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4 October 2019

Canoo a US car – or a bus on skateboard wheels

While most US car firms are trying to close their eyes and pretend that EVs are not happening and the native US oil industry is trying to fight charging points, territory by territory with legal obstacles, there are at least some US EV innovators. Canoo is a new one out this week, offering a pod style vehicle that will only be available as a full subscription. We have been pushing the idea of a subscription for EVs simply because like many renewable projects, paying the equivalent of an LCOE makes them attractive, but if you get hit with a huge capex bill up front, it feels more expensive, not less.

A subscription covers the electricity to run it, use of the vehicle, insurance, the advanced technology on board which will allow it to work in the autonomous car market later, and spreads the cost over a lifetime usage, so a bit like buying a wind farm based on its LCOE.

The Canoo is designed like a “loft space” with seats around the outside all facing the middle so multiple people can be transported and chat as they go, perhaps like a morning commute on some future shared taxi service.

Canoo is in the Los Angeles area only at present, and it uses a “skateboard” design, which is a huge square battery with wheels in each corner regardless of the external design. The company has a vehicle already although it only formed as a business around 19 months ago. This is the kind of trajectory that 500 companies in China have had, and expect many more US businesses like this, which innovate at the business model and car design, simultaneously – though perhaps not as many as China.

“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.”

This is because everyone in the US are designing vehicles for when full self-driving autonomy is a reality – some say five years, others say 30, – and once that happens, if you have a car that can pick you up, which does not need a human driver, the need for car ownership may evaporate. Planning business models based on a long to indeterminate future, is a bit risky we admit.

A Canoo subscription will allow services such as registration, maintenance, insurance management and charging from a single app. The all important subscription price has not yet been set, so we shall see.