By Hanneke Weitering
Supernal has revealed its first full-scale mockup of the eVTOL aircraft it aims to bring to market in 2028. It is showcasing the four-passenger S-A2 aircraft this week at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where the company has constructed a vertiport exhibition to give show attendees a taste of the urban air mobility experience.
Three years ago Supernal, which is a subsidiary of Korean automotive giant Hyundai, debuted its first eVTOL cabin concept, called the S-A1, at CES 2020. Since then the company has shown off the cabin concept at trade shows such as Farnborough, NBAA-BACE, and EBACE, where visitors had the opportunity to experience a virtual eVTOL ride over a simulated cityscape.
Now the U.S.-based company has built out the rest of the aircraft, including the wing and rotors, and made some improvements to the interior. For example, the seat frames have been upgraded with energy-absorbing materials to improve safety in the event of a hard landing. The S-A2 also has new lighting features that Supernal says will “allow the cabin to feel larger” and provide visual cues for passengers.
“S-A2 is a true representation of ‘auto meets aero,’ drawing on the competence of Supernal’s top aerospace engineers and Hyundai Motor Group’s world-renowned automotive designers to create human-centric design that maximizes passenger experience and safety,” said Luc Donckerwolke, president and chief creative officer of Hyundai Motor Group.
The five-seat eVTOL aircraft features a V-shaped tail and eight tilting rotors that provide both vertical lift and forward propulsion. It is designed to carry four passengers plus one pilot on short hops of around 25 to 40 miles (40 to 64 kilometers), flying at an altitude of 1,500 feet and a cruise speed of 120 mph (190 kph). Supernal has previously said it is targeting a maximum range of about 60 miles (100 kilometers) on a single charge and that it will take less than seven minutes to fully recharge the battery-powered aircraft in between flights.
According to Supernal, the electric aircraft will be significantly quieter than helicopters or airplanes, generating about as much noise as a dishwasher. During takeoff and landing, the aircraft produces about 65 decibels, which drops down to 45 decibels during cruise flight.
Although Supernal’s eVTOL aircraft will initially fly with pilots on board, the company is also developing autonomous flight technology that it hopes will someday enable remotely piloted air taxi operations with up to five passengers on board.