Bollinger, Rivian, Faraday Future and, of course, Tesla, the long stagnant automotive industry is facing a flood of new entrants that hope to crack open the long-closed door by targeting the emerging electric vehicle market. Add to the list Canoo, a start-up that not only wants a piece of that electrified pie but is hoping to grab its share with an approach that challenges much of the industry’s traditional business model.
Originally launched under the name Evelozcity, the renamed company has officially pulled the wraps off its first model while also outlining a business model that foregoes traditional retail sales. Instead, Canoo will jump whole hog into the subscription market. Details are still being worked out, but that’s likely to mean a flat fee that would include everything down to taxes and registration fees, as well as maintenance, insurance and, of course, the vehicle itself.
“Canoo believes that there is a better solution traditional car ownership,” the start-up said, while promising “a hassle- and commitment-free EV subscription for one monthly, affordable price and with no set end date.”
Significantly, the company also said that everything will be handled “from a single app.” It’s not saying whether that means it will try to move away entirely from having dealers or simply will allow a customer to handle as much of the process as possible via that app, even if they prefer to do some things at a showroom. Moving away from the conventional dealer franchise system will create challenges, as Tesla has learned, with some states likely to refuse to license Canoo.
As for the vehicle itself, a quick glance will likely bring to mind the classic Volkswagen Microbus or, if you prefer, the German marque’s planned revival, the all-electric ID Buzz. Like the latter, the Canoo – and yes, the first model will be the Canoo Canoo – is fully electric, in this case relying on an 80 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Don’t expect this to be the longest-range EV out there, with an estimated 250 miles per charge, nor the fastest, its single motor pushing 300 horsepower through the rear axle. But Canoo promises it will be reasonably quick and, considering the instant torque that electric motors deliver, that would be far from surprising.
Looking forward, Canoo hints there will be more variants, which raises the prospect of an all-wheel-drive package at some point. Meanwhile, the skateboard-like platform – now the norm for battery-electric vehicles – was designed to serve future product lines as well as the original microvan.
From nose-to-tail, the Canoo measures just 173 inches in length, not much different from a VW Golf. It’s 75 inches wide and 73 inches tall and weighs in at around 4,500 pounds.
One of the advantages of the skateboard architecture is that it moves virtually all key powertrain components under the load floor. Jaguar was one of the first to take advantage of that approach, shortening the nose of its I-Pace to provide a larger interior than an outside walkaround might have suggested. The Canoo pushes things even further, with little more ahead of the two front-seat occupants than was the case with the old Microbus – but for the now-requisite crash structure.
One of the first things you’d likely notice climbing behind the steering wheel is that the dashboard is minimalist, with gauges and other technology essentially bolted to a single crossbeam. Then, you might look down and find that there’s also a glass panel behind the pedals, offering a unique view of the road.
“We believe that the potential of EV architecture can enable a post-SUV era that addresses the ever-growing desire for space and value,” said Ulrich Kranz, one of Canoo’s founders. “We promised a truly different approach for EVs, and our Canoo proves that we can deliver on that vision.”
Like the old Microbus, there are windows everywhere, creating a bright, living room-like feel that’s enhanced by the fact that, other than the front buckets, the other five passengers sit in a U-shaped bench that wraps around the back half of the cabin.
The unusual approach was pulled together by a design team led by Richard Kim, who was a lead on both the BMW i3 and i8 projects, subsequently moving over the Faraday Future and its FF91 program.
In fact, Kim was one of an assortment of former BMW and Faraday executives, a group that initially included Stefan Krause, who helped found Canoo but has since left the company.
Where the start-up goes from here was outlined by Kranz, another former BMW and Faraday alumnus.
“The unveiling,” he explained, “kicks off the period of beta testing, meaning we are on track for our launch date for 2021.”
As with plenty of other EV start-ups, Canoo’s plans have generated plenty of skeptics. The company claims to have raised $1 billion but, even if that proves accurate, the travails of Faraday, which has struggled for several years to avoid collapse, shows how quickly a 10-figure bankroll can run out.
The company plans to give the Canoo Canoo its first public showing on Sept. 29, at the Abbott Kinney Festival in the Los Angeles suburb of Venice. Perhaps, by then, it will have more information on its marketing plans, though, in typical automotive fashion, pricing likely won’t be revealed until closer to the Canoo’s on-sale – er, in-subscription – date.