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Is Hyundai’s radical drivetrain the shape of things to come?

05/04/2024 by Mark Schneider in Industry news

The phrase “reinventing the wheel” conveys a pointless act to solve a problem that’s long been solved. But the Hyundai Kia group has just reinvented the wheel with some innovative engineering that could change not just the way electric vehicle’s drivetrains work, but their interior design as well.

Hyundai Kia’s Universal Wheel Drive System, or “Uni Wheel” is hard to describe, but essentially, it’s taken the CV joint that’s driven by the electric motor and moved it into the wheel hub. In doing so, it allows the electric motor, or motors, to move closer to the wheels, opening up more space in the vehicle’s interior. Hyundai Kia have a video illustrating the technology here.

The Korean giant claims the Uni Wheel is more energy-efficient than conventional setups because the energy normally lost through the CV joint is retained at the wheel.

It was launched, with some fanfare, on the 29th of November in Seoul accompanied by some bold predictions about how it would “revolutionise the design of future mobility”. Hyundai Kia say it will allow for reconfigured seating arrangements in an era of autonomous driving. Or, in other words, it would allow the front seats to swivel around while the car drives itself. They might be getting a bit ahead of themselves there, given recent reservations about the safety of driverless vehicles. Nevertheless, opening up all that space does free up car designers to come up with some radical interior innovations.

REE Automotive

But Hyundai Kia aren’t the only ones with skin in this particular game. Israel’s REE Automotive has created what it describes as a REECORNER™ which puts the power train, steering, braking, suspension and control into a modular unit driving a wheel on all corners of the vehicle. That’s taking things a step further than Hyundai’s model. And like modern aircraft, it uses drive-by-wire technology to control the wheels independently.

The technology might differ from Hyundai Kia’s approach, but the design implications are the same, allowing vehicle makers to radically change the interior design of vehicles with all that extra space on top of a flat platform chassis.

REE started making electric wheels for wheelchairs and bikes, before moving into systems for vehicles in 2019. But it’s been a rocky business road for the Israeli start-up which has developed several classes of module for vehicles weighing up to seven tonnes fully loaded. It’s seen its share price crash and has struggled for revenue. Nevertheless, its UK assembly line was finished in 2022, with another underway in the US. In May this year, it partnered with Japanese suspension producer KYB to produce a scalable electric vehicle platform.

If REE’s technology finally succeeds, it will have done so where other companies, Lordstown, Endurance, and Aptera, have so far failed to develop similar technology.

But whether it’s Hyundai Kia or REE, who ultimately succeed, the technology could still be some way off. Due to their size and resources, it’s likely Hyundai Kia, are in a stronger position to introduce the technology than REE Automotive.

Time will tell whether Hyundai and REE’s engineering innovations turn out to be a gamechanger, or whether reinventing the wheel really is a useless exercise after all.

Written by
Mark Schneider

Mark is a successful copywriter with over 20 years of professional writing experience.

We welcome him as a guest blogger to Fleettorque.

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