While the world is suffering from COVID-19, hygiene has never been more important than now. Ironically, the car-sharing rate increased after the pandemic. This is because people who used to go on public transportation are now using micro-mobility or car-sharing services to avoid being in a crowd.
Naturally, hygiene of the shared cars will become a big problem, since it could worsen the spread of the disease. Maintaining those cars clean in South Korea has already been a major issue since the users did not really care much about it.
Even though how hard the companies monitor and clean their cars, the increasing number of users is making them almost impossible to maintain the quality of the cars. These users are becoming pickier as the virus spreads as well.
HMG’s Effort to Maintain Good Hygiene
Hygiene is also a big issue for the carmaker. Hyundai Motor Group in South Korea introduced various relief programs for its consumers since back in March. When the users visit Bluehands or Auto-Q, Hyundai Motor Group’s customer centers, they can get a free cleaning so that they are sure the steering wheel, transmission lever, and dashboard are virus-free.
Hyundai Motor Group would even offer the exact same service to other owners who drive cars from different automakers, to stop the spread of disease. Even before the outbreak, Hyundai Motor Group has been using anti-bacterial paint or elements on the interior.
One good example would be the antimicrobial elements as a part of the ‘Healthcare” program since the 2011-version Hyundai Sonata so that the people would safely touch and use handles, pillar trims, floors, and mats. The seat foam also contains cardanol oil from cashew nuts, which enhances interior hygiene by 99.9%.
Consumers these days prefer light-colored interior, but easily give up because it is relatively harder to maintain the elements. The Genesis G70, for example, comes with a steering wheel whose leather cover is made using an antifouling technology.
HMG is also working on ways to protect fabric elements. The fabric seats that small sedans usually use is easy to maintain and good for ventilation, but also are vulnerable to liquids. HMG has developed seat covers with zipper or velcro connect design.
So when the seat is contaminated, you can simply remove the seat cover and wash it. This can be a very good strategy for car-sharing companies. HMG is trying to create seat covers with superb ventilation and heating.
Car seats with antifouling-coat is another way for HMG to maintain good hygiene. The company is doing its best to keep up with its customers’ expectation.
Self-Sterilizing Vehicles in the Future
Vehicles in the future will become a part of our living space, especially when they are autonomous. Everyone will just sit back and relax, watching movies. Interior hygiene, then, will become a more severe problem. HMG is developing self-sterilizing materials to maintain clean, antiviral, and antibacterial cabins.
For now, the most promising technology so far is using UltraViolet(UV) lamps. Big hospitals already have elevators whose buttons are regularly sterilized with UV lights. This feature is medically and scientifically proven to be effective, and subway stations or art galleries also have the facility.
HMG is about to use UV light sterilization technology on their vehicles. Direct UV rays are well known to be harmful to human skin, so the feature should be activated while no one is in the car. It would be ideal and effective when the device is on the ceiling because it could sterilize the seats, floor mats, dashboard, and the steering wheel all at the same time. However, it also could be useless to some places where the UV ray does not reach.
HMG is planning to develop an interior cabin light that also contains a sterilization feature, and they are about to make it practical enough. They will enhance the power of UV rays for better sterilization, and broaden their usage.
The UV rays have also triggered considerable interest in photocatalytic reduction of CO2. The reduction of CO2 with H2O using ultraviolet light is an innovative way to sterilize the cabin of a vehicle. Using a UV photocatalyst module, it will eliminate germs that float inside a car. HMG is working on developing an effective technology, and the feature is expected to upgrade the quality of air in a cabin.
These ‘active’ methods, however, usually cost more because such technologies will require expensive modules. This would make cars more expensive. So HMG is trying to develop technologies more affordable.
Such technologies that are related to hygiene will be only effective as long as they are proven to be safe to use. Under the Biocidal Products Regulation and many other standards, HMG is planning to collaborate with foreign institutions to make things thorough.