Automotive startup Canoo (formerly known as Evelozcity) is teasing the designs of its planned electric vehicles, and it has spent the last few months staffing up as it moves closer to production in 2021. But the startup will take the next few steps in that process without its CEO, the company tells The Verge.
Stefan Krause, a former executive at BMW, is stepping away from the CEO role for “personal reasons,” according to the company. Canoo’s CTO, fellow co-founder and former BMW executive Ulrich Kranz, will run the company in his absence. Krause will still help the company fundraise while being absent from the company’s day-to-day operations. Canoo declined to offer any additional information about Krause’s leave.
Canoo was founded in late 2017 as Evelozcity, after Krause had a very public and ugly breakup with another electric vehicle startup: Faraday Future. Krause was brought in earlier that year as Faraday Future’s chief financial officer, and he was tasked with saving the company from a serious cash crisis. Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting wasn’t happy with Krause’s proposed solutions, though, one of which included filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to court documents.
Fed up with Jia’s resistance, Krause left and founded Evelozcity, which rebranded to Canoo earlier this year. Jia and Faraday Future maintained that Krause had been fired, alleging “malfeasance and dereliction of duty” as well as a “possible violation of law” in a polemic press release in November 2017. A few months later, Faraday Future sued Krause’s new company and claimed he stole both employees and trade secrets. Krause’s company eventually countersued, but both cases were ultimately dropped.
Unlike Faraday Future and the myriad other electric vehicle startups, Canoo is working on subscription-only vehicles that eschew personal ownership (an idea that a number of major automakers are also toying with, albeit on a limited basis). Canoo’s vehicles are also being designed with autonomous operation in mind, though that’s still a ways out. As such, the company is promising its vehicles will look much different from the ones we buy and drive today.
That’s evident in the rendering Canoo published to its website this week as well as in another image provided to The Verge (seen below). The company’s first vehicle is going to look something like a cross between the pod-like self-driving shuttles that are slowly crawling around select city streets and a minivan. It’s a vehicle that’s built more for utility than personality, which makes sense knowing that Canoo wants to run a subscription-only business, where users will rent the vehicles for perhaps hours, days, or weeks at a time. A more full reveal is slated for this fall ahead of testing on public streets.
The battery pack and electric drivetrain that power that vehicle all sit in the floor in a so-called “skateboard” platform, which Canoo plans to use to power future vehicles (like a delivery van and a more performance-oriented car, also seen in the rendering on the website). It’s a popular idea that a number of startups and established automakers plan to use to keep costs down.
Canoo has also grown to around 400 employees in pursuit of this goal, the company tells The Verge, up from about 100 in March 2018. Like other startups, Canoo has hired a fair heap of talent away from both the tech and automotive spaces, and much of it has come from ride-sharing companies. The company’s chief product officer, James Cox, came over from Uber in April where he was in charge of the rider app. Canoo’s chief marketing officer in China, Cindy Wang, used to run Uber’s Chinese marketing division. Matt Kerbel, the startup’s head of brand strategy, spent a year running Lyft’s marketing in Southern California. And Canoo has two former Uber product operations managers, Lucy Ross and Daniel Evans, preparing for the launch.
Getting a vehicle on the road in under four years is an ambitious goal for a new company like Canoo, especially considering how basically every other startup automaker has run into varying degrees of trouble. Canoo should be well-armed, though, as it’s reportedly raised $1 billion so far, and it’s supposedly seeking another $200 million. It will likely need that and more if it hopes to succeed in building these vehicles, find customers for its unfamiliar designs, and sell people on a new ownership model.