Canoo, an electric car startup in Los Angeles, is breaking the mold for electric cars in two ways. First, its electric SUV looks like nothing else on the road. Second, you can’t buy one, but you can get one via a subscription service. Let’s begin with the vehicle itself, using this YouTube video as an introduction.
Engadget calls it a “quirky, funky pod-like car” and it is all of that. The 7-passenger electric vehicle is said to have an EPA range of 250 miles | 402 km. The rear seat is wraparound affair that may have been inspired by a 1980s-style discotheque — the company refers to it as an urban loft on wheels. Stylish it may be, but how it will protect its trés chic passengers in the event of a collision is a bit of a mystery.
Connectivity is the at the heart of the Canoo experience. In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, the company says it has “chosen a minimalist approach for the user interface to provide Canoo subscribers with an experience comparable to a connected home. The user brings their own device, which is naturally personalized, intuitive and secure. Therefore, the non-driving features such as navigation, music or heating can be controlled via phone or tablet to be consistent with the user’s daily connected life.”
The Canoo is equipped with 7 cameras, 5 radars, and 12 ultrasonic sensors to provide the car with what the company calls Level 2+ autonomous capability. It says advanced autonomous operation will be possible as the technology advances. The car is the first to offer steering that is controlled entirely by electronics. There is no physical connection between the front wheels and the steering wheel.
To minimize intrusion by the suspension into the passenger space, the car has transverse leaf springs front and rear. If that sounds like a throwback to the days of the buckboard, it is. But keep in mind that the Chevrolet Corvette has been using a transverse spring in its rear suspension for more than a decade.
What Is A Subscription Service?
“Canoo believes that there is a better solution than traditional car ownership,” says a company press release.
“Currently, consumers are forced to go to a dealership and spend time at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to register their vehicle. Additionally, they must deal with ongoing hassles like insurance, maintenance and repairs. And finally, the vehicle’s value drops immediately as the owner drives off a dealer’s lot.
“Instead, Canoo will free its customers from the burden of ownership by offering a hassle- and commitment-free EV subscription for one monthly, affordable price and with no set end date. The subscription may include services such as registration, maintenance, insurance management and charging—all from a single app. Canoo brings the convenience and affordability of the well-known month-to-month subscription model to the car industry, providing consumers with the convenience and value they deserve.”
If that seems a little far out to you, keep in mind that Tesla is considering bundling insurance and service into its monthly purchase and lease payments as a way of simplifying the ownership experience for its cars. What happens if a participant fails to pay the subscription payment on time is an open question. Once fully autonomous driving systems are perfected, perhaps the cars will simply drive themselves back to the Canoo mothership until the payment in full is received?
Canoo says it expects to begin beta testing its pod cars before the end of this year, with the first production vehicles becoming available to customers in 2021. The subscription service concept may be the wave of the future. “We’ll see,” said the Zen master. But some will say it proves that there really is nothing new under the sun. Behold the Dymaxion by Buckminster Fuller.