I’ve been covering startup EV maker Canoo for a few years here, and I’ve been continually impressed with its very straightforward rounded-box-on-wheels approach to design. It has been great at maximizing interior volume and creating what have resembled modernized electric Volkswagen Type 2 Transporters, even before VW began to do the same. Now Canoo is showing an electric pickup truck with such a brilliantly useful design that I can’t help but think of it in terms of its opposite, Tesla’s Cybertruck, which has a radical design, too.
The difference is that the Cybertruck design seems to be one of a truck that would be great at hauling massive loads of ego and dogecoin, and that’s about it, while this Canoo design actually seems like a truck capable of doing real, useful work.
Looking at the Cybertruck, all I can see is so many sharp corners to jam my body into, a short bed with extremely high sides that would be hell to load, bad visibility, minimal tie-down points and a lot of wasted space at the front.
I think part of the reason why Canoo has found such a flexible and utilitarian design is because it didn’t really come up with it. Say what we will about the Cybertruck, but it is an all-new, novel design. But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense at all for a truck a human intends to use to, you know, truck things.
While lots of sites are calling the truck “oddly shaped” or “bubbly,” the truth is that the design is actually an adaptation of a very tried-and-true pickup design method.
The Canoo design is very much a modern take on the old cab-forward or forward control truck design, where the driver’s cab is situated over or very near the front wheels, and the hood is eliminated, with the engine either under the bed behind the cab somewhere or in a “doghouse” inside the cab.
There are plenty of well-known examples of this approach, with famous ones from Volkswagen, Ford, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, GM and many more:
It’s just a smart design, because it doesn’t waste any of the car’s overall length with a hood, and can instead give that room to the bed or more cab volume. This kind of truck design also lends itself to useful utilitarian design features, like cargo bed sides that fold down, storage lockers under the bed and those sorts of things.
This is not a truck design for showy trucks; this is a workhorse design, as you can see by looking at any number of fleet-owned worker trucks all over the world, like this one, for example:
Canoo has really leaned into the Swiss Army knife utility of the thing and provided its truck with all kinds of compartments and fold-out things, all of which feel pretty damn useful to me. Here, let’s look at some of these details:
If you’re using your pickup to do work that requires tools, a locking toolbox is key — you’ve seen plenty of those add-on diamond-plate, in-bed toolboxes, right? Those eat up space in the bed, but an integrated one like what Canoo has on the front is a great idea. Plus, I like how the designers made the drop-down lid fold out into a workbench/table thing.
That’s useful! It’s a great design, and I would use the crap out of something like that. You could cut wood on it, eat on it, look at/draw plans on it — it’s great.
Plus, look — there’s six 110V outlets there so you can plug in your drill or circular saw or hibachi or whatever.
I’m guessing that because of the ride height and the size of the battery below the bed, these flip-down sides aren’t quite tall enough to qualify as drop-down sides for real loading, so Canoo is calling these “flip-down side tables.”
I bet they could still be helpful for loading things in from the side, and more work surfaces are never a bad idea.
Canoo is doing some interesting things with the bed, too. There are dividers and tie-downs, which can be handy; there’s LED lighting above and on the perimeter of the bed. But most exciting, there’s a nice system to extend the bed via a split tailgate and a slide-out bed floor extender.
The inside edges of the split tailgate have redundant taillight units in them, too, to compensate for hiding the normal ones, which is a smart touch. This has the advantage over just extending a bed by leaving the tailgate down in that you still retain bed sides in the extended bit.
I admire Canoo’s commitment to using every possible bit of empty volume in the truck, which there must have been a pocket of in front of the rear axle, allowing them to add this handy little slide-out drawer/step.
When it comes to a truck, I don’t think you can ever have too many places to stash stuff, or steps to get up to the bed. Usually on the sides of a truck I find myself stepping on tires to get over the sides, but this would be way better.
Canoo also shows this cool-looking camper shell with a roof tent setup, though I can’t quite tell from the copy if the company is planning to produce it or if it’s just a concept for what an aftermarket shell could be.
Canoo says these will be available in dual or single motor configurations, with the dual-motor setup making 600 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque, which should be plenty. They also claim “200+ miles” of battery range, and a payload capacity of 1800 pounds.
The overall length is about the exact same as a 1995 Ford Ranger — 184 inches — which is an entirely rational length for a pickup truck.
Of course, it’s not out yet, so we have to take all of these specs with a grain of salt until we can verify them, empirically.
Canoo says it’ll be taking pre-orders in the second quarter of this year, with deliveries “as early as 2023,” so who knows exactly what that means. Price does not seem to have been set at this time, either.
In terms of raw utility for an electric truck, the Canoo pickup seems well-matched against the Bollinger entry, or the Rivian R1T and both of those seem vastly more usable than the Cybertruck. There’s also the Hummer EV, which is, of all of them, the most like a conventional modern pickup truck in design.
None of these five trucks is actually in real production just yet (Rivian seems close), though, so I guess we’ll have to see what actually makes it to reality.
I’ll admit, though, I’m a sucker for a good forward-control truck design, and this one sure hits all the right weird-but-useful truck buttons for me.
I hope Canoo actually builds it! Too bad it’s almost certain to be way, way too expensive. But one can hope, irrationally.