Canoo Shows Off Its Modular Electric Skateboard

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Canoo, the southern California electric car startup, has a different approach to business than its competitors. For one thing, it is relying on a modular skateboard that can be configured to accept a number of what the company calls “top hats,” or body styles that can range from delivery vans to sports cars. Because the steering, acceleration and braking controls are all wireless, they can be mounted anywhere on the skateboard to fit the needs of whatever “top hat” is installed.

Canoo skateboard
Courtesy of Canoo


For a second thing, Canoo plans to offer its vehicles on a subscription basis. No purchase contract. No lease. No down payment. No long term commitment. Think of it like subscribing to your favorite car mag and being free to cancel at any time. It’s novel and it just might appeal to a number of drivers. This week, Canoo released a video of its skateboard driving with no bodywork installed. Notice the various places on the chassis the driver sits during the demonstration runs. The skateboard as presently configured has 500 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque — more than enough to put a grin on the face of most drivers.

On Thursday, Canoo co-founder and CEO Ulrich Kranz told the press, “We have revolutionized the platform design concept with a chassis that can be easily married with different cabins, with little adjustment, enabling us to get new vehicles on the road faster and cheaper. By keeping the most critical and expensive part of the vehicle uniform in all our models, it allows us to rapidly and cost effectively bring to market a full line-up of EVs.”

The company plans to have vehicles on the road in 2023 and first out of the chute may be a range of electric delivery trucks with a cargo capacity of between  219 and 353 cubic feet according to CNET Road Show. The tentative model lineup shows three cargo carrying vehicles — a pickup truck, a delivery van, and a larger cargo truck. All will ride on the company’s dedicated skateboard. Also included in the rendering is the capacious minivan type vehicle Canoo has been teasing, like the one Jay Leno drove recently. It also shows what appears to be a sedan, which may be the “sporty” car Canoo says it is considering for some future time.

Canoo model lineup
Courtesy of Canoo

Delivery vans are a good place to begin marketing electric vehicles. Fleet managers are more conscious of the “total cost of ownership ” concept that makes electric cars more economical to own and operate. But there will be lots of competition in that space by the time 2023 rolls around. Rivian is preparing to produce 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon and everybody and their brother is hard at work on bringing electric pickup trucks to market. Canoo would be wise to get its vehicles to market sooner rather than later. 2023 seems like a long time to give the competition a head start.

Canoo is planning an IPO soon but it will be awhile before investors can expect any return on their money. Yet EV companies are doing quite well while other stocks are getting battered, so there will probably be a ready supply of interested parties waiting to gobble up those first shares. That long lead time has not stopped Hyundai from partnering with Canoo to help it design future electric cars, though. Canoo is no Tesla rival, at least not yet, but it could easily carve out a nice slice of the EV market if its subscription model is popular with customers.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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