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Electric Box On Wheels Startup Canoo Shows What They Can Do Without The Box

Illustration for article titled Electric Box On Wheels Startup Canoo Shows What They Can Do Without The Box
Photo: Canoo

The box on a skateboard concept may not sound like much to get excited about, but that basic concept will come to define a lot of the cars in our electric—and, later—autonomous future. That’s what the startup company Canoo is planning, and the results seem pretty cool, like a very modern take on the iconic Microbus. So far we’ve mostly focused on the box part of this equation, the body and design of the Canoo. It seems Canoo wants us to pay more attention to the skateboard part, because they yanked off the body, jammed a seat on it, and have been tearing ass around the desert in it.

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Photo: Canoo

Canoo’s modular platform is similar to the sorts of skateboards almost every EV maker is putting together these days: batteries in the floor in the middle, motors at one or both ends, and all the other crap packed down as tight as possible, ideally.

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Photo: Canoo

Canoo’s platform makes 500 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque, so it should be quick and potentially fun. It’s all drive-by-wire and highly modular and flat, so the thinking is various bodies could be easily popped on this thing to produce a wide range of vehicles.

Or, like they’re showing now, you could skip the body entirely and just slap on a seat and some controls.

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Photo: Canoo
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Canoo’s calling this the “Skatekart” and they got racing driver Sara Price to hoon the crap out of it.

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Photo: Canoo
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Here’s what Price said about driving it:

“I was blown away by how fun it was to drive,” said Price. “The overall performance was impressive. The skateboard felt powerful, with smooth and dynamic handling, especially during high speed cornering. The drive-by-wire steering was something new for me and it felt like it was built for the track.”

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...and here’s what it looked like:

Going fast is fun and all, but us space-utilization freaks know the real excitement is this: Canoo says this is the flattest electric vehicle platform, already a pretty flat category. Here’s how they tell it:

“Canoo has developed the world’s flattest skateboard platform, which enables class-leading passenger and cargo volume on a small vehicle footprint. For example, the Canoo, which will offer the interior space of a large SUV, but on the exterior footprint of a compact car.

To help achieve this, Canoo’s suspension utilizes a double wishbone with two fiberglass leaf springs, mounted transversely in the front and rear of the platform. The dampers are mounted to the frame, eliminating the need for large shock towers that take up vital cabin space. The entire suspension system is incorporated into the skateboard and sits below the height of the tires.”

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Photo: Canoo

This genuinely is cool, especially if Canoo is smart and will sell the platform independently, re-creating the sort of kit-car ecosystem that the old VW Beetle platform once created.

I suggested this idea for Tesla like four years ago, and if they’re snoozing on it, Canoo should leap on the idea.

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In the meantime, this looks pretty fun. Canoos with bodies are expected to launch in 2022 in a subscription model, then as a delivery vehicle and a sport vehicle.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

This is a great idea. GM said they were going to do it nearly 20 years ago, remember their “skateboard” concept?

And well... GM... =\

Anyway, among other things, this could mean the return of the boutique auto maker. IIRC every Duesenberg was made this way, i.e. rolling chassis with a custom one-off body. The potential for small production runs and one-off customs is endless. And if they had a modifiable chassis section, were you could add or remove bolt in pieces to alter the wheel base and track to your needs, it’s be perfect! I hope they pull it off.