The massive worldwide focus on electric vehicle technology has already introduced noteworthy changes to automobile design, notably due to the flat floor design with one large battery pack popularized by Tesla and thereafter adopted by nearly every other major automaker. The reduction in size of drive components has made the term “frunk” part of our regular vernacular, as well. And now Hyundai and Kia have introduced the world to what they say is the next major paradigm shift in EV architecture: the Universal Wheel Drive System, or Uni Wheel for short.
Basically, the Korean automaker conglomerate has figured out a way to replace the standard constant velocity (CV) joint with an arrangement of gears that reside directly inside the wheel hub. We could do our best to explain the arrangement — the short version: a single sun gear transfers power through a pair of packaged pinion gear arms that can move independently to an outer ring gear in a unique and flexible planetary design — but it makes the most sense after looking at the pictures and especially the animated video that we’ve embedded just below.
Hyundai/Kia highlight many benefits to this Uni Wheel drive system. Claims include reduced packaging size, improved ride quality, greater durability and, importantly, increased efficiency. All of that means a smaller battery could provide similar range to today’s EVs, that a similarly sized battery could provide greater range, or even that the space that’s freed up by Uni Wheels would allow greater battery size and therefore range without requiring a larger vehicle platform.
In addition to electric cars and trucks, the automaker group says that Uni Wheels can be used for a large variety of mobility applications. These would include vehicles with fewer than four wheels, like scooters and motorcycles, and even wheelchairs and delivery robots. The automakers have reportedly applied for and registered eight patents related to Uni Wheel in South Korea as well as the United States and Europe.