This new startup wants to be the Netflix of the auto industry

We like the idea of binge-riding
by Rowan Horncastle | Sep 27, 2019
PHOTO: Canoo

California is becoming a petri dish for EV startups. Off the back of the rise of Tesla, we’ve got companies like Rivian sprouting up all over the shop—plus the people tuning all the electric cars. But there’s also Canoo, a SoCal startup that thinks it has the answer to the future of mobility with this, the, er, Canoo.

It’s a subscription-only EV microbus designed by the bloke who penned the BMW i3 and i8. And we can see the arty mood board he used for inspiration from here: The Jetsons, a VW microbus, the Dymaxion, a few bubble cars, and a supersized paracetamol tablet. But like all bubbly buses, it’s got serious visual appeal. However, if you don’t like the way it looks, Canoo has a solution.

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This being built off an in-house bespoke electric skateboard chassis (or ‘proprietary,’ as they say in the land of smoothies and shaka hand signals), you can just shove another body on top if you like. It’s very much like VW’s modular electric (MEB) construction, where the chassis contains the motors and batteries, freeing up passenger space and theoretically enabling Canoo—or you—to stick basically any body on top of it.

But we’re digging the bus vibes, especially because in the future—when the machines are driving the Canoo for you as it’s been optimized for autonomy—the inside of the car will be an even bigger selling point, and Canoo has made a home from home.

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As they’ve handily demonstrated, there’s enough room for a full-blown surfboard inside. When that’s not taking up space, there’s room for seven people. We’re told all seating is designed to feel more like furniture than traditional car seats. That’s why the back seats look like a night-club sofa, while the front perches take inspiration from mid-century chairs. Canoo says the interior is designed to mimic ‘an urban loft on wheels.’ Overpriced and drafty, then.

The vehicle is powered by one electric motor and an 80kWh battery, which Canoo claims is good for 424Nm of torque, 300hp, 402km of range, and a top speed of 200kph. Plus, DC fast charging allows it to be juiced up in 28 minutes. Better still, it’s rear-wheel-drive. So, if you’ve ever wanted to know what a giant lozenge looks like sideways, we’re only a few years away.

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But the 2019 sound bites continue, as it’s the Canoo’s purchasing model that is quite leftfield. Just like how we now consume music and films and go to the gym, Canoo will only operate solely as a monthly subscription service. This negates all that boring admin like vehicle registration, maintenance, insurance management, with everything being charged to your credit card through a single app on your phone. The idea, the company says, is to bring the convenience and affordability of a Netflix movie service to the auto industry.

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Canoo currently has beta cars on-site at its Los Angeles headquarters, where prospective partners and customers can test out the vehicles, with the first cars hitting the road in 2021.

How do you feel about motoring going the way as music and film? Let us know below.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Canoo
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