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Hyundai taps EV startup Canoo to develop electric vehicles

Kirsten Korosec

Hyundai Motor Group said it will jointly develop an electric vehicle platform with Los Angeles-based startup Canoo, the latest startup tapped by the automaker as part of an $87 billion push to invest in electrification and other future technologies.

The electric vehicle platform will be based on Canoo's proprietary skateboard design, according to the agreement that was announced Tuesday. The platform will be used for future Hyundai and Kia electric vehicles as well as the automaker group's so-called "purpose built vehicles." The PBV, which Hyundai showcased last month at CES 2020, is a pod-like vehicle that the company says can be used for various functions in transit, such as a restaurant or clinic. The concept is similar to Toyota's e-Palette vehicle, which can theoretically be customized to serve as a retail shop, restaurant or shuttle for people.

The partnership with Canoo is the latest example of Hyundai Motor ramping up efforts and investments into electrification, autonomous technology and other futuristic mobility trends, including flying cars. Earlier this month, Hyundai said it would invest $110 million in U.K. startup Arrival and jointly develop electric commercial vehicles.

Hyundai Motor Group has committed to invest $87 billion over the next five years. Of this total group commitment, Hyundai will invest $52 billion into "future technologies" and Kia will put $25 billion toward electrification and future mobility technologies. The company says its goal is for "eco-friendly vehicles" to comprise 25% of its total sales by 2025.

Canoo said it will provide engineering services to develop the electric platform.

Canoo_Engineering Skateboard

Canoo started as Evelozcity in 2017, founded by former Faraday Future executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz. The company rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and debuted its first vehicle last September. The first Canoo vehicles are expected to appear on the road by 2021 and will be offered only as a subscription. Canoo recently opened the waitlist for its first vehicle.

The heart of Canoo's first vehicle, which looks more like a microbus than a traditional electric SUV, is the “skateboard” architecture that houses the batteries and the electric drivetrain in a chassis underneath the vehicle’s cabin. It's this Canoo architecture in which Hyundai Motor Group is interested.

Hyundai Motor Group is counting on this underlying architecture to help the company reduce the cost and complexity of production and allow for it to respond quickly to changing market demands and customer preferences.

"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," Albert Biermann, head of R&D at Hyundai Motor Group, said in a statement. "We will collaborate with Canoo engineers to develop a cost-effective Hyundai platform concept that is autonomous ready and suitable for mass adoption."