Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sprung to mind at the opening automotive press conference of the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in early January. You know the opening lines: ‘Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy’ Hard not to think the latter surveying Faraday Future’s 200mph, battery-electric concept car with just one seat. That’s 200mph, if it had a driveline of course, and the FFZero1 at first seemed as hollow as the pretentious presentation airily posited “disrupting” traditional car company business and ‘redefining the automotive experience’. Hand me my white leather race suit, Juanita…
Talk and snazzeroo concept cars are cheap, of course, but there’s reason to believe that there’s some substance behind the bluster of this Chinese-funded Tesla rival. Based in California and named after Michael Faraday, the 19th century scientist who discovered electromagnetic induction and invented the earliest electric motors, Faraday Motors has a board stuffed with ex-Tesla folk including Nick Sampson the R&D vice president and Dag Rechhorn, the manufacturing VP. Richard Kim, chief designer, was one of the founders of BMW’s i Project and also worked at Audi. The money comes from Chinese telecommunications company Letv and its billionaire chief executive, Jia Yueting, and Faraday Future has already chosen the low-tax US state of Nevada in which to build a new factory to build its cars.
Not that the production cars are going to look like this glass-canopied supercar, of course, but Kim says they’re going to be ‘just as cool as the concept car’. The FFZero1 apparently debuts some of the flexible driveline and battery architecture that will be used on the production car. This concept is claimed to make it relatively simple to switch from front- to rear-wheel drive with a scaleable battery packs ‘shaped like chocolate bars’. It’s interesting but most car makers including Tesla have scaleable battery packs and this sort of powered skateboard type platform idea was first mooted by General Motor’s Chris Borroni-Bird at the 2002 Detroit Show with the AUTOnomy concept.
With a claimed 1,000bhp, the FFZero1 is theoretically capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in under than three seconds. The white carbon-fibre cabin has a telephone mount in the middle of the steering wheel, an idea which Kim says might be used in the production car. It also has a special head and neck protection system and a driving helmet which supplies fluids and oxygen to the driver, and the dashboard apparently gathers information on the driver’s heart rate and state of anxiety. We’ve no idea whether these will be adopted for production.
Kim says the first production car is imminent. ‘It’s on its way, it’s finished,’ he said. ‘We’re working on the second model now.’ Yet he and the rest of his colleagues refuse to give even the least details of what sort of car it is, and when we’ll see it. They will admit that the first market for the car will be in the US and it’ll be some time before a Faraday Future car turns a wheel in Europe.
Kim also claims that Faraday Future’s overall business strategy is unique and valid. ‘I wouldn’t have joined the company just if it was to design cars,’ he adds. He says they want to reinvent the ownership process for the 21st century, with shared ownership and use, as well as conventional purchase as possibilities.
‘That brings tremendous challenges to the design process,’ he says, acknowledging that part of that is durable and easy-to-clean cabin structures, but that there are other aspects. He suggests that some of the best technology is often out of sight and posits a sort of reversal of the business of owners having to read the car’s manual before use and instead having the car reaching out to understand what the driver wants it to do.
As we said, talk’s cheap and there’s that old adage that to make a small fortune building sports cars, you need to start with a large one. Kim says the production car will appear soon, so the smart money might be best advised to wait until then before getting too excited.
Images and video courtesy of Faraday Future