Walmart gives new life to struggling Canoo with order for 4,500 electric vans

Walmart has signed up to purchase 4,500 electric vans from the EV startup Canoo, with the option to purchase up to 10,000 total, the companies confirmed Tuesday. 

With production planned to start in 2023, the vans will be put to use in Walmart’s last-mile delivery fleet, with the potential to be used in the retailer’s GoLocal deliver-as-a-service fleet. 

Walmart will be getting the first of the Lifestyle Deliver Model (LDV) van built around a design that takes advantage of steer-by-wire technology, allowing a roomier cabin with a front panoramic window for greater outward visibility. The modular skateboard platform helps allow 120 cubic feet of cargo volume, with a customized interior that Canoo says is designed for small package delivery. 

The companies say that they will be finalizing the vehicle configuration for the vans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area “in the coming weeks.” Canoo has shown several different delivery van designs.

Canoo delivery van

Canoo delivery van

Electrifying last-mile delivery fleets is a priority for home-delivery companies, as these vehicles don’t typically need to cover a long daily-driving range and they’re where the company interfaces directly with customers. Devoid of tailpipe emissions, an EV makes a stronger first impression. 

Last-mile business has also increasingly been seen as a launchpad for electric vehicle startups. GM essentially built its BrightDrop electric commercial van

business around that starting point. Amazon also plans to purchase 100,000 Rivian electric vans over a period of years, and Rivian started deliveries of those vans early in 2021, as it was preparing to launch its R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV.

Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle

Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle

The Canoo van has had a strange journey toward production. Canoo originally emerged from stealth mode in 2019 with some distinctive electric vehicle designs, as part of a plan to offer EVs by subscription only

—and initially only in California. It later shifted to a sales strategy and more of an active lifestyle focus, with prices starting at $34,750 for its Lifestyle Vehicle. An earlier partnership with Hyundai dissolved, and production plans with Netherlands’ VDL Nedcar were revealed and then canceled, with a following corporate move to Arkansas and plans for a “Mega Micro” factory in Prior, Oklahoma, for 2023. 

Amid all of this, multiple waves of big names in the EV world have arrived at the startup and then departed, such as Ulrich Kranz, who led development of the BMW i3, and the former GM EV1 chief engineer, Peter Savagian

. The startup’s vehicles will use Panasonic cylindrical cells, with a unique structural-battery approach sealing modules directly into the platform, and taking advantage of the 2170 cell format used in a range of vehicles. 

Canoo by-wire systems - June 2021 iinvestor presentation

Canoo by-wire systems – June 2021 iinvestor presentation

Canoo battery - June 2021 iinvestor presentation

Canoo battery – June 2021 iinvestor presentation

Canoo powertrain - June 2021 iinvestor presentation

Canoo powertrain – June 2021 iinvestor presentation

The contract with Walmart might prove Canoo’s lifeline—or resuscitation—as the company reported in its Q1 results that it had “substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” With a blip from this vote of confidence, will it deliver on those quirky designs after all?