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Is a Walking Hyundai Elevate on Your Holiday List?

As the holidays approach we know that a walking Hyundai Elevate concept is on our list. We’re just not sure yet when it will appear under the Christmas tree.


Maybe COVID-19 has something to do with the delay, but we sit here wondering why the Hyundai Elevate has not debuted yet in dealerships. It’s the number one wish on our holiday list but don’t look for it at any Black Friday Sales near you.

OK, so as you sit there in a tryptophan daze, you wonder, what is the Hyundai Elevate? It’s only the coolest concept the Korean automaker has introduced in forever. Well, that’s not entirely true. I am overlooking the Tesla-fighting Hyundai Prophecy but let me indulge in my Elevate hype, would you?

The Elevate was introduced at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. (Not the 2020 COVID-infected CES: the one before it.) As Hyundai describes it, Elevate is the first Ultimate Mobility Vehicle (UMV), blending technology found in electric cars and robots, which allows it to traverse terrain beyond the limitations of even the most capable off-road vehicle.

Hyundai Elevate concept earthquake mode

John Suh, Hyundai vice president and head of Hyundai CRADLE, explains best what the Elevate can do. “When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot. Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.

“This technology goes well beyond emergency situations - people living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in – the possibilities are limitless.” Or Uber drivers might like being able to roll drunks out, too.

Hyundai Elevate concept taxi

The Elevate concept is based on a modular EV platform with the capability to switch out different bodies for specific situations. What would be really cool is if this could be done on the fly. I’m thinking a little Transformer action would be ideal.

The robotic leg architecture has five degrees of freedom plus wheel hub propulsion motors and is enabled by the latest in electric actuator technology. This design is uniquely capable of both mammalian and reptilian walking gaits, allowing it to move in any direction. (Suddenly the Bangles song, “Walk Like an Egyptian” is running through my head.)

The legs also fold up into a stowed drive-mode, where power to the joints is cut, and the use of an integrated passive suspension system maximizes battery efficiency. Hyundai says this allows Elevate to drive at highway speeds just like any other vehicle. And it will resemble the Volvo C30 Electric while doing so.

But that C30 (and no other vehicle) can climb a five-foot wall, step over a five-foot gap, walk over diverse terrain, and achieve a 15 foot wide track width, all while keeping its body and passengers completely level. The combination of wheeled motion with articulating legs provides a new paradigm of mobility by enabling faster walking speeds, unique dynamic driving postures and torsional control at the end of each leg.

OK, Hyundai – lets get going. Build this thing for real-world use. I especially can’t wait to try it out on a wintry day. I’ll no longer need to clear my sloping driveway from snow regardless of how high the plows pack the slush by the road.

Have some time to kill? Well, have 3 minutes to kill? Check out the Hyundai Elevate video. It does a great job of demonstrating its potential capabilities.

Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.