You know Canoo, that upstart EV company that’s developing a lozenge-shaped rolling lounge? Well, on Friday, the California-based company showed off a running, driving example of its skateboard platform for the first time.
This integrated architecture is the foundation of its future products, starting with the Canoo — the car and company share the same name. This skateboard contains nearly all the vehicle’s vital components, including the motor, battery pack and suspension, but that’s not the end of it. “We incorporated into the skateboard 70% of all structural elements that are needed to fulfill an overall five-star crash rating,” Ulrich Kranz, the man in charge of Canoo, said while speaking on a webcast. Just like the company’s unconventional vehicle name, employees don’t have official titles, rather, they kind of just go by what they do. No matter what you call him, Kranz is an auto industry veteran who spent decades working at BMW.
Incorporating most of the vehicle’s crash structure into the underlying platform is not something rivals are doing with their EV platforms, Kranz explained. This gives Canoo a competitive advantage because it doesn’t have to put nearly as much time, effort or research dollars into developing different vehicle bodies because the skateboard handles most of the forces in a wreck. This also means the Canoo platform itself can basically be driven around without anything on top. Just add a seat and away you go. Kranz said competing skateboards need some sort of cabin to be functional.
Aside from copious amounts of simulation work, Canoo has already conducted more than 50 physical crash tests. Additional fine-tuning still needs to be done, but the fundamentals are finished and the vehicle, despite having such a flat face, should be extremely safe.
“It’s pretty much like a go-kart,” Kranz said, “because all the weight is very low. It really doesn’t move, it doesn’t roll at all [in corners].” This is believable because the floor looks like it’s scarcely a foot above the ground, something that was enabled by careful engineering. Similar to in a Ford Model T, composite transverse leaf springs front and rear support the vehicle and help keep everything compact. Further simplifying things, this somewhat old-school suspension design helps reduce the vehicle’s parts count since only two springs are required, rather than the four needed if coils were used.
Providing strong performance is a rear-mounted electric motor. Rated at 300 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, it should be able to propel this Volkwsagen Microbus-shaped machine from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 6.3 seconds. The Canoo’s liquid-cooled, 80-kilowatt-hour battery pack provides an estimated driving range of 250 miles.
The Canoo features steer-by-wire tech, which means there’s no physical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels. This enabled engineers to give the vehicle a variable steering ratio, one that’s very quick at low speeds. Kranz said you can go lock-to-lock without moving your hands, something that should make it highly maneuverable, particularly in the urban environments the Canoo is intended for. Redundant electrical systems provide an extra level of safety since there’s no physical steering system.
In addition to the Canoo, which representatives refer to as a lifestyle vehicle, the company is looking at launching a small delivery van that would be built atop the same skateboard platform, though it would use front-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive to provide more cargo space. That front motor, which is currently under development, is projected to provide more than 200 horsepower. According to Kranz, this delivery vehicle will be available a year after the launch of the first product. Beyond that, he said the company is also developing some sort of sports car, which should be on the road by 2025.
Like and subscribe
Unlike other automakers, Canoo is only offering vehicles via subscription, which seems kind of crazy, though its logic makes sense. “Today, the reality is 75% of consumers are not buying cars,” Kranz said, “They’re leasing cars.” People have grown accustomed to paying month to month for things like mobile phones and cable television, so why wouldn’t they be interested in doing the same with their cars, especially if they come with added benefits? Aside from the vehicle itself, a Canoo subscription includes maintenance, charging, insurance and a generous cap of 15,000 miles per year. Further sweetening the deal, the company handles DMV paperwork as well and there are no dealerships to contend with. Everything is bundled into one convenient bill, with no down payment or long-term commitment. “After one month, if you don’t like it you give it back,” Kranz said matter-of-factly.
Of course, if you do enjoy your Canoo experience, just keep cutting a check each month. The maximum time the company projects it’d let a customer keep a particular vehicle in service is between 10 and 12 years, well down the road.
Without any dealerships, signing up for a Canoo subscription will be done on the internet. Likewise, service partners will handle maintenance and repairs.
Unfortunately, pricing has not been released yet, but according to Kranz, it will be very attractive. Being made largely of steel, the Canoo contains no exotic or expensive materials that would jack up the price, and it’s is intended to compete “in the mid segment of the passenger cars.” He noted the company might release pricing information next year, though more than 10,000 potential customers are already on a waiting list, so clearly its business model has its appeal.
A step-by-step introduction
The Canoo is set to launch in the second quarter of 2022. The company will roll the car out city by city, not across the US all at once. Los Angeles will be the area to get the car, then other municipalities along the west coast. After that, the company plans to launch on the East Coast. Kranz said Canoo is doing it this way because around 15 cities in the US account for as much as 75% of electric vehicle sales.
Aside from the subscription-based model, the Canoo’s quirky styling and airy cabin are certainly appealing. Looking like a lounge on wheels, all it’s missing is a jazz ensemble and a cocktail bar — nonalcoholic, of course. No word yet if either of these will be available as options.