Canoo EV van platform turned into go-kart to show technology

The startup electric car company Canoo made a splash with its bubbly minivan late last year. The company even attracted attention and investment from Hyundai. But the van part of the car isn’t necessarily the most important thing Canoo has developed. Instead, the skateboard platform is the key to Canoo, and to illustrate that, Canoo turned it into a a go-kart.

There’s no body on the Canoo platform, it’s solely the powertrain platform that underpins the minivan body the company developed. It contains all the batteries, motors, brakes and suspension needed for a car, so it’s completely drivable. It features two motors, a large rear one making 300 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, and a small front one making 200 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. To get the suspension to fit, Canoo uses transverse composite leaf springs, just like the Corvette has used for its rear suspension for decades. Range is about 250 miles. It sounds like it’s probably loads of fun to drive.

The point of this low, flat platform is that you can put just about any body on top of it. Canoo says it’s aiming to be able to develop new car models in a period of 18-24 months, since its cars will all use the same basic underpinnings. Adding to the flexibility are the by-wire controls for steering, throttle and brakes. It allows the driver seat to be placed anywhere in the car, or in this case, on the kart. Canoo also notes that the by-wire controls can be tuned for all variety of feel and responsiveness, too.

While this design should have plenty of benefit for Canoo itself, we also see enormous potential for kit car companies and coach builders. It’s just like a modern-day VW Beetle floor pan. You have the powertrain and suspension all bolted to a flat “frame” of sorts, and you just drop on whatever body you want. Want a sports car? Move the driver close to the middle, and drape a low, slinky shell on it. Need a really practical pickup truck? Move the driver all the way to the front, and turn the rest of it into open cargo space like a VW Bus-style pickup. The possibilities are quite exciting.

Of course, those possibilities depend on whether the platform becomes available to private owners. Canoo is starting out by offering its van on a subscription basis, not permanent ownership. The first ones are slated to be available in 2021 in Los Angeles and eight other large cities on each coast.

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