Modular car design makes waves in EV market

Nicola Brittain

How one unique EV is shaking up the industry’s traditional design and ownership models.

Occasionally a disruptive brand will enter the EV space - think Tesla – that changes the parameters for other manufacturers in the sector. One that has made most of them sit up and take notice is California-based Canoo.

During the company’s launch in 2017, its chairman of the advisory board Stefan Krause opened proceedings by stating that his objective was to “design a car that would fit into the city of the future.” And the company has done just that with its a series of commercial electric vehicles including fleet vans, vehicle rental and ride sharing services all featuring its recognisable design.

Canoo’s founders Krause and Ulrich Kranz were already big names in the finance and automotive industry’s with Krause having worked for Deutsche Bank as chief financial officer, and Kranz coming from BMW where he was a senior executive. The team then hired the former head of Opel Karl-Thomas Neumann, as a senior executive in 2018.

The recent recipient of more than a dozen awards, not least the iF Design Award 2022: (Vehicle Pickup Truck and Electric Vehicle Charger Winner), and a Gold in the German Design Award 2022, Canoo has gone from strength to strength.

A Modular design

The Canoo EV, the company’s flagship product, is an electric van or minivan with a boxy type appearance (a smooth rounded exterior) and a unique, modular design that uses custom space dividers to seperate compartments in the base.

The vehicle also includes a sofa-like rear seat and an uncluttered dashboard.

In addition, Canoo offers alternative body styles such as a pickup truck, a delivery van, and even an RV.

The company argues that the boxy design allows for a more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing process, giving Canoo a competitive advantage over traditional automakers.

All of the company’s vehicles have the same base but their different cabins mean they can be created for a variety of applications, appealing to a wider range of customers.

Kranz explains that the vehicle was made with ‘autonomy in mind’ and it comes fitted with eight cameras, as well as several radars and ultrasonic sensors. There is also a video camera focused on the driver to monitor their actions and avoid unnecessary alerts when a vehicle is being operated safely.

The heart of the Canoo system is a ‘skateboard’ architecture, which houses the batteries and the electric drivetrain in a chassis underneath the vehicle’s cabin.

An all electric platform

The Canoo EV runs an all-electric platform with a rear-wheel drive system and a range of 200 miles on a full charge. Power-wise, the vehicle offers 350 horsepower and charges to 80% in just 28 minutes. The vehicle is also equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), including lane-keeping assist and automated emergency braking.

Subscription model

The company provides customers with its cars for a monthly subscription fee and the service includes perks like automatic vehicle registration, maintenance, insurance management and charging through a single app on a customer’s phone.

Take up of Canoo’s vehicle

Canoo has seen some major orders over the last couple of years, including a contract with NASA to supply crew transportation vehicles for its Artemis program for $147,855. 

It also recently entered into a definitive agreement with Walmart who agreed to purchase 4,500 all-electric Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles (LDV), with an option to buy up to 10,000 in the future. 

In addition, Canoo announced two major orders in mid-October 2022. Zeeba, a relatively unknown fleet-leasing operation based in Greater Los Angeles, ordered a combination of 5,450 LDVs and Lifestyle Vehicles (LV), with a binding commitment of 3,000 by 2024. Finally, Kingbee, a Utah-based work-ready van fleet rental company, ordered 9,300 LDVs last year. Kingbee outfits its vans for fleet customers in construction trades (electrical, plumbing, energy), delivery, and mobile health. In January of this year, Canoo announced a Postal Service (USPS) order for six right-hand-drive LDV vans.