Little has been known about Faraday Future, the nearly two-year-old electric car company that made a splash with plans to spend $1 billion on a U.S. factory. It has spoken in only the broadest terms about its goals.
Some of that, however, changed Monday night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Faraday gave the world a glimpse of how it plans to shake up the auto industry.
The company unveiled a prototype of an electric supercar with a 1,000-horsepower engine. The vehicle looks like a cross between a Formula One race car and the Batmobile. Faraday officials said they’ll sell a vehicle in a “couple of years time,” and are a few weeks from breaking ground on a 3 million-square-foot factory in Nevada. They’re boldly taking on existing car companies, and don’t believe that having a legacy in the industry matters.
“We’re embarking on nothing less than a complete rethink of what mobility means and how it must be part of our larger world,” said Nick Sampson, a senior vice president at Faraday Future. “We have to look at the forces affecting the way people move about today as well as tomorrow and we have to ask, ‘How can we design vehicles that respect and even enhance the environment?’ ”
Faraday’s talk about reinventing mobility is curious, given the overwhelmingly impractical vehicle it showed off at the consumer tech event. The car seats only one person. The steering wheel appears ripped from out of a race car. The vehicle is slung so low to the ground that speed bumps would appear to be a hazard. The space traditionally devoted to a trunk for storage is dominated by what looks like a dorsal fin.
The car includes a helmet, which supplies the driver with oxygen and water. Faraday says the driver seat was inspired by NASA research on zero-gravity conditions, a situation drivers in 2015 didn’t encounter.
Although Faraday has grabbed headlines with flash, analysts don’t expect we’ve seen the true Faraday emerge yet.
“What they did last night was the wow factor. Not necessarily reality,” said Jeff Schuster, an analyst at LMC Automotive.
To Schuster, showing off the Batmobile lookalike was about grabbing attention. He says Faraday is stocked with legitimate industry experts and probably will come out with a more practical sedan as its first offering.
A key differentiator could be its ability to modify the chassis of its vehicles. It calls this its variable platform architecture.
The length of the vehicle and number of batteries and motors can all be easily adjusted, allowing it to sell new types of cars quicker. It says this will reduce manufacturing time and limit what it has to spend on researching new vehicles.
So the same foundation that can make an impractical 1,000-horsepower supercar could deliver an SUV fit for a family of four.
This flexible approach is used by other automakers, but some say Faraday’s commitment to it could help it differentiate from competitors.
“Electric vehicles allow for modularization at a different level than before and my sense is that traditional automakers have not yet realized just how modular they could go,” said James McQuivey, an automobile analyst at Forrester.
“They certainly need to be taken seriously,” Schuster said. “Now it’s executing and that’s where it all happens, and that’s really the make or break.”