There’s a formula to concept vehicles: Give a bunch of designers a blank slate and tell them to create anything they want within a specific wheelbase. They’ll come up with a living room on wheels, filled with clever luxuries ideal for beautiful people.
Almost none of them will ever see production.
Electric vehicles increased the possibilities – there are no transmission shafts so the floors can be flat above the batteries. Autonomous cars took it to the next level, with no pesky steering wheels or foot pedals to clutter the space. Those concepts are all about digital displays on windows and imaginative lighting inside and out, with voice controls replacing the buttons and switches.
The Hyundai SEVEN concept is no different, unveiled here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s designed as a comfortable and efficient space, with a wrap-around chaise lounge at the back, swivelling seats and a giant video screen where the sunroof would be. Normally, it might prompt a nod and a smile and be dismissed as a flight of fancy. And yet …
Hyundai has a reputation for bringing vehicles to production that are very similar to their original concepts. The newly released Ioniq5 is an example, surprisingly close to the “45″ concept first seen at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show. The wacky sliding doors are gone, and the giant enveloping rear seat is too, but the overall shape and character are unchanged.
Could this mean the SEVEN, which is the basis for the Ioniq7 full-size electric SUV, might actually make it to market comparatively unscathed in 2023?
It won’t be an autonomous-drive vehicle like the show concept, operated with a joystick when necessary. We won’t see those impressive pillarless coach doors on the right side, nor the wrap-around sideways seating at the back, says Simon Loasby, head of Hyundai Styling Group. They look good but they’re not safe enough to protect passengers in a crash.
“Kids love those sideways seats in the old SUVs, but we don’t do it in production if it’s not safe. We’ve not got there yet, but this pushes our company to try it,” he says. “We have to set these challenges, otherwise we just keep on doing the same old thing.”
Other features will survive the move to production.
“There are all these things we want to do, so what can we afford, and what can we engineer?” Loasby asks. “There are three or four major features that we’re testing here that are coming to production, and they wouldn’t be coming unless we can show people what they mean.
“The overall shape is exactly what’s coming. The lighting – that’s coming. The hygiene system – that’s coming. The instrument panel is actually in Ioniq5 in the same way. The shoe boxes, the fridges – those things are coming.”
The SEVEN uses Parametric Pixel lights on its exterior to make it easily identifiable as an Ioniq sub-brand vehicle. The small, square lights fill the front grille and surround the vertical rear tailgate, and they are intended to provide “a common design thread, linking digital and analogue styles,” according to Hyundai.
The hygiene system uses clever ventilation to pull in purified air from either above or in front of the passengers and actually suck it out from behind them, similar to the process on an aircraft. This helps isolate the air around each person. There are also UVC lights that are activated when the cabin is empty to help sterilize the interior.
“COVID sped us up on this,” Loasby says. “Korea is an incredibly hygienic country, so we built on that.”
The SEVEN includes drawers for shoe sterilizers, and while they might have been a flight of fancy a couple of years ago, they could make the grade now.
“In Korea, having a shoe box is a big thing,” Loasby says. “LG makes shoe sanitizers that sterilize shoes and get rid of the smell. If you’re like me, my shoes stink and I put them in there and they clean the shoes and they don’t smell any more.”
When we see the next edition of the SEVEN, Hyundai says it will be a pre-production version of the Ioniq7, and it will include a steering wheel and pedals. It will be built on the E-GMP “skateboard” platform and entirely electric, with a range of at least 500 kilometres and a charging time from 10 per cent to 80 per cent of 20 minutes.
As for those shoe boxes? In the global fight against stinky feet, let’s hope they make it.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker in L.A. Content was not subject to approval.