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EV startups in 2022: Will they get you to join the electric revolution?

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Some EV startups, like Canoo, are prioritizing design to help stand apart from the crowd.


Canoo

This story is part of The Year Ahead, CNET’s look at how the world will continue to evolve starting in 2022 and beyond.

Electric vehicles are still niche vehicles in the grand scheme of the automotive industry, which pumps out millions upon millions of cars every year. But they’re gaining steam in a hurry, with companies new and old trying to stake their claim in the era of electrification. You’re probably familiar with the likes of Volkswagen and Tesla, so let’s take a look at the up-and-comers that might find their way onto your driveway in 2022 and beyond.

It’s easy to overlook EV startups in favor of legacy automakers, given the latter’s footprint in sales and marketing, but companies on the up-and-up are still worthy of your attention. Some people may just want to live on the cutting edge: Many of the startups listed below are taking some innovative steps in design and engineering. Building cars is an extremely costly process, which means these cars aren’t likely to be any less expensive than what legacy manufacturers offer, but there is something to be said about preferring a smaller, more agile company with less overhead than a million-cars-per-year conglomerate.

The EV market is growing, but it’s certainly not a giant quite yet. According to Green Car Reports, EV registrations in the second quarter of 2021 only accounted for 2.4% of all new-car registrations. That might sound like it’s on the small side, and it is, but that figure represents nearly 120% growth over the same quarter in 2020, so the momentum is gaining. 

For the purposes of this rundown, I’ll define an EV startup as a company that isn’t a legacy automaker or a full subsidiary thereof, like Volvo’s Polestar spinoff. Let’s take a look at the history of each, along with what their near-future plans are and how things have progressed in their respective journeys.

Aptera

We’ll start with a real left-field startup. Aptera has actually been around for more than a decade with the same goal: Build a three-wheeled electric car that looks like a Cessna with bigger wheels and no wings. The company ran into some issues back in 2011, when it had to shutter its operations and return customer deposits. But Aptera’s founders put the company back together in 2019, and as of this writing, it’s charging full speed ahead in its determination to build an EV that runs on solar energy.

Aptera promises a range of up to 1,000 miles on a single charge, although it wants to offer batteries in different sizes to suit different owners. That’s quite the lofty goal, considering even the most modern EVs on sale as of this writing still can’t eclipse 550 miles of range. Part of this range estimate comes from pure engineering; Aptera is building its car to be as light as possible while being extremely aerodynamic. The 180-or-so solar panels built into the vehicle can generate a claimed 45 miles per day, which leads Aptera to declare on its website that the car “requires no charging for most daily use.”

Right now, if you head to Aptera’s website, there’s a link to become an investor, along with a page to put down a reservation. Investors don’t have to pay for a reservation, but the rest of us will have to plunk down $100 now for a car that the company believes will cost between $26,000 and $51,000 when all is said and done.

Bollinger

Bollinger Motors first arrived on the scene in 2017 after its founding three years earlier, unveiling one seriously sharp car, both literally and figuratively. It garnered attention for its vehicle design, which is on the stark side of the spectrum, replete with hard angles and an emphasis on minimalism that other startups eschewed in favor of pure flash. Some of that attention dissipated in the ensuing years, though, as Bollinger revealed a lofty six-figure price tag for its forthcoming EVs.

Bollinger has two models that it wants to prepare for production, the B1 SUV and B2 pickup truck. Production was originally slated to begin in 2021, but as of this writing, Bollinger’s online FAQ estimates that production will be underway in late 2022. Specs are not yet finalized, but the company estimates its vehicles will have a range in excess of 200 miles with the ability to accept 100-kilowatt charging for its 120-kilowatt-hour battery pack. It’s an off-road-friendly EV too, with lockable differentials, sway bars with manual disconnects and 15 inches of ground clearance.

Bollinger isn’t leaving all its eggs in the B1/B2 basket. The startup also wants to dip its toes into the world of commercial vehicles, and to that end, it intends to build commercial chassis-cab trucks as well. These Class 3, 4 and 5 vehicles will sport batteries with capacities between 140 and 280 kWh, permitting a range of more than 200 miles, which is impressive for a heavy-duty truck.

Byton

Some startups get so close to production that we’re able to slide behind the wheel for a preview spin, and Byton is one of those companies. Of course, the startup universe is a fickle one, so it’s no surprise that some wrenches have been thrown into the mix between now and our drive, and its future is looking a little rocky.

Byton is a Chinese-German startup formerly named Future Mobility. Its first planned production model, the M-Byte, was so close to hitting the market that the company unveiled the car at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. And it was a stunner, too, with a gargantuan 48-inch widescreen dashboard display. Byton went so far as to accumulate and announce a number of media company partnerships for its in-car tech.

It all seemed destined to make it within reach of the public, but since our first drive, Byton has had its share of issues. In early November, a Nikkei report claimed that the company entered bankruptcy proceedings, with a source saying it will be difficult for Byton to bounce back. Never say never, though, because as the market continues to heat up, a new bankroller may show up to bring Byton back from the brink.

Canoo

When a startup reportedly gets Apple’s attention, you know there might be some magic happening. That’s the case with Canoo, an American startup that came to be after a couple of executives parted ways with EV startup Faraday Future. It originally carried the clunky name of Evelozcity, so, um, let’s be glad it’s called Canoo.

Anyway, Canoo started its efforts with a modular EV platform that could underpin a number of different vehicle designs. The first body to get an official preview was a funky minivan, with plans for multiple delivery vehicles to follow, since the commercial space is keen to electrify to help reduce running costs. In early 2021, Canoo opened preorders for its funky delivery van, which looks like something we’d see in Cyberpunk 2077 or Minority Report. Production is slated to start in 2023, and refundable deposits are just $100.

Although the company has delayed its production from 2021 to 2023 as of this writing, Canoo is still pushing forward with new unveils. In March, it pulled back the cloth on a sweet pickup concept with a foldout bed extension, storage cubbies galore and a powertrain promising some 600 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque.

Faraday Future

Some EV startups land with a major splash, only to go quiet for an extended period of time. Faraday Future is one of those companies. It first wowed the crowd at CES 2017 with the FF 91 electric vehicle, which promised everything from Tesla-stomping acceleration to conditional autonomy by way of a litany of sensors attached to the body.

Not only did Faraday Future take us for a spin in its 1,000-horsepower prototype, the company came to CES 2020 and let me drive it. Impressed with its aesthetics inside and out, I also found the FF 91 delivered quite the comfortable ride. But after that debut, the company has been quiet, with most news coverage relegated to reporting on the startup’s alleged financial woes. Faraday Future went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange in mid-2021.

In October, Roadshow Editor-in-Chief Tim Stevens had a chance to interview FF CEO Carsten Breitfeld. Faraday Future is still working to bring its vehicles to market by July 2022, a deadline that has been kicked down the road more than a few times over the years. Breitfeld says that a number of improvements have been made to the vehicle during this time, since the entire segment has moved forward considerably over the past three or four years. Following the FF 91’s debut, the startup wants to produce the FF 81, a smaller and more affordable car that will be Faraday’s volume…



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