Buy an electric car on your phone, collect it from a Hyundai plant in Singapore

An artist's impression of the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Jurong, to be completed by end-2022. PHOTO: HYUNDAI GROUP

SINGAPORE - In the near future, motorists can order and customise an electric car on their phone, and watch it being built in a highly automated factory right here in Singapore.

The Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Jurong, to be completed by end-2022, will be the first of its kind in the world.

A virtual groundbreaking ceremony, officiated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo and Hyundai Motor Group executive vice-chairman Euisun Chung, was held on Tuesday morning (Oct 13).

Noting the investment by the South Korean carmaker, PM Lee said: "I am happy that Hyundai has chosen Singapore to locate your newest facility. It is an investment of almost $400 million, and may produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025, five years from now."

The centre will act as an open innovation lab for Hyundai's research and development in mobility concepts, which observers reckon will include autonomous vehicles and new forms of ride-sharing.

The 28,000 sq m facility will be futuristic. It will have a landing pad for passenger drones, which Hyundai is also developing, and employ renewable energy sources such as solar and hydrogen.

When ready, the facility will have a small-scale electric car assembly line that is expected to produce up to 30,000 vehicles a year.

The Straits Times understands that models that may be assembled here may include the Ioniq 5, a mid-sized electric crossover based on the Hyundai Concept 45 to be launched in Korea next year, and the yet-to-be-announced Ioniq 3 electric compact crossover.

Production of the Ioniq 5 will start by the end of 2022, while the Ioniq 3 is expected to be produced by 2025. Cars made here will be retailed locally, with export plans to roll out at a later stage.

Customers will be able to purchase and customise their vehicles on their phones. Once an order is confirmed, production will begin.

Hyundai is partnering Nanyang Technological University to, among other things, find ways to facilitate "smart customising" functions that would allow customers to tailor-make their cars.

Customers can watch their car being assembled at the centre, Hyundai said.

"Once the car is ready for delivery, it will be transferred to a 620m Sky Track where customer can test-drive the vehicle," it added.

The Sky Track will sit atop the seven-storey facility. Hyundai said it will employ various advanced manufacturing and logistical systems, including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and robotics.

These will result in a "highly automated... safe and efficient work environment".

Hyundai will also trial battery-as-a-service, where consumers buy an electric car without its battery - which can account for half its cost - and then lease the cells from Hyundai. This could reduce the cost of an electric vehicle dramatically.

The company would not reveal the number of people the facility will employ, saying this "will be determined later... as the project evolves".

Hyundai's move will bring car-making back to Singapore after a hiatus of nearly four decades.

British home-appliance maker Dyson had announced in October 2018 that it would make electric cars in Singapore, only to pull the plug on the venture a year later.

PM Lee said: "Electric vehicles have fewer mechanical parts and more electronics, which plays to Singapore's strengths. That is why global companies producing automotive electronics like Delphi and Infineon are already in Singapore and have been here for some time."

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