No, that’s not a Duplo toy — what you see above (and in the renders below) is the design for a pickup truck from California electric vehicle startup Canoo.
Revealed in a leak on Reddit on Wednesday, and then subsequently confirmed to Reuters before officially being revealed, the head-turning EV truck is not due out until 2023. By that time, Tesla’s Cybertruck, the electric Hummer pickup, Ford’s electric F-150, and Rivian’s EV pickup should all be on the road. Canoo said it will start taking preorders for its pickup later this year, but did not release pricing details. The startup is also reportedly in talks with other states for a “microfactory” where a contract manufacturer would build the vehicles.
The toyish truck shows just how far Canoo is willing to push the design of the microbus-style vehicle it first debuted back in 2019, which it originally planned to sell on a subscription-only basis.
Canoo has undergone a lot of changes since it debuted that first vehicle, though. It’s now a publicly-traded company after it merged with a special purpose acquisition company in late 2020. Its new executive chairman has also refocused the company on selling commercial vehicles based on the original van design and the technological platform that powers it.
But all of that doesn’t mean Canoo is exactly done trying to make vehicles for regular consumers. This new truck sort of bridges the two sets of customers, thanks in part to being loaded up with all sorts of utility features.
There are multiple fold-down and flip-out work surfaces on Canoo’s pickup, with one in the nose of the vehicle and another on the side of the truck bed. There’s an extension that can be pulled out to make the bed a few feet longer. There are power outlets (120V and USB) dotting the inside of the bed and the storage compartments. Promo images also show the truck decked out in a roof rack and, in a bid to capitalize on the booming “van life” market, an “overlander” trim with a camper shell and a pop-up tent.
This is all in keeping with the vision of Canoo’s original vehicle, which was decked out in pegboards on the inside that the company imagined people could use to customize and personalize the vehicle. And the ability to use the new truck’s modular features in so many different ways — and to customize them from the start when ordering — is what Tony Aquila, the startup’s new executive chairman, hopes is a big selling point for the small businesses and more adventurous consumers that Canoo is targeting.
“When the working person sees this they go, ‘I can have a better quality of life with this vehicle, and I can get a return on capital.’ And every one of these areas is a space to create a return on capital, which is why we spent so much money to develop the most intelligent [truck] bed,” Aquila said in a video announcing the truck. (Canoo spent $47 million on research and development in 2018, $137 million in 2019, and $52 million through the first three quarters of 2020, according to a recent government filing.)
The sloped roof of the truck also tracks with Canoo’s original vehicle, though it’s a far more familiar design feature for a van. Fortunately for Canoo, Tesla has already started stretching the public’s imagination of what a pickup truck can look like.
“This is for America.”
“That was our dream, to make sure that we had a vehicle that brought a truck to the market that just really shocked people just from the visual, and then to the functional,” Aquila said in the video. “This is for America. This is what built America, anyways.”
Canoo’s truck will be built on the same platform that powers the company’s other proposed vehicles, which means it largely shares the same specs across a number of configurations. The highest-cost all-wheel-drive truck will have around 600 horsepower and more than 200 miles of range, while the lower cost versions will get closer to 100 miles of range and feature a single motor in the rear. (Aquila told Reuters he thinks Canoo can find a way to up the range to 300 miles by the time it’s released.) The truck also uses the same brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire system Canoo developed for its other vehicles, which reduces complexity.
These technologies have made it possible for the startup to mate so many different designs to the same underlying technological platform. They’re also things that drew the interest of Apple, which at one point wanted to acquire Canoo, as The Verge exclusively reported earlier this year.
Update March 10th, 9:58PM ET: Added details from the Reuters report.