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This electric ‘lounge on wheels’ could be yours — by subscription only

by Ace Damon
Canoo car interior

Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business

Published September 24, 2019 at 10:47.

(CNN) – Canoo, a California-based electric car startup, unveiled its first vehicle – a futuristic-looking electric vehicle designed to serve as a mobile living room.

The van-like vehicle, also called Canoo, will be available for subscription only and will not be offered for sale, the company said.

The design of the Canoo takes advantage of the fact that an electric vehicle does not need space to house a large motor and a refrigeration unit. The batteries are on the floor of the vehicle, and the canoe's box-shaped body sits on top of this flat platform.

"We implemented Bauhaus's philosophy of minimalism and functionality, and started by reducing the absolute minimum requirement," Canoo chief designer Richard Kim said in a statement.

The canoe looks like a wheeled device. Unlike a sports performance sedan, it has no design elements that express speed or agility. Unlike an SUV, nothing in it suggests a slight off-road capability. Its blunt silhouette is reminiscent of a classic VW minibus. The top of the vehicle, shoulder height, almost all glass. From front to back, it's slightly shorter than a Toyota Prius and has much more interior space, the company said.

"We call it the post-SUV," said Ulrich Kranz, Canoo's interim chief executive, "because it offers a dominant seating position, like in an SUV, and pretty much the same space as a big SUV, but with a very good grip. smaller. "

Among the founders of Canoo were executives who left Faraday Future, another California-based electric car startup created in 2014 that is still working to launch its first production vehicle. Canoo's founding chief executive Stefan Krause, a former BMW executive and later Faraday, stepped down from running day-to-day operations in August but is due to return to office, Kranz said.

The company is mainly funded by three private investors Kranz would not mention, but is also seeking other investors, he said.


The machine

Inside the new Canoe, the rear seats are arranged like a sectional sofa along the back and sides. There are even seats that extend through the rear doors. The rear side doors open – like traditional car doors – instead of sliding like minivan doors. There is room for cargo behind the rear seats, while larger items such as bicycles can be strapped to the center of the passenger area.

The canoe has all-electronic steering, meaning there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels. Instead, the steering input travels electronically through the steering wheel wires to the drive wheels. This minimizes the amount of space occupied by the steering machines.

It also allows the Canoe to have a rectangular steering wheel. Rectangular steering wheels are common in concept cars, but are rare in real production cars because they are difficult to use during tight maneuvers, such as reversing and parking. A circular wheel is much easier to use in situations where it needs to be rotated multiple times. With electronic steering, however, the front wheels can rotate much more for tight low-speed maneuvers and less during smooth high-speed maneuvers in response to similar steering wheel movements, Kranz explained. It is never necessary to turn the wheel completely.

Drivers will use their own phones or tablets to handle things like music and navigation and even control their vehicle's heating and air conditioning using a downloadable app.

The Canoe will feature several driver assistance and safety technologies, the company said. It will be equipped with a variety of cameras, as well as radar and sonar sensors, such as lane assistance, automatic braking and traffic-aware cruise control, which slows the speed of the cars ahead. Like Tesla, Canoo plans to use software upgrades to improve vehicle capabilities over time.


The subscription model

Instead of being sold or leased to customers, Canoo will be offered by subscription. Subscribers would pay a monthly fee that could include registration, insurance, maintenance, and billing costs. Customers would keep their vehicle, as in a lease, but would not have to commit to a set time frame. The company has not yet decided how fees will be structured or what types of plans will be offered.

Subscription programs are an idea that has been tried, at least experimentally, by several luxury car companies, including Volvo, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Although appealing in theory, the concept has not yet been widely implemented.

The problem with car subscription programs It's been that monthly all-inclusive rates tend to be high, said Ivan Drury, an analyst at Edmunds.com. So far, the programs have attracted only the richest consumers.

Instead of operating through car dealers, Canoo negotiates directly with customers using mobile apps and websites, Kranz said. The fact that the company does not sell its cars should help you avoid the kind of conflicts with established car dealers that bothered Tesla in some US states, he said.

Canoo plans to partner with a contracted automaker so that car production can begin in 2021. When Canoo is in production, the company plans to offer other vehicles that share its basic engineering, but with different body designs, Kranz said. For now, the company is focused only on Canoo.

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