Future electric cars might be able to crab sideways or rotate in place, according to Hyundai.
Hyundai Mobis, the automaker's mobility-tech division, on Monday announced development of an "e-corner module" that allows individual wheels to rotate up to 90 degrees, opening up new possibilities for EV design.
This idea was first shown at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, but has since been refined for practical use in cars, Hyundai Mobis said in a press release. Subsequent development work has included developing an electronic control unit (ECU) for the modules, and conducting some testing.
While initial versions were only able to achieve a 30-degree rotation, current versions can now rotate 90 degrees, enabling vehicles to crab sideways, or turn without moving forward or backwards, Hyundai Mobis noted. Those functions sound a bit like the Crab Mode that will be offered in the 2022 GMC Hummer EV, and the Rivian R1T's "tank turn" feature, respectively.
Hyundai Mobis e-corner module
Next steps include reliability testing a feasibility study for mass production, Hyundai Mobis said. If all goes well, the automaker aims to develop a skateboard platform with four e-corner modules by 2023, and integrate autonomous-driving tech by 2025.
A highly-maneuverable skateboard platform is somewhat like the approach Israeli startup REE is taking. REE has shown three versions of its skateboard, and has made a deal to supply at least one version to Indian automaker Mahindra for commercial vehicles.
A skateboard platform could also permit a wide range of body "top hats," as recently demonstrated by Citroën with its unorthodox Skate concept.
Hyundai Mobis' platform appears to skip around the idea of in-wheel motors—perhaps keeping the motor together with the assembly but not part of the actual wheel's unsprung weight. Hub motors offer potential packaging advantages, but their added unsprung weight could make tuning for ride quality and handling difficult. It's why Ford nixed in-wheel motors for the F-150 Lightning pickup truck.