What will the car of the future look like? Many companies contend that the car of the future will be electric but so far most EVs look like other vehicles on the road. Californian startup Canoo revealed its minimalist car of the future last night, and Auto Futures was in attendance to get a first look.
Canoo merges the high ‘above-the-crowd’ seating of a minivan and the massive interior space of a large SUV onto the small footprint of a compact EV, offered through an affordable subscription service.
During a presentation and tour, Canoo founders, designers and engineers showed just how unique a vehicle design can be while still being simple. Stefan Krause, Co-Founder and Chairman of the advisory board recalled that, when he was a child, families had to have an estate station wagon before progressing to minivans and, then, moved on to SUVs.
“We believe that the SUV era is over we have the answer. A car for the city of the future,” says Krause.
“It has more emotion and more passion. The concept behind the vehicle is to keep it simple,” says Richard Kim, in charge of design at Canoo. For instance, the dash does not look like Las Vegas. It’s like a loft on wheels with open spaces, based on mid-century modern design with a ‘Bauhaus philosophy’ explains Kim.
Canoo uses a proprietary skateboard that houses the batteries and electric drivetrain, creating more room in the cabin for an open feeling. There’s a front window below the windscreen providing a view of the road and two bars across where the dash would be.
Former Uber executive James Cox, in charge of product at Canoo, says that current car ownership is not flexible. Canoo offers ease of use everything including, maintenance, registration Insurance EV-charging making it like Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.
“It’s a lean model with no stores and month-to-month subscriptions sold directly to consumers,” says Cox who notes that Canoo’s design will work well for ridesharing services.
Canoo has some very advanced technological features. The composite transverse “leaf spring suspension” creates a completely flat skateboard. With five radar, seven cameras and twelve sensors, steer-by-wire and central domain controller – Canoos are ready for advanced driver assistance and Level 2+ autonomous driving.
“The cabin filter is in the trunk with specific functions to monitor when it needs to be changed, depending on the pollution in the vehicle,” explains Krause.
For climate control, there are header vents on the top to blow the cold air to the backseat and there are heat vents on the bottom that use some of the waste heat from the powertrain. For navigation Canoo drivers will rely on their own devices.
“We believe most people, even if they have in-vehicle navigation, use their own devices. We see them all looking at their smartphones,” says Krause, who notes Canoo drivers can use Waze or the navigation app they choose.
For basic functions such as the speedometer, there is an LED Matrix RGB display across the front of the vehicle just below the windscreen.
One of the engineers pointed out that the way Canoos are designed makes assembly easier cutting down production time by 30%. The cylindrical batteries are connected to the skateboard in 5-kilowatt modules for a total of 80 kilowatts with an expected range of 250 miles and an 80% charge in 28 minutes. The batteries are fastened directly to the skateboard for rigidity and function as a battery box. The batteries care cooled by a cold plate that also strengthens the skateboard foundation.
Canoo engineers are expecting a 5-star crash rating from NCAP and IIHS because of the way it is designed and the use of advanced crash simulation software.
To start, Canoos will have rear-wheel drive and will eventually move to all-wheel-drive configurations.
Kim explains that the unique front and rear lights keep with the concept of multiple uses for each element of the design. The front emblem was removed to make way for a clear window to the street. The Canoo logo was incorporated into the lights in the front and back.
The open rear space with four straps make it easy to secure a stroller, dog carrier, or foldable wheelchair says Kim. The back area holds two standing bicycles and could accommodate a small kayak or canoe. Additional seats fold down on the back of the front seats. Child seats can also be secured to the back seats.
“In most cars, you fall into the seat, with a Canoo you walk into it,” says Kim. Walking into a Canoo is easy for people of all abilities and sizes. Elderly people can hold on to the seat on the rear passenger door for easy access to the back area. Larger people, such as a Canoo employee who is 6’ 5’’, can easily fit into a Canoo with seating for seven adults.
The pegboards on the side doors allow for configuring additional devices such as a clock or a cup holder. There are two spaces for cup holders on the front dash bar and two built-in cup holders in the back seats. Using the pegboards here could be two rows of seven cup holders on each side of the Canoo for a whopping total of 32 cup holders – beating the 19 cup holders record set by the three-row Subaru Ascent full-size SUV.
“Most people today, like the design are interested in what we are doing and are impressed by what we did in 19 months. We are happy with the feedback,” says Krause who likes the Canoo’s symmetrical design. Visitors’ comments ranged from calling the Canoo neat, to accolades for the huge interior that feels more like a living room than a vehicle.
“It’s the first production EV that really takes advantage of not having to carve out space for a gasoline engine and its related components. Most other EVs look similar to gas-powered vehicles. The Canoo goes to the next level with a shape and interior layout that could only be accomplished with an electric powertrain,” says Ed Kim, Vice President, Industry Analysis at AutoPacific.
The journalists present were not allowed to drive a Canoo, however, Krause says, “Canoo is very responsive with sophisticated suspension; it drives like a European sports car.”
Canoo’s engineers will be beta-testing the vehicle in the fourth quarter of this year before launching production and coming to market in 2021. No pricing has been announced yet.