To develop future electric cars, Hyundai is leaning on Canoo, a Los Angeles-based startup developing a subscription-only vehicle. The two companies have signed an agreement to jointly develop a new electric car platform based on Canoo’s existing chassis. That platform will underpin electric cars for both Hyundai and sibling brand Kia.
The Canoo chassis is called a skateboard because it’s essentially a flat rectangle with four wheels attached. All mechanical components are housed within the chassis, making it easy to attach different bodies to create new models. Hyundai also expects this design to streamline the development and manufacturing processes for electric cars, according to a Canoo press release.
The skateboard concept did not originate with Canoo. General Motors did something similar for its Autonomy and Hy-Wire hydrogen fuel cell concept cars in the early 2000s, although no serious effort was made to put either car into production. Another startup, Rivian, has developed its own skateboard chassis for an electric SUV and pickup truck. Like Canoo, Rivian has licensed its chassis design to a large established automaker. As part of an investment deal with Ford, the Rivian skateboard chassis will be the basis for Lincoln’s first electric car.
Canoo’s own electric car is unlike anything shown by Rivian — or indeed any other automaker. Shaped like a lozenge and lacking a model name, the electric car was designed to feel like a living room on wheels. The rear seat was inspired by sofas, and the car lacks a native infotainment system. Drivers will simply plug their smartphones and tablets into the dashboard. Canoo will also offer the car exclusively through a subscription service, meaning customers will pay a single fee for the vehicle, maintenance, and insurance. Canoo is currently taking names for a waitlist, but customers aren’t expected to get cars until 2021.
Hyundai did not offer any details on what vehicles would use the Canoo-derived platform, but the automaker is undertaking a push for more electrified models. In late 2019, Hyundai said it would launch 13 new or updated models with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or all-electric powertrains by 2022. Hyundai already sells battery-electric versions of the Kona and Ioniq (which gets a range boost for 2020) in the United States, while Kia sells the Niro EV. A redesigned Kia Soul EV recently launched abroad, but it won’t arrive in the U.S. until 2021, around the same time that a third electric Kia is expected to debut.
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