By Sean Tucker
Hyundai’s next electric car may be a 3-row SUV with a driving range of 300-plus miles and a design that blends gentle curves with a pixelated lighting theme. Of that much, we’re confident. The sectional couch, though? That might have to go.
The Ioniq 7?
At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/204364212/delayed HYMTF +0.53% unveiled a concept car that probably previews its next electric vehicle (EV). Concept cars are often showcases for an automaker’s most outlandish ideas. But sometimes, they preview upcoming models. The Hyundai SEVEN concept seems likely to be a little of both.
On the outside, it’s an attractive midsize SUV large enough to house three rows of seating. It borrows the pixelated lights of Hyundai’s upcoming Ioniq 5 EV – a smaller, 2-row compact SUV expected to reach showrooms in the spring. That, and the SEVEN name, have led many to speculate that what we’re looking at here is the future Hyundai Ioniq 7.
A plausible look … mostly
The SEVEN mates those little light squares to a unique body that blends slab-sided boxiness with rounded corners to create a look that is at once sleek and brawny. From the front, it’s a conventional enough mien to fit into traffic today. From the rear, it’s a different story. The back is nearly all one piece of glass – a fantastic showroom style but one that might not work as well in practice for anyone who doesn’t obsessively clean their car.
Shared components with an existing EV
The SEVEN rides on the same platform as the Ioniq 5.
The first generation of electric cars most manufacturers have built are essentially gasoline-powered cars converted to carry batteries and electric motors in the places they would otherwise carry engines and gas tanks. But the second-generation – cars like this – are built from the ground up as EVs.
For these, engineers build the batteries, motors, and suspension into a skateboard-like flat unit that runs underneath the cabin. Designers can scale up and down these units to build cars of different sizes. So the same mechanical bits can underlie a compact SUV and a large one.
Hyundai has announced plans for an astonishing 23 electric cars by 2025. Most will be built on the same EV skateboard unit.
Hyundai says that in the SEVEN, the combination is good for more than 300 miles of range and can recharge to 80% of full capacity in just 20 minutes. They don’t give horsepower figures. In the smaller Ioniq 5, buyers can order that same hardware with 167, 225, or 320 horsepower and in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations.
A wild interior that probably won’t see production
Mounting all of the mechanics underneath the floor also frees designers to play with cabin space in unique ways. And play they have. Inside is where the SEVEN departs from showroom-ready.
The SEVEN uses coach-style doors with no central pillar, so passengers can open almost the entire cabin to the outside. Inside, designers put two swiveling lounge chairs – one for the driver in the traditional position and a second to the driver’s right but set further back as if in a second row. What’s in the traditional front passenger’s seat space? An ottoman, of course. So that second “row” passenger can put their feet up.
The third row isn’t exactly a bench seat. It’s more a sectional sofa. The driver’s seat can swivel back to face it when parked, creating a nice living room set you can drive anywhere.
As for how you drive the thing, Hyundai chose to see Tesla’s /zigman2/quotes/203558040/lastsale TSLA +0.91% pilot yoke and raise them one joystick. The driver’s seat, Hyundai says, “features a retractable control stick that hides away when not in use.”
Other fanciful ideas include sterilizing UVC lights that “help clean the living space of bacteria and viruses” and an airflow system designed to “reduce cross-contamination among passengers and isolate the airflow between front and rear occupants.”
Will we ever see this for sale?
So, will the SEVEN appear in Hyundai showrooms anytime soon?
Not like this, no. But it’s worth noting that, shortly before debuting the Ioniq 5, Hyundai showed off a concept car it called the 45. The Ioniq 5 on its way to showrooms soon looks remarkably like that concept car — on the outside.
A 3-row Ioniq 5 SUV, sized like the Hyundai Palisade but sharing its platform with the Ioniq 5 is a logical next step in Hyundai’s electrification plan. It could very well use the body of the SEVEN, albeit probably without the fully transparent liftgate.
It’s just unlikely to have a sectional sofa and a joystick. Three rows of conventional seating and a steering wheel would suit this car just fine.