I sat down with Hyundai’s Frank Ahrens to talk about the new Hyundai Veloster C3 (short for Convertible 3 door) Concept and their take on the future of sustainable transportation (hint, it’s wet). The C3 was designed in Southern California, with an aim at capturing more of the elusive Gen Y market that continues to elude the grasp of the world’s automakers.
The new Veloster C3 concept was built to haul fun toys while having fun driving. However, I think the use of a fixie wasn’t nearly as ideal as say a surfboard or racing bicycle. A fixie replaces a car, gets you around town conveniently and quickly, so why would you haul it? However, it’s also a handy way to get where you’re going in a city where the nearest parking space may be a bit of a hike from your destination.
HIGHLIGHTS OF VELOSTER C3 ROLL TOP CONCEPT
- Based on the Veloster’s three-door coupe design
- Dual-function convertible roof that rolls backwards and forwards
- Tailgate replaces hatchback for added utility
- Custom fixed-gear bicycle-inspired design
- Repurposed skateboards line cargo floor
- Repurposed industrial truck tarps create convertible soft top
If It Ain’t Fixed, It’s Broken
Inspired by LA’s massive fixie culture (with aficionados so passionate that’s a common sentiment), the Veloster C3 is highly customizable. Note the mismatched wheel caps, mimicking the popular trend of mismatched bicycle wheels. However, like a brakeless fixie, there are some severe limitations to the C3′s practicality.
Driving around with the entire back open like this is nice if you’re not carrying much in the back that could blow away. They tout the car’s ability to get you from the beach to downtown LA, but as a DTLA resident, I’d want a much safer place than the back of a car to park my bicycle. But, that’s why it’s a concept- to test the market. In 2007 they launched the first Veloster concept at Tokyo Auto Show, and it became so popular they simply had to produce it.
Hyundai used old skateboards to tile the rear of the C3 Concept, for a durable and colorful eco surface, but didn’t have much else to say about eco materials used in the car. I suspect if they really want to get people off their fixies and into cars, they’re going to have to go full electric, or at least hybrid, as one of the biggest perks of cycling in the city is not having to buy gas.
What Is The Ultimate Engine?
Frank Ahrens tells me this is a question he’s often asked. His reply is “A- we don’t know, B- it’s not just one.” Hyundai is continually focusing on developing lighter, more efficient gas engine, like the 1-liter turbo-diesel which appeals to the EU market, which taxes CO2 emissions.
On the other hand, the US is all about MPG, and continues to make it hard to import diesel engines. Diesel engines today are much cleaner, and Hyundai wants to sell diesel in the US. Hyundai hasn’t brought a plug-in EV to market, “…but we are testing one.” Hyundai has also been selling the Sonata hybrid for two-years. Hyundai says that in the next couple years a plug-in hybrid will come into play.”
However, what Hyundai is most excited about is hydrogen fuel cell. Daimler and Hyundai are considered the leaders in this technology, and in Europe they have the IX35 (Tuscon in the US) fuel-cell with a 600km (372 mile) range. Hyundai will be leasing 15 IX35′s to the city of Copenhagen, as they say that Northwestern Europe’s infrastructure is promising and the EU has provided funding & planning for hydrogen.
Hyundai plans to make 1,000 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over the next few years for fleets. Then by 2015 they hope the cells will be affordable for the consumer market. The average target price among all manufacturers is $50,000 and will likely be limited in the US to California, where the infrastructure is strongest. Hyundai says they prefer hydrogen fuel cell over pure-electric vehicles because the wheel to wheel emissions is lower.
So there you have it; Hyundai is aiming for Gen Y with the Veloster C3, that much is obvious. More importantly though, they’re hoping to bring plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, 1,000 of them in fact, by 2015. Hyundai has placed their bets. But will Gen Y bite?