The automobile has not changed very much in its history. Emerging mobility trends and technology are opening up new opportunities to create a new automotive paradigm. The company on the bleeding edge of new design techniques and a non-ownership model is Canoo – formerly known as EVelozcity.
Stefan Krause, whose title reads ‘in charge’ at Canoo, gives insight into the changes Canoo plans to make in design and how their subscription service will work, alongside Noah Kindler – ‘in charge’ of Internet of Vehicles (IOV) and blockchain initiatives – who explains how data will be managed and secured.
An Improved Car Co.
Krause grew up in Columbia learning about the car business from his father, who imported Volkswagens. He worked for BMW for many years in engineering, sales, marketing, and financial services and became BMW’s youngest-ever Global CFO. Later, he moved to executive positions at Deutsche Bank, before a very brief stint as the Chief Financial Officer at Faraday Future.
“We’re a very different car company,” he says. Working at multiple automakers and understanding how they operate, Krause believes that Canoo can do better. “We have room for many changes. There haven’t been many changes in a long time in design and the business model.”
Canoo will be offering a subscription model for electric vehicles marketed to young people who don’t want to own cars. “It’s a different way to supply cars. It’s easy. Everything is included. It’s a worry-free experience. It’s a subscription service, but there will be a membership in which people will have to join.”
Canoo’s headquarters is located in Los Angeles, with software development in Silicon Valley and a Chinese operation office in Shanghai.
“We chose Southern California because it’s a great climate for business. There are more engineers and great talent,” says Krause. “The state of California is very friendly to start-ups and financing.” According to public records, the Canoo building in the city of Torrance (former home of Toyota and home of Honda headquarters) California was purchased for $18 Million in May 2018.
New Design Paradigm: Super-Sized
Krause says that EVs are still designed to look like petrol-powered cars, which is no longer necessary. He has already voiced his opinion of vehicles such as the Audi e-tron, which he says has a large unnecessary grille.
Krause says that Canoo’s “lifestyle vehicle” will be 4 meters 40 long (14.43 ft). According to a Canoo spokesperson, the vehicle will be able to hold two bicycles and a surfboard. In addition, dog owners will be happy to learn that their pets will be allowed to travel in Canoo vehicles.
At the recent LAEDC (Los Angeles County Economic Development Council) e4 Mobility Alliance meeting, Paul Balciunas, in charge of strategy and finance at Canoo, described the Canoo lifestyle vehicle as the size of a Volkswagen Golf with the space of an SUV, while showing a Darwinian-style evolution from a station wagon, to a minivan, SUV and Canoo vehicle.
Canoo also plans to offer a commuting vehicle, a business vehicle for Uber and Lyft and a last-mile delivery vehicle.
“Then when cars become autonomous, it can be as comfortable as your couch at home in your living room,” says Krause.
The Technology Paddling Canoo
Krause notes that the company is using technology to help shorten design and production. Many aspects of the design are done in virtual reality. The cars are based on a skateboard platform, meaning that 70% of the chassis used by Canoo will be the same, which will cut down the time taken to bring the vehicle to market.
Canoo’s vehicle production will also be faster because there will be no paint facility needed at the factory. Instead, the company will use thermoplastic bodies similar to those ones on BMW’s I3 and I8, will come pre-painted. Customers will have colour choice through a direct sales model.
“We will come to them and there will be online assistance. For repair and maintenance, the company will pick up the car and replace it or fix the car at work,” says Krause.
Insurance and electric charging will also be included in the subscription. Canoo is also looking at including cleaning through a high steam no-water spillage process as part of the subscription.
The company plans to make the user experience easier by connecting the cars to an open platform connected to the drivers’ phone, to allow climate control, entertainment and navigation. Basic functions will be accessible without a phone.
With all this data, comes security concerns. However, says Kindler, Canoo is working hard to overcome privacy concerns.
“Data [location] is the user’s data. The aggregate data can be useful for customised services, with privacy control options,” says Kindler, “We are using a blockchain-based de-centralised system. It provides great security benefits that allow you to be in control. You own your data.”
Canoo vehicles will be secured by keeping completely separate systems for propulsion, over-the-air updates and a secure IoT architecture.
“We going to see an incredible simplification of systems, you won’t be like modern supercars with hundreds of menus or buttons and it will not scare us,” proclaims Kindler.
Another feature of the vehicles includes a LoJack-like tracking system. In the case of theft, Canoo would be able to find the vehicle very easily.
“Just like Airbnb there will be a rating system to make sure that cars are used in accordance with guidelines. If the users abuse the cars they may be excluded from the system,” says Krause.
“I like to think of Canoo like a phone contract. Once people are in, they’re more loyal and don’t leave. Every few years you might change the vehicle but keep the plan.”
What’s New, Canoo?
Following new factories in both America and China, Canoo will look to complete its test vehicle and have it out at the end of the year.
Canoo has made sure it will source components from American, Chinese, German and French suppliers.
“We will create more jobs in the US,” says Krause.
“The first subscription might be a year-and-a-half away. The first car will not go to an employee but to a customer first,” says Krause. “We are a customer based company.”
“The auto industry is not interested in promoting electric vehicles, especially to young people. We are on a mission – we want to make electric cars affordable. We can reduce pollution and noise as well as encourage safe driving,” says Krause. He adds that they are not banking on electric car incentives because they will go away over time.