A new electric vehicle called the Canoo, which will launch next year and opened a waitlist for customers on January 21, looks very little like a traditional car. That’s because it doesn’t have to, says Ulrich Kranz, a former BMW engineer who heads the L.A.-based startup. “With electric power trains, there’s actually no need that a car looks like a traditional combustion engine car,” he says.

The basic shape of a car hasn’t really changed over a century, with space for an engine, space for passengers, and space for luggage, all arranged in basically the same configuration. But because powerful electric motors and batteries are smaller than a standard powertrain, the whole shape of the vehicle could transform, if car designers were feeling creative. Canoo designed what it calls a “skateboard,” a thin platform that holds the battery cells, powertrain, and suspension, leaving room for a spacious jelly bean-shaped pod on top. “Inside the vehicle, it is as big as a big Suburban, but the footprint of the vehicle is smaller than a Toyota Prius,” Kranz says. The interior looks like a small living room, with sofa-like seating in the back, and enough room to easily fit a surfboard or an Ikea cabinet.

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