Canoo Introduces a Cute Little Electric Pickup Truck

It looks nothing like a normal truck, and that is a good thing.

Canoo Pickup Truck


When the first Canoo electric vehicle was launched, CEO Ulrich Kranz noted that "with electric power trains, there’s actually no need that a car looks like a traditional combustion engine car." Since then, GM and Ford have launched electric Hummers and F150s that look just like gasoline-powered pickup trucks with big, high, and deadly front ends for no reason at all, other than that's what people expect.

Canoo Pickup Truck Side View


Now, Canoo has introduced its version of a pickup truck, and it looks nothing like your Ram 1500. It looks pretty much like the original Canoo van did, with the back chopped off. This should not be a surprise; the entire idea of the Canoo is that it is built on a standard "skateboard chassis" that can accommodate just about anything they want to design for it. They don't even have to worry about connecting the steering wheel; it is all "steer by wire" with electronic rather than mechanical connections between the controls and the steering or brakes.

Dymaxion Car
The Dymaxion car designed by Buckminster Fuller.

Bettman Archives/ Getty Images

As Bucky Fuller found back in 1934, when you design a vehicle from the ground up instead of from preconceptions and expectations, you get a different result. You get great visibility because the driver is pushed forward to where they can see kids in front of the car. You get more room behind; with the Canoo, it delivers a six-foot truck bed in a vehicle that is only 184 inches long, only 6 inches longer than a Subaru Impreza, and a full 5 feet shorter than an F-150. And because carrying a 4x8 sheet of plywood was the classic requirement of a pickup, it has a pop-out extension to enlarge the truck bed.

Canoo Interior


"By incorporating steer-by-wire and other space-saving technologies, Canoo’s thin platform, with no need for an engine compartment, allows the company to offer a flatbed size comparable to America’s best-selling pickup truck on a smaller footprint. This makes the vehicle easier to maneuver and more convenient to drive and park in any terrain."
Side folding doors


Because the motors and batteries are all in that skateboard base, there are all kinds of opportunities to provide more useful storage and workspace, including fold-down doors that act as tables in the front and on the sides.

VW pickup truck


Just like the Canoo van reminded me of a Volkswagen bus, the Canoo pickup is very much like the Volkswagen pickup truck of the late 50s and early 60s, with its fold-down sides and enclosed storage under the bed. They even have about the same payload; the Canoo has a capacity of 1800 pounds, the VW could carry 1764 pounds. It is also a versatile design:

"Canoo designed its pickup truck to be the most cab-forward and space efficient on the market, with massive cargo capacity on the smallest footprint possible...Lined with trim and materials selected for durability, the extended cab vehicle has two seats in the front with a customizable rear compartment that can accommodate two additional seats or support additional purpose-built use-case configurability."
Westfalia version


Pop a different top on the back and it turns into a Volkswagen Westfalia camper.

There's not much information about the battery size; they promise a range of over 200 miles and 600 horsepower (447 Kw) with 550 lb-ft (745 Nm) of torque, half the horsepower of a Hummer EV and a fraction of the torque, The Canoo is still heavy at about 5700 pounds gross weight thanks to the batteries, but at least it can legally drive over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Skiing in snow with Canoo


All the lovely photos of the Canoo Westfalia version in the snow raise some interesting questions about electric vehicles. Battery efficiency drops in cold weather, and if you run out of power in the woods you can't just add some more fuel. Range anxiety, the fear of running out of juice, is not as big a deal as it used to be, but in the snowy woods, it might still be an issue.

Charging rover on Mars
Mark Watney charging his Rover.

Screen Shot, The Martian

One supposes that a driver could go full Mark Watney from "The Martian" and sleep under the Canoo all day while the batteries charge and then drive out at night.

The Canoo is not being sold outright, but is the kind of Product Service System long beloved of Treehugger, where it is a subscription, "a single all-inclusive monthly payment that offers the vehicle, maintenance, registration, access to insurance and charging on a month-to-month basis." Readers of the earlier post hated the idea, noting: "I really dislike the subscription model. Some software companies have gone to that and it's blatantly a cash flow machine for them, designed so the customer never stops paying." and "You lost me at payments and subscription model. I HATE HATE HATE the subscription model (I want to pay a 1 time fee and be done with it forever. I will upgrade at my pleasure and timeline)."

On the other hand, reinventing the economic model seems to fit it with reinventing the vehicle, and it "puts an end to ownership, providing a hassle- and commitment-free car experience" – let them own the depreciation that happens the second you drive off the lot.

Canoo at night


We previously wondered, Do Size and Weight Matter in an Electric Car? and concluded that they do, writing:

"Making steel, aluminum and batteries all cause environmental degradation and carbon emissions. Making electric cars heavier means they consume more electricity, which has an environmental cost however it is made. Heavier cars produce more particulate emissions, even when they are electric, from tire wear and non-regenerative braking. The amount of stuff we use to make things matters."
Canoo exterior


Perhaps that's why I like the Canoo. It's small, its form truly does follow its function rather than the preconceived notion of what a car should look like, and they are thinking and rethinking everything. which every designer of just about anything should be doing these days. Whether people will accept it is another story.

Nikon Coolpix

Nikon Coolpix 990 circa 1998

When the Nikon Coolpix came out in 1998, it was a wonder, a reinvention of the camera from the ground up. It was ergonomically designed to be easy to hold, you could twist the lens and hold the camera high above your head or down low like a Hasselblad, the lens zoomed inside the camera so that nothing stuck out, everything was designed to make it easy and comfortable to use. And nobody bought it because they wanted something that looked like a camera, and today, every DSLR looks like a 1950s film camera for no reason at all.

I hope that the Canoo and the entire electric vehicle industry don't suffer the same fate.