Hyundai Taps Electric Car Startup Canoo for Design Work

One of the world's largest carmakers, Hyundai Motor Group, tapped Torrance-based startup Canoo to design the powertrain that will be used for their electric vehicles.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed but a similar one struck earlier this year between the Korean automaker and UK-based Arrival catapulted the startup to unicorn status. Arrival said it's now valued at 3 billion euros.


Under the arrangement, the electric car maker Canoo will develop a platform similar to the one it designed for its yet-to-be-manufactured vehicle for Hyundai and Kia cars.

The so-called "skateboard design "places the components of the electric powertrain on a flatbed with wheels underneath the car much like a trailer allowing for more room inside the vehicle. Hyundai said the design will also make their electric vehicles more cost competitive.

"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," said Albert Biermann, Head of Research & Development, Hyundai Motor Group in a statement announcing the deal. The company is developing the a Hyundai platform that is "autonomous ready and suitable for mass adoption," he said.

Unlike traditional engines made for specific cars or trucks the skateboard allows for different car bodies to be placed atop, making it interchangeable. But the agreement does not include manufacturing of the vehicle.

Photo Courtesy of Canoo


Carmakers are ramping up capital spending on electrification as more consumers warm up to the idea. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and have announced EV models set to launch in early 2020s. Last year, Ford announced it would invest $11 billion in electric vehicles. And Hyundai has committed to spend $52 billion in future technologies through 2025, while Kia will invest $25 billion in electrification and future mobility technologies. Hyundai Motor Group wants a quarter of their car sales to come from their green fleet.

That's good news for electric vehicle startups, which often face an uphill battle because of the high cost of capital, said Asad Hussain, an analyst at Pitchbook. "You really do need corporate partners to finance your growth and expansion and if you can get an automaker on board, you can leverage the amount of capital and their technical expertise."

Canoo, founded in 2017, by two former BMW executives, opened up a waitlist last month for their eponymous prototype vehicle — a futuristic looking minivan — that it will offer to drivers as a subscription service. The service is set to launch during the second half of next year in Los Angeles.

"We have been working diligently to develop a bold new electric vehicles and partnering with a global leader like Hyundai is a validating moment for our young company," said Canoo chief executive Ulrich Kranz in a statement.

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