Automobiles, invented as a means of transportation, are currently being reborn as another type of living space – a new place to relax in, with technological enhancements. Global automotive manufacturers are providing the evidence for this via a variety of concept cars, showing their imagined visions of mobility in the future. For example, Hyundai’s new sport utility electric vehicle (SUEV) concept ‘SEVEN’ has mobile seats and a luxurious interior arrangement reminiscent of a first-class lounge, conveying the message that the interior of modern vehicles will become a dedicated space for relaxation.
This Mobility Ondol concept unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group also reflects a change towards living and relaxing in our cars. Mobility Ondol is a concept car whose interior arrangement has been inspired by Ondol from Korea, a unique heating method. With its interesting name, echoing the cozy, warm atmosphere of a Korean Ondol room, it is characterized by a passenger-centered space arranged in a manner previously considered to be impossible in an automobile.
Hyundai Motor Group aims to deliver the most comfortable moving experience to its passengers, via the space inside its Mobility Ondol vehicles. Firstly, since its premise is self-driving system, Mobility Ondol has no separate control unit. The interior is designed so that passengers can spend their travel time exclusively in relaxation. The front and rear seats are symmetrically arranged to face each other, placing an emphasis on communication between the passengers.
The Mobility Ondol interior is larger than that of a conventional car, thanks to its tall height and long wheelbase and its focus on space for relaxation. Its floor contains high-capacity batteries, the same as ordinary electric vehicles, because its power source is electricity.
Additionally, the extra space between seats and batteries can be used for installing auxiliary batteries or cargo, depending on the vehicle’s designated purpose or the owner’s preference. It also offers a side step and extra storage space on the floor when the door is opened so that passengers can conveniently get in and out and also slide the side step to take their shoes off and store them.
Mobility Ondol has a special structure for seats to allow passengers to take the most comfortable position possible. The basic seating position is not a great deal different from that of a normal car. However, the door trims have a fold-out table for various uses, such as putting objects or a meal on. Door trim pockets have also transformed into storage space as large as a glovebox.
In Mobility Ondol, thanks to the specially designed seats, it is possible to take a rest in comfortable positions that would be difficult to adopt in a conventional car. For instance, you can read a book with your legs stretched out and lean on the seat as if you were sitting on a luxury recliner, or you can turn the seat into a bed for a nap. Furthermore, spaces such as those between the seat back and the seat cushion for storing pillows or blankets show attention to detail for passenger convenience.
When in bed mode, the seat back moves backwards to secure the maximum space for a lie-down, and the leg rest remains parallel to the seat cushion to create a flat structure. The passenger sleeps under a safety blanket that also serves as a seat belt. This blanket has a fastener that fixes to the floor to ensure a safe journey.
The use of a full-flat seat with a structure distinctly different from that of conventional seats facilitates relaxation. The seat under development by Hyundai Motor Group for future mobility has a new type of hinge and support structure to allow a position to reduce passenger fatigue, in addition to an ordinary seating position.
The distinctive feature of the full-flat seat, which has a wide front and rear range of motion is its rail-based frame structure. The multi-structured rail moves in a wide range according to seating position, and the cushion link and back link adjust the angle of the seat cushion and the seat back respectively. The seat operates using two motors, which also serve to handle various seating positions.
There is one other reason for naming this new concept “Mobility Ondol.” The automobile’s heating system was inspired by the Korean traditional Ondol heating method, which uses heat conduction. The heat source gets its energy from batteries. The heating principle is to use the battery heat generated from the electric vehicle operation to increase its overall heating efficiency. Based on the concept of energy harvesting*, Hyundai Motor Group is conducting research on a heating system based on the PE system and battery waste heat recovery technology.
*Energy harvesting: Any technology that generates electricity by collecting waste or surplus energy in the form of heat, light, motion, wind, vibration, electromagnetics, etc.
In addition, Hyundai Motor Group is developing a radiant heat warming technology to build a heating system for the automobiles of the future. HVAC system-based conventional heating technology tends to dry the air inside the vehicle out during extended use, and provide insufficient warmth around the lower body, due to convection. To address these issues, Hyundai Motor Group is considering the installation of a heating element, based on the principle of radiant heat, within the vehicle’s floor. This kind of indirect heating technology is currently being used in some Hyundai vehicles through a convenient device called a “knee warmer.”
Unlike the knee warmers installed at the foot of the steering column to improve heating for the driver’s lower body, the radiant heat warmer technology currently under development is applied to a large area of the floor to raise the overall heating performance of the interior. Since it is applied to a section that passengers rest their feet on, emotional qualities such as tactility are also considered. Real wood with vivid grain is used for the floor covering, to emphasize a sense of luxury. What generates the heat in this floor covering is a heating element made of carbon fabric. The material made with woven carbon yarn has excellent thermal conductivity and low heat capacity, resulting in high heating efficiency. The insulating material underneath this, which also serves to absorb sound, prevents any energy loss caused by heat transfer from the heating element to the opposite side.
We plan to complete the optimal heating system by designing the heating structure to use both residual heat from the battery and the indirect heating technology provided by the Mobility Ondol radiant heating device. The patent application for Mobility Ondol’s unique seat structure and battery heat-based heating structure has been submitted to major countries, such as the United States, Japan, China and Europe. The radiant-heat-based floor heating system is undergoing several tests for practical application. Hyundai Motor Group will continue its journey of technological discovery to ensure the automobiles of the future continue to provide the best and most comfortable moving experience.