rebranding to Supernal. It seems fitting that a company ready to take on aerial operations should call itself this. (Supernal is an adjective meaning located in or belonging to the sky).
Senior lead, Partnerships for Supernal, Yesh Premkumar tells Revolution.Aero: “It was to give us our own identity – a name that resonated with the work. The work that reflected our intentions and vision for mobility of the future.”
Hyundai’s vision is to become a mobility solutions provider rather than a vehicle OEM. Premkumar says the company has always wanted to create an ecosystem. The goal is to get the aircraft to market in a reasonable timeline – by 2028 – not as soon as possible.
Premkumar says: “It has to be looked at in a very integrated fashion, starting with the people, the communities, the cities and then the transportation networks which exist within them. All of it becomes this larger scheme of integrated connected mobility. Mass transit for people where all mode choices are available. We want to improve that optionality for the users and the communities.”
Supernal’s aim is to improve the efficiency of ground transportation networks by using aerial mobility. It is an addition to public transport networks, rather than something that serves a small fraction of the population.
And many believe automotive manufacturers are best placed to do this. Industry expert Cyrus Sigari told Revolution.Aero he believes the automotive industry has the capacity to manufacture vehicles at a scale that no other industry knows. “In our opinion, the automotive industry has the single greatest potential leg up when it comes to at scale manufacturing of vehicles,” said Sigari.
Premkumar said the aircraft is the most tangible thing you can develop. However, Supernal is working to develop the blueprints and frameworks for these aircraft.
“You have to think of the technologies, have a roadmap for 20 years – manned to unmanned – electrification to what is the next form of electrification, batteries. All that, yes. But you have this entire ecosystem around it that isn’t ready because it has never been structured for this transport. Ecosystem becomes a far larger challenge to overcome.”
He says the company will not be able to do this alone. Supernal needs many more partners in the ecosystem. In fact, sometimes, says Premkumar, the entry to market date – now seven years away – seems too soon.
“We have the right backing from Hyundai. We are going to be out in the market looking for lots of partners, to secure those partnerships and make this possible. Their success will add to our success. And we hope the things that we’re doing aid the market, not just our aircraft.”