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Hyundai will use Canoo’s EV skateboard for small electric cars

Hyundai kicked off 2020 by announcing an $87 billion effort to develop dedicated electric vehicles. Today the company announced that part of this EV expansion will include a collaboration with electric start-up Canoo to co-develop an architecture for compact and sub-compact EVs.

Hyundai is promising 11 new dedicated EVs by 2025. The company expects the new platform using Canoo’s skateboard architecture to simplify the EV development process and lower costs.

A Hyundai spokesperson told Electrek that the company is not yet announcing specific timelines for the partnership. But the company told us that the Canoo skateboard platform will be “tailored to meet Hyundai and Kia specifications.”

Hyundai in an email explained:

Hyundai Motor Group’s partnership with Canoo will be focused on the development of an electric vehicle platform for smaller sized (A- and B-segment) passenger vehicles. Various options will be explored as the partnership progresses.

Our current scope of work is for an electric vehicle platform, and we will share more if there are further developments. Hyundai Motor Group plans to decide target models based on thorough research and feasibility studies.

An example of a current B-segment car is the Hyundai i20. A-segment examples include the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto.

In June 2019, Business Korea reported that Hyundai Motor started production of an all-electric compact SUV using an “Electric-Global Modular Platform.” That report pointed to a prototype getting unveiled in mid-2020 and production in early 2021. However, Hyundai’s January news stated that the new EV architecture would be applied to models not launching until 2024.

Canoo, the LA-based company creating EVs for subscription only, built a skateboard platform for its vehicles. The Canoo skateboard is a self-contained unit that offers flexibility for multiple cabin designs.

Canoo co-founder Phil Weicker, who also heads powertrain development for the company, said the skateboard architecture allows car companies to create new vehicle designs. He told Electrek:

“The internal combustion engine imposed a lot of constraints on the design of the vehicle. When you remove those constraints, you can either fit into what people are used to – or you can explore what could be done differently in the future.”

Hyundai’s press release today makes mention of “purpose-built vehicles for shared-service companies and logistics companies.”

Hyundai currently sells EV and plug-in hybrids, but they are not purpose-built cars.

Hyundai currently sells EV and plug-in hybrids, but they are not purpose-built cars.

Albert Biermann, Head of Research & Development, Hyundai Motor Group, said:

“We were highly impressed by the speed and efficiency in which Canoo developed their innovative EV architecture, making them the perfect engineering partner for us as we transition to become a frontrunner in the future mobility industry. We will collaborate with Canoo engineers to develop a cost-effective Hyundai platform concept that is autonomous ready and suitable for mass adoption.”

In September 2019, Hyundai said it would invest $1.6 billion in a joint venture to develop self-driving vehicle technologies with Aptiv, a tier-one supplier.

Canoo, which will use a contract manufacturer for its vehicles, told us that Hyundai will not build vehicles for Canoo. A Canoo spokesperson declined to comment about the scale of the Hyundai collaboration. “The companies aren’t revealing the number of employees for this project,” the spokesperson said.

Electrek’s Take

The tie-up between Hyundai and Canoo sounds similar to Ford’s $500 million investment in Rivian. Old-school automakers have a profound need to move faster on electrification, as well as autonomy ­– and to transfer that technology to different segments.

Ford will leverage its investment in Rivian to build an electric SUV for its Lincoln brand. In other words, car companies with multiple global brands and a full product lineup need multiple EV programs moving on separate tracks.

The only indication so far about Hyundai’s intentions with Canoo is the email about A- and B-segment cars, sizes that are not likely to show up in the United States.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.