Elevate: Hyundai’s new four-wheel drive, four-legged off-road vehicle
Hyundai Elevate’s robotic leg architecture utilizes the latest in electric actuator technology. Each of its four legs has five degrees of freedom plus a wheel hub propulsion motor. In total, the entire Elevate vehicle itself has six degrees of freedom and is capable of omnidirectional movement. (Image source: Hyundai Motor Company)

Elevate: Hyundai’s new four-wheel drive, four-legged off-road vehicle

“Slowing to a crawl” may soon become possible with Hyundai’s latest electric vehicle concept
As dozens of aerospace and automotive companies converge on the urban air mobility (UAM) revolution, Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai) is going in a different direction. During Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 in Las Vegas, Hyundai debuted its “Elevate” concept: a modular electric vehicle (EV) that can transition between driving on flat surfaces and “walking” over treacherous terrain.

Hyundai is calling Elevate the first “ultimate mobility vehicle” (UMV). Its propulsion system blends automotive and robotic technology, allowing it to traverse terrain beyond the limitations of modern off-road vehicles.





(Image source: Hyundai Motor Company)


Elevate’s robotic leg architecture utilizes the latest in electric actuator technology. Each of its four legs has five degrees of freedom plus a wheel hub propulsion motor. In total, the entire Elevate vehicle itself has six degrees of freedom and is capable of omnidirectional movement. The design is capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits or a mix of the two. Hyundai states that Elevate can climb a five-foot vertical wall and step over a five-foot gap using its legs, while maintaining passenger comfort inside the cabin.
 

Learn more: Application Development of Electric Vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles: Balancing Economic Objectives and Technical Requirements


In drive-mode, the legs can fold up into a stowed configuration, where power to the joints is cut and the use of an integrated passive suspension system maximizes battery efficiency. The platform is capable of highway speeds while in this configuration. Non-back drivable actuators enable the legs to lock in any position, which allows for the combination of wheeled motion with unique dynamic driving postures and torsional control at the end of each leg.



Hyundai is marketing the Elevate to first responders, search and rescue crews, and – as hinted to by the company’s marketing collateral – military operators, as a vehicle that can overcome environmental obstacles after a natural disaster.

Learn more: Advanced Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Powertrains




(Image source: Hyundai Motor Company)


"When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete," says John Suh, Hyundai vice president and head of Hyundai Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences (CRADLE).

CRADLE is Hyundai's corporate venturing and open innovation business, which partners and invests extensively in prominent global startups to accelerate the development of advanced future automotive technologies and “disruptive innovations.”



(Image source: Hyundai Motor Company)


"This technology goes well beyond emergency situations – people living with disabilities worldwide that don't have access to an [Americans with Disabilities Act] ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in – the possibilities are limitless," continues Suh.


Elevate may also find value in humanitarian aid missions, where remote locations may be inaccessible to conventional off-road vehicle designs.



(Image source: Hyundai Motor Company)


"By combining the power of robotics with Hyundai's latest EV technology, Elevate has the ability to take people where no car has been before, and redefine our perception of vehicular freedom," says David Byron, design manager at Detroit-based Sundberg-Ferar. "Imagine a car stranded in a snow ditch just 10 feet off the highway being able to walk or climb over the treacherous terrain, back to the road potentially saving its injured passengers – this is the future of vehicular mobility."


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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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