Making its global debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the Hyundai i-flow Concept car carries forward the company's evocative new form language, 'fluidic sculpture'. The flowing, elegant lines not only create a bionic, futuristic shape, but also contribute to exceptional aerodynamics, helping to reduce the car's CO2 output to just 85g/km and fuel consumption to only 3l/100km.
Hyundai's first diesel hybrid powertrain is also a key factor in delivering such an environmentally-conscious return, as is the application of next-generation materials and technologies developed in cooperation with leading chemical company BASF.
Previewing a future D-segment contender
With an overall length of 4.780mm and a 2.800mm wheelbase, the Hyundai i-flow Concept brings new ideas and a pioneering form to the traditional European D-segment. The dramatically-sculpted forms of the interior and exterior make for a striking sports sedan, and its width and height (1.850mm and 1.420mm respectively) give it an athletic stance.
The name i-flow reflects the exceptionally aerodynamic shape and the flowing lines of the concept car's eye-catching styling, and retains the 'i' prefix of Hyundai's established alphanumeric nomenclature for Europe. In 2011 Hyundai will bring into production a new challenger in the segment, drawing on the Hyundai i-flow Concept's sleek styling and innovative technology.
The evolution of 'fluidic sculpture'
Thomas Buerkle, Chief Designer at Hyundai Motor Europe, appraises the design concept of i-flow, or HED-7, the seventh in a series of daring concept cars to be born in the Russelsheim styling studio:
"The first impression of Hyundai i-flow Concept is the striking appearance generated through feminine sculptural layers combined with broad, athletic proportions. The rearward-oriented peak of the roof and distinctive main volume give an ultra-modern interpretation of the sedan genre. These unique proportions are complemented by the long tail and the short front overhang, features which were inspired by aerodynamic motives.
"Sporting intentions are emphasized through innovative active aero elements, such as the adaptive front spoiler and side rocker blade. Sophisticated, futuristic front and rear light elements are cradled like sparkling jewels within the car's flowing planes, and the signature Hyundai hexagonal grille completes the frontal aspect.
"The sense of agility and focused aerodynamics is further enforced by the glass roof., with its semi-transparent dye-sensitized solar cells connecting the front and rear screens to create an integral design unit. The roof and door glazing blend to form a unified shell, undercutting the floating C-pillar to produce an undisturbed, aerodynamic canopy. These daring, refined details complement the Hyundai i-flow Concept's overall appearance to culminate in a bold design statement which advances Hyundai's fluidic sculpture philosophy."
Inside: minimum weight, maximum space and a bionic feel
The interior of Hyundai i-flow Concept redefines the perception of space in a sedan bodystyle. Fundamental elements, such as the seats and center console, were crafted for minimal weight and volume using cutting-edge materials from BASF - one of the world's leading automotive suppliers.
The seats, for example, were developed in conjunction with BASF using advanced stress analysis, which highlighted the unnecessary mass areas and pointed towards an optimized lightweight seat structure. 'Steron', a BASF material, gives the seats a highly-resilient quality, excellent breathability and a high-tech touch.
The upper dashboard, meanwhile, is treated with Elastoskin, a sprayed skin from BASF for a sophisticated, shimmering finish.
This technical, meticulous approach combines with an abundance of natural materials to engender a bionic feel in the cabin, further symbolized by the green color tones and the leaf-like shadows projected from the roof's semi-transparent dye-sensitized solar cells.
The cockpit's main interface centers around an expansive, contoured screen, which recognizes not only touch but also gestural inputs along its fascia-wide display. The fluidic forms of the exterior are echoed in the Hyundai i-flow Concept's cabin, where continuous lines sweep from the dashboard, through the doors to the open storage area at the rear.
The innovative, B-pillarless doors allow comfortable ingress and egress for passengers. The front door is hinged at the A-pillar, and the rear door swings backwards on an intelligent hinge arm system to allow unrestricted access to the rear seats. Additionally the front seats can be turned 30° towards the outside, to invite the driver and co-driver to enter the ultramodern lightweight seats.
An eco-technological test bed
The Hyundai i-flow Concept is a test bed for new energy harvesting ideas, ranging from flexible solar panel roofing to a thermo-electric generator. The key technical components of the vehicle have been developed by Hyundai under the Blue Drive™ banner in cooperation with BASF. Blue Drive™ remains at the heart of Hyundai's product development strategy, and continues to drive the company towards its target of global leadership in environmentally-sensitive technologies.
A focal point of Hyundai i-flow Concept is its extraordinary CO2 emissions level of just 85g/km. The car uses efficient aerodynamics, energy harvesting technologies and weight-saving materials to significantly undercut the current average for a D-segment sedan. Furthermore, the company's first diesel-electric hybrid powertrain runs the exciting new U2 1,7-liter engine augmented by two-stage turbocharging and Hyundai's Lithium Ion-Polymer battery to give a very efficient and advanced combination, particularly when partnered with Hyundai i-flow Concept's six-speed, dual-clutch transmission.
BASF and Hyundai R&D engineers have developed thermal engine encapsulation, which ensures that the engine reaches optimum operating temperature more quickly, by retaining heat when the car is at idle. Where a non-insulated engine would take three hours to drop to 40˚C, the Hyundai i-flow Concept will stay above that temperature for 14 hours. This translates into fuel savings and emissions cuts of 5 per cent during summer and up to 9 per cent during winter.
Another pioneering technique introduced in collaboration with BASF is thermo-electric waste heat recovery. This process equates to further reductions in fuel consumption, 5% at highest driving. In fact, up to half of the electrical energy consumed by Hyundai i-flow Concept at 80kph - 250 watts - can be recovered through the work of a thermo-electric generator. Harvested energy from hot exhaust gases is recaptured by this generator which is fitted into the exhaust manifold. The thermal electric generator then converts the wasted heat into useful electrical energy to help power auxiliary systems.
Liquid Metal, a coating with the appearance of a glossy skin made of liquid metal, has been developed by BASF Coatings. Special effect pigments in this eco-friendly waterborne coating system let the surface appear as polished metal with targeted mirror like reflections - this gives a liquid skin appearance to the car's exterior and increases the tension of the surface in the same time. The high color saturation on the Hyundai i-flow Concept adds an energizing charisma to the Hyundai concept car. The typical high contrast between highlight and flop underlines the sculptural impact of the Hyundai i-flow Concept.
Adaptive aerodynamic features harmonize with fluidic sculpture styling, not only to bring aesthetic value, but also to increase fuel efficiency. Radical ideas, such as the arch-like roofline and streamlined front, have a real impact, and the boat-tail shape and kick-up lines force the airflow to separate at the rear of the vehicle, leading to an extremely impressive aerodynamic drag coefficient of just 0.25 Cd.
An eco-driving guidance system is present to encourage super-efficient motoring. The system includes fuel consumption and gear shift indicators, and an active ECO function which adjusts the powertrain to its ultimate condition by adapting the engine and transmission control units. Finally, 'eco route' uses real-time traffic conditions and three-dimensional road data to calculate the most fuel-efficient way of reaching the desired destination.