Hyundai and Canoo announced today the establishment of a joint effort to develop a standardized, scalable electric vehicle platform to underpin future Hyundai and Kia vehicles, but buried in the release was a hint at a completely new market segment for the Korean automaker: purpose-built vehicles.
Purpose built vehicles are vehicles designed for a specific application, like last-mile delivery, autonomous shuttles, and chauffeur-driven luxury vehicles. These vehicles are designed from the start with a specific application in mind, and because of the standardization efforts up front, they can be produced at scale at a much lower price point than could otherwise be achieved.
The announcement within the announcement is big news because we have already seen veiled hints from Canoo that a delivery vehicle could be in the works. In fact, when I sat down with In Charge at Canoo Ulrich Kranz, he showed off four 3D-printed models of possible future vehicles with me within the first few minutes of my arrival at Canoo’s Headquarters in Torrance, California. Connecting the dots, it is easy to see Canoo already has a number of purpose-built vehicle designs waiting in the rafters, and it was not only the potential Hyundai saw in the skateboard, but the full vision of an army of fully electric last-mile delivery vehicles, autonomous shuttles, and chauffeur-driven luxury vehicles that caught their attention.
Canoo has not been keeping these designs a secret, but it has not been advertising them either. A fully electric Hyundai last-mile delivery vehicle with the 250 miles of range Kranz estimates its delivery vehicle concept would achieve on the 80kWh version of the Canoo skateboard would be a game changer. It is not hard to imaging the fleets of Mercedes Sprinter Amazon Prime delivery vehicles, FedEx, UPS, and DHL vehicles being swapped out for lower cost, more sustainable Hyundai delivery vehicles underpinned by a Canoo skateboard.
Last-mile delivery vehicles are infamously inefficient, with a high number of starts and stops per route, and the increasing number of miles per day they rack up makes them juicy targets for conversion to electric vehicles. Combustion engines pollute the most and guzzle the most gas at start-up. Upgrading to an electric vehicle that doesn’t similarly suffer is an obvious move. Lower maintenance, better driver profiling capabilities, more active safety features, integrated telematics, and better driver comfort are just a few of a much longer list of reasons.
Granted, much of this is speculative at this point, but based on what we have seen to date, I’d put my money on a Canoo-powered Hyundai last mile delivery vehicle sprouting out of this new venture as one of the very early moves to market. For the record, I am not an investor in either Canoo or Hyundai. If the speed at which Canoo is already moving with its first beta vehicle, taking it from company founding to showcasing it to the public in just 19 months, we could be seeing the resulting vehicles roaming around a city near you sooner than you might think.