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Hyundai’s 45 electric concept car is a futuristic blast from the past

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There’s a distinct late-‘70s / early-‘80s vibe at work here

Image: Hyundai

Hyundai’s all-electric concept car, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Tuesday, is a retro-futuristic stunner that harkens back to the automaker’s first foray into mass-produced vehicles over four decades ago.

There’s a distinct late-‘70s / early-‘80s vibe at work here, which is by design. “Inspired by looking back at the brand’s first model in the 1970s, the『45』fully-electric concept car will act as a symbolic milestone for Hyundai’s future EV design,” Hyundai said in its press material.

For what it’s worth, those weird brackets around “45” are Hyundai’s addition, not mine. The South Korean automaker says the name and the brackets are partly a reference to the 45-degree angles at the front and rear, “forming a diamond-shaped silhouette that further foreshadows the design direction of future EV models.” But they’re also a reference to Hyundai’s origins 45 years ago.

My first thought looking at the body shape and taillights was “DeLorean DMC-12.” But a more direct analog is the 1974 Pony Coupe, Hyundai’s first mass-produced car and first export. The automaker is clearly trying to make a statement about its history and how that will gel with its intended future.

There are all sorts of futuristic accents on the 45 that aren’t immediately obvious to the naked eye. At the bottom of the driver’s side door, “a special garnish” of lights lets you know how much range you have left before you need to recharge the battery. The car uses cameras instead of side-view mirrors, and the interior is dominated by a dashboard-length screen that Hyundai claims can be controlled via “projection beam interface” that “replaces a single central touchscreen with a series of displays and functions integrated into the dashboard itself.”

The interior also points to a possibly autonomous future. The generous width and flooring are meant to mimic a living room. The production version won’t be autonomous, Hyundai said, but it wanted to preserve the opportunity to transform the 45 into a self-driving car if need be.

Depending on if it ultimately goes into product, the 45 could be an interesting follow-up to Hyundai’s first production EV, the Kona SUV, which hit dealerships in 2018. The automaker is also working on a prototype electric supercar using technology provided by Croatian firm Rimac.