It was quite the exciting time when Canoo first came out with its Lifestyle Vehicle, designed off the original idea of the Volkswagen Bus and other classic forward control vans and pickups, but with a modernized electrified power plant. However, its goals were quite stratospheric with plans for vehicle “tops” that could be changed over when an owner wanted to—including second owners and beyond—while keeping the skateboard platform the same. While that idea remains, Canoo now looks more like a serious company, becoming publicly traded, forming a partnership with Panasonic for battery cells, and debuting two production-ready examples near their future plant in Pryor, Oklahoma.
A New Path to a New Type of Vehicle Ownership Model
Before it was Canoo, Evelozcity launched in 2017 with Stefan Krause—who was formerly the CFO of Deutsche Bank—and Ulrich Kranz—a senior executive at BMW—heading the company after a falling out with their former employer, Faraday Future. With both men and several Faraday Future, Tesla, and BMW employees coming on board, Evelozcity formed and billed itself as a new form of vehicle ownership.
They declared they could change it in two ways thanks to using its skateboard platform with “vehicle top hats” that would replace traditional bodies and vehicle structure. First, it would allow owners, from the first to the last, to change the vehicle body and interior design to suit their individual needs. From the delivery driver to the overlanding camper to the hunter that needed a truck, the body and its interior would change as needed. Secondly, instead of simply owning the vehicle, the driver would be on a subscription-based model, with the goal of freeing “customers from the shackles of vehicle ownership” through a “hassle- and commitment-free EV subscription for one monthly, affordable price and with no set end date.”
Major Company Changes Came Quickly
Just after the start of 2019, major changes were underway. In March the company was renamed Canoo, and by September their first prototype was unveiled. February 2020, Hyundai announced that it was partnering with Canoo in the joint development of the skateboard platform for both Canoo and Hyundai vehicles. July of 2020 saw Krause leave Canoo and, in September, Canoo began its merger with Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp IV which was completed in December and listed on NASDAQ under GOEV. At the same time, Canoo introduced a new prototype, the Multi-Purpose Delivery Vehicle (MPDV).
Then 2021 started as bad for Canoo as it did for most of us, with Hyundai terminated its partnership with Canoo in March of last year. April not only saw Kranz step down but also an investigation into its merger with Hennessy Capital. Fortunately, by June, Canoo finally saw some good news as it purchased ground in Pryor, Oklahoma, to build their Lifestyle vehicle along with Dutch company, VDL Nedcar, producing Canoo vans for the European market. Finally, in early November, they announced that Canoo would move its headquarters to Bentonville, Arkansas with the additional goal of building a manufacturing plant there as well.
Canoo Right Now
While the original founders are no longer a part of the company, the subscription-based ownership model is still around along with the plans for owners to change “top hats” as they please. Additionally, Canoo does plan to sell their vehicles directly much like Tesla and Rivian are doing now. At the time of this article’s original release, the Lifestyle van is priced starting at $34,750 for the Delivery model and topping out at $49,950 for the Premium model. The Base model will be somewhere in between along with additional options to spec out your interior using Molle system panels on the doors and other panels located in each version of the Lifestyle.
In March of 2022, Canoo displayed two “Gamma” models, which they claimed are production-intent Lifestyles in the Base and Premium trims. The Premium trim was set up as it would be used straight from the factory while the Base was set up as a camper with a rooftop tent and ladder. From what we were able to see, they were far more production looking than their earlier models which were built from fiberglass, you couldn’t jostle in it, and had a battery pack that would only allow for 20 mph bursts when we last saw them.
These Gamma model bodies were made from steel, featured fully furnished interiors, and Canoo allowed guests to climb in, sit, and use. While these two models weren’t able to be driven around, Canoo stated that they do have a fleet in their current office in southern California that will soon be ready for drives by the media. These Gamma-build models are being produced by a builder in Arkansas and are fully intended to be driven and used just as their near future production counterparts are.
Reusability, Serviceability, and Future-Proofing
The idea of reusability goes beyond the body, as we asked Canoo about their plans for the lifecycle of the battery pack, or rather the battery modules. The modules are not a part of an enclosure, as you see with most EV manufacturers, and this saves weight from its onset. The modules are instead structurally integrated and bolt on to the skateboard platform. The modules are also scalable and modular to fit in multiple Canoo vehicles and allows for other types of battery cell chemistries, such as solid-state, as these feasibly arrive in the future.
Each module is currently made of 2170 Lithium Ion round cells—currently sourced from battery partner, Panasonic—but are “agnostic” and can be sourced from any battery manufacturer that produces the 2170 cell design. The modules are also serviceable, down to where each individual cell can be replaced when it goes bad. This means that, rather than changing an entire battery module, only the cells that go bad could be replaced. While recycling and non-vehicle reuse of the modules are in their plans, Canoo wouldn’t divulge any information on those particular ideas but reassured us they are already thinking about it.
Body Swap Takes On A Whole New Meaning
Going back to the swappable “top hats,” Canoo is able to offer this unique service thanks to its integration of its drive-by-wire system, motor controller, inverter, charger and suspension into the skateboard chassis. While the motor drive, suspension and battery charging integration with this type of platform is nothing new, the integration of a full drive-by-wire system is.
The steering has no mechanical attachment to the front wheels while the front brakes do still have a hydraulic connection to the pedal. Despite that, the hydraulic system will only be activated when needed or in an emergency as the electric motors are fully capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete stop by staying off the accelerator pedal. Much like your sim racing setup, the feel of the steering wheel as you drive and its movements will be done electronically. The plan to ensure you never lose control is to have multiple redundant systems controlling the brakes and steering much like airplanes have had since the late 1950s with their fly-by-wire systems.
Production Targets for 2022 to 2025
With its Gamma-build vehicles ready, Canoo announced that it will accelerate production of its EVs here in the US and will begin manufacturing at its facility in Northwest Arkansas. Canoo also says it remains on target to bring its factory in Pryor, Oklahoma online in late 2023. “Canoo is now in a position to issue guidance at a time when many others in the industry are reducing targets and projections,” said Tony Aquila, Chairman and CEO of Canoo. “The Company has now refined its manufacturing strategy and assembled a team to execute the production roadmap for 2022 through 2025.” The manufacturing strategy for 2022 is to start with 500-1,000 units and end with production of 3,000-6,000 units. They also projected the following through 2025:
- 2023 Target: 15,000 units at start to 14,000 – 17,000 by EOY
- 2024 Target: 40,000 – 50,000 Units
- 2025 Target: 70,000 – 80,000 Units
While the Lifestyle Delivery, Base and Premium vans are on target for a 2022 release, according to Canoo, they are also planning on releasing an Adventure trim of the Lifestyle vehicle. The Adventure will feature more ground clearance with a more muscular profile. The bumpers have been “enhanced” with a metal skid plate added for increased vehicle durability. No price or availability have been announced for this range topping trim. Canoo also stated that they are still on target to release a pickup-style body and the MPDV in 2023 as 2024 models, but no price, trim, or availability date have been set for either one as of the original writing of this article.