First deliveries of the all-electric crossover are due in 2018.
A year after it showed off a ludicrously unfeasible hypercar concept here, Faraday Future is back at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a much more realistic car. Called the FF 91, it’s an all-electric crossover designed to take on the likes of the Tesla Model X.
Faraday Future is the newcomer electric-car company that has yet to build a car. Backed by Chinese conglomerate LeEco, it’s lead by former Lotus and Tesla engineer Nick Sampson, and now employs over 1,400 people. To hear Sampson tell it, though, FF is less about building a Tesla rival and more about some sort of social revolution.
“Disruption is what the world needs,” he said at the FF 91’s reveal event in Las Vegas. “A cleaner planet, a foreseeable future, and more fulfilling lives for all of us.”
The Faraday FF 91 is a futuristic-looking crossover (ground clearance, while not specified, is said to rival that of similar luxury SUVs) with a swept-back windshield and steeply angled rear window. At 206.7 inches (5,250 millimetres) long on a 126.0-inch (3,200-mm) wheelbase, it’s more than half a foot longer than the Model X. It’s not the most dramatic design ever to emerge from a car factory, but nor is it at all unpleasant to the eye.
All of the bodywork is said to have been designed with aerodynamics in mind first, resulting in a drag coefficient of just 0.25. It’s worth noting that the Toyota Prius Prime and Tesla Model S manage 0.24. In fact, Richard Kim, vice president of design, says that every body panel and part, including the BMW i8-like flying buttress pillars, was designed with aesthetics almost as a secondary concern.
“We make the aerodynamic design beautiful,” he said. “Nearly every aspect serves more than one role. Form follows multifunction.”
As an example, the twin antennae on the roof help with aerodynamics, while the rear-view camera is subtly hidden in the big rear spoiler. The 22-inch wheels (shod in 275/40 series rubber) automatically change their spokes to a more aerodynamic shape at speed. And the door mirrors are intended to be ultra-spindly arms with cameras attached. Yet because that’s not yet legal in the U.S., a full-size traditional mirror can easily be installed or removed.
Underneath, the FF 91 uses the company’s Variable Platform Architecture (VPA) chassis that consists of batteries in the floor and an electric motor at each. Active suspension is at each corner, with rear-wheel steering helping improve handling.
The motors are claimed to make a combined 1,050 horsepower, easily outstripping any Tesla model. Torque is claimed to be a total of over 1,328 pound-feet. FF says that’s enough thrust for the car to sprint to 60 miles per hour (96 kilometres per hour) in just 2.39 seconds – quicker than cars like the aforementioned Model X, a Ferrari 488 GTB, and so on.
Despite that incredible performance, Faraday Future promises 378 miles (608 kilometres) per charge on the EPA driving cycle, and more than 700 kilometers of range per charge in Europe’s NEDC rating system. That’s enabled partly by an absolutely enormous battery pack of 130 kilowatt-hours. The largest Tesla battery pack is 100 kWh. Faraday Future uses cylindrical lithium-ion cells from LG Chem; representatives were vague about whether LG Chem or FF would build the battery packs.
The downside to a large battery pack, of course, is a lengthier charging time. The FF 91 will come with a home-charging station that’s capable of 110- or 240-volt charging at 1.5, 10, or 15 kilowatts. On a 240-volt charge, FF says the car’s battery could be fully replenished in four and a half hours. The car is designed to be able to use “any” charging standard around the world.
The FF 91 will also have a fast-charge capability of up to 200 kW. That’s faster than pretty much any existing charging station; the Tesla Superchargers crank out about 120 kW. Unfortunately, admits Faraday Future Vice President of Propulsion Engineering Peter Savagian, there aren’t any such charging stations in the world just yet.
“The whole fast-charging thing has been growing and we just believe in an open and shared network, we’ll be part of that, we’ll help instigate that,” he said. As to whether the car would support plugging into Tesla’s charging ports? “You gotta ask Tesla.”
The FF 91’s party trick is its very advanced autonomous driving features. It has more sensors than Tesla’s Autopilot, with 10 cameras, 13 radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and one 3D LIDAR scanner. The last element emerges, looking like an Amazon Echo, from the car’s hood during automated driving. That, along with bizarre light patterns on the car’s rocker panels, is intended to help other motorists and pedestrians know when the FF 91 is driving itself.
The company showed a demonstration valet-parking mode, where the FF 91’s driver got out and the car automatically searched for and parked in an open spot by itself. The car will be able to drive itself in other situations, too.
A later valet-parking demo on the stage failed as the car didn't move at all. A few minutes later after some fiddling, the car did manage to drive itself forward a few feet on the stage.
Other gee-whiz high-tech features include FFID, a sort of online user account that allows the owner to open and start their FF 91 with their smartphone (there’s also facial recognition of drivers). Your FFID automatically downloads to each Faraday Future car so it can adjust the seating, presets, and all sorts of other features to each driver’s tastes.
Inside the car, there’s an 802.11ac wifi network powered by a pair of high-power modems. FF says that using dual modems allows the car to always have a high-speed data connection, and promises that you’ll be able to stream all sorts of media into the vehicle. It’s not clear exactly what that might entail, but given that LeEco is a media company, it’s likely that the car is intended to have you watch TV or movies while the FF 91 drives itself.
Other tech features include slim LED lighting elements, a panoramic sunroof that tints at the touch of a button, and what appears to be an enormous touchscreen, à la Tesla and Volvo, inside the car. Faraday Future didn’t show much of the interior besides a teaser video; from what we can tell so far, expect a “shifter” that rises from the centre console, touch-capacitive controls throughout, NASA-inspired “zero-gravity” seats, and lots of lights and touchscreens. It’s said to be a roomy, “first class” interior with a back seat that reclines by an impressive 60 degrees.
Production of the FF 91 at Faraday Future’s three-million square-foot factory on a 930-acre plot of land in Nevada isn’t starting anytime soon. The first cars are expected to be delivered in 2018, or at least a year from now.
Nonetheless, interested buyers can now register at the company’s website, FF.com, and created the aforementioned FFID. Serious shoppers can even put down a $5,000 USD fully refundable deposit to have one of the first vehicles. The first 300 FF 91s sold will be a special Alliance Edition, with part of the proceeds donated to charity, and with unique colours, trim, and other features.
A price for the car, however, has yet to be confirmed. Executives wouldn’t even offer estimates; when prodded by reporters, Savagian said that, “It’s a luxury car” and noted that the Tesla Model X can easily top $100,000. Several earlier reports, however, pegged $150,000 - $200,000 ($200,000 - $265,000 CADas the likely entry price.