Canoo, a Los Angeles-based company creating electric vehicles (EV) for subscription only, has unveiled its first model, called canoo. The design is intended to challenge traditional automotive shape and functionality as well as capitalize on EV architecture in a way that provides significantly more interior space.

“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, In Charge at Canoo. “We promised a truly different approach for EVs, and our canoo proves that we can deliver on that vision. The unveiling also kicks off the period of beta testing, meaning we are on track for our launch date in 2021. We are very proud of the team. In my 30 years' experience, I have never seen so many quality achievements in such a short time.”

Canoo says its intent is to "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 uses an app to include services such as registration, maintenance, insurance management, and charging.

Canoo intended to maximize the benefits of EV technology by providing a vehicle that has both a very large interior and very small overall footprint, perfect for city use. The minimalist design is meant to offer customers a more spacious and intuitive vehicle.

By capitalizing on EV architecture, the canoo eliminates compartmentalization and comes across as "an urban loft on wheels," according to the company. The seven-passenger vehicle seating is designed to feel more like furniture than traditional car seats; the rear seats are more like a sofa to lounge on than a cramped and segmented backseat, and the front takes inspiration from mid-century modern chairs.

"Cars always have been designed to convey a certain image and emotion; however, we chose to completely rethink car design and focus on what future users will actually need. Thus, we came up with this loft-inspired vehicle,” said Richard Kim, in Charge of Design at Canoo. “When you subscribe, you think differently about a car—now the value is defined by the user benefit. We implemented the Bauhaus philosophy, which is centered around minimalism and functionality, and started with the reduction to the absolute minimal need. Next, we applied that approach to the seamless connectivity with the personal devices customers care most about—their phones.”

Canoo 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.

A proprietary skateboard architecture directly houses the batteries and electric drivetrain. All of Canoo’s vehicles will share the same underpinning, and different cabins or “top hats” can be married on top to create unique vehicles. Leveraging the same fixed and flat skateboard allows for reduced research and development costs, efficient production, and a better use of interior space.

The vehicle and skateboard are designed for an overall five-star safety rating. The skateboard houses the most critical components of the vehicle with a strong emphasis on functional integration, the premise that all components should fulfill as many functions as possible. This helps reduce the total number of parts, skateboard size, and weight.

While traditional suspension systems intrude into the passenger compartment, reducing the ability to maximize interior space, Canoo has a composite transverse “leaf spring” suspension that creates a completely flat skateboard, enabling maximum passenger space.

Whereas other companies need a cabin to be secured to a skateboard for it to drive, Canoo’s skateboard is a self-contained unit which means it can drive on its own with any cabin placed on top. The skateboard is also set up in a way that it could support a dual, front, or rear motor configuration.

Canoo aims to build a better driver assistant. Canoo has integrated advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and driver monitoring to enable the car to better protect the driver from roadside distractions.

The vehicle uses seven cameras, five radars, and 12 ultrasonic sensors, which are comparable to other Level 2+ systems:

  • The cameras provide surround-view images to the perception system, using deep learning algorithms to perceive the world around the vehicle.
  • The radars provide 360 degrees of sensor data for speed and distance measurement of objects.
  • The ultrasonic sensors provide short range distance measurements for parking maneuvers.

The combination of steer-by-wire (see below) and ADAS provide the foundation on which unique autonomous vehicles can take full advantage of the possibilities of space with Canoo’s skateboard.

The canoo will be the first true steer-by-wire vehicle on the market without a hardware connection between the steering wheel and wheels. This means the canoo steers by electric signals only. The system is fully redundant, meeting the highest safety standards and comes with immediate and long-term benefits. Steer-by-wire offers weight savings, and paves the way for autonomous driving. The steering wheel can be located to suit any cabin design and driver position. This design also leads to a more responsive and smoother driving experience. Since steer-by-wire eliminates the need for a mechanical connection, the interior space of the vehicle can be arranged in various ways to provide customers with new vehicle options.

The canoo has an approximate range of 250 miles (402 km) (EPA rating) and can reach an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes. The Canoo battery pack is fastened directly to the skateboard structure and avoids the redundant structure and space taken up by a separate battery enclosure. The battery provides torsional rigidity to the skateboard and to the overall vehicle. Since battery modules are directly mounted in the skateboard, the skateboard has more than one function, as it also serves as the battery box.

The parts inside the battery module serve multiple purposes to reduce the number of parts and to eliminate redundancies. For example, the Canoo cold plates serve to cool the batteries, hold the batteries, and increase the stiffness of the skateboard. The skateboard architecture also allows for future models to leverage the same battery pack.

After the official unveiling at its headquarters to kick off the beta testing, Canoo will present the vehicle to the public at two events on a Southern Californian tour: the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice, CA, on September 29, and the Car Classic at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA, on October 20.

Los Angeles will be the launch market for the canoo, starting in 2021. To get access, sign up at www.canoo.com.