Hyundai unveils showpiece robot-powered EV plant in Singapore

A robotaxi at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center in Singapore.
A robotaxi at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center in Singapore. (Lionel Ng/Bloomberg)

By Yoolim Lee and Heejin Kim

(Bloomberg) —Hyundai Motor Group officially opened a heavily automated facility in Singapore that it expects to play a crucial role in its electrification strategy in the coming decades, deploying robotics and new production methods.

The Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore covers seven floors and can make as many as 30,000 electric vehicles annually, according to Hyundai. It has been in operation since early this year, producing Ioniq 5 cars and fully autonomous robotaxis. The Ioniq 6 will join the manufacturing lineup in 2024.

“HMGICS will establish itself as one of two Hyundai Motor Group innovation pillars that will lead the company’s future in the electrification era over the next 50 years,” Hyundai said in a statement Tuesday. “The facility will serve as a testbed for developing future mobility solutions.”

An Ioniq 5 is displayed in the building’s lobby, next to a Pony, the first car Hyundai rolled out in the 1970s, helping to mark the birth of South Korea’s automobile industry.

A feature of the 86,900-square meter (935,380-square feet) facility is a so-called cell-based production system, where humans and robots work side by side, replacing the traditional conveyor-belt manufacturing approach. Some 200 robots engage in operations such as assembly and inspection, freeing humans to focus on more creative and productive duties, Hyundai said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the center three years ago, at the time describing it as a major step forward for Hyundai and the first of its kind in the world. He said it would pave the way for more investment from South Korean companies.

The building also features a 618-meter rooftop track for test driving and a smart farm where robots work on producing vegetables, some of which will be used in a restaurant scheduled to open next year. Only 1% of land in Singapore is assigned to agriculture, and the city-state imports 90% of food consumed. It aims to produce 30% of food locally by 2030.

Hyundai Motor Group includes Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., the luxury Genesis brand and parts and service arm Hyundai Mobis Co. Planning to produce more than 3.6 million EVs annually by end of this decade, the group is building a much larger factory in Ulsan, South Korea, capable of producing 200,000 EVs a year, and another in the US state of Georgia, with annual capacity for 300,000.

“This is more than a factory,” said Alpesh Patel, HMGICS head of technology innovation. “It’s really about experimenting an entire business model.”

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.