Faraday Future, the once-mysterious Chinese-backed electric-car company, unveiled its first vehicle concept at an event in Las Vegas Monday evening.
And it came in the form of an all-electric supercar called the FFZERO1.
The futuristic model marks the beginning of Faraday Future’s quest to “Change mobility the way Apple changed the cell phone,” FF research and development senior vice president, Nick Sampson said at the event.
However, with just 18 months of history under its belt, critics don’t just question whether Faraday Future can actually change mobility — they question whether the company can even build a real car.
Still in the testing phase
When asked by Business Insider how he would respond to those critics who characterise FF’s technology as “vaporware,” Sampson, who once served as Tesla’s head of vehicle and chassis engineering, pointed to the FFZERO1 concept car and said “This is not vaporware.”
“We have prototype mule vehicles on the road testing various technologies such as our electric motors and battery packs,” Sampson told Business Insider.
Test “mules” are prototype vehicles that hit the road disguised as an entirely different car. It’s a standard practice in the auto industry; car companies will fabricate mules so they can discreetly test various systems under development, in real-world conditions.
In Faraday Future’s case, Sampson told Business Insider that some of the mules are current, non-FF production cars with a few of FF’s parts installed. However, others are essentially all original Faraday Future tech that’s covered with the body shell of a competitor’s car. Sampson declined to reveal which cars FF uses for its mules.
According to Sampson, Faraday Future will work to get its more advanced and likely in-house-built “beta” prototypes up and running later this year.
Sampson claims the company will be able to release its first production car in two years if all goes well on the quality-control front.
Design and customisable platform
The swoopy Le Mans racer lookalike shown to the press is neither a production model nor a prototype.
Rather, it is a pure concept car that’s meant to be a flashy preview of the company’s motor, battery, platform and connected car technology.
In fact, the supercar concept was just a side project the team worked on while developing its future production vehicles, Sampson told Business Insider.
Although it’s unlikely anything as flashy as the concept will ever make it into series production, Faraday Future head designer Richard Kim did indicate certain elements of the car’s styling — such as a pronounced character line that runs down its side — will influence upcoming production models from the company.
That’s in addition to FF’s Variable Platform Architecture (VPA), modular battery, and chassis technology which will be found throughout the company’s planned vehicle lineup.
A “modular” system means that the size and performance of the motor, battery and chassis are designed to be scaled up or down depending on the needs of the model. Faraday Future uses a series of interchangeable sections which designers can insert to create a longer car with more batteries or remove to make a shorter, lighter car with a smaller battery pack.
Modular platforms are attractive because it allows a car company to have a single platform upon which it can build multiple cars. However, the downside to modular platforms is that they can be tricky and expensive to develop for the multiple roles it would have to fill.
Right now, the modular platform concept is most prominently deployed by Volkswagen Group and Volvo Cars. Volkswagen’s MLB platform currently underpins models ranging from its mid-size Audi A4 sports sedan to its 17-foot-long Bentley Bentayga ultra-luxury SUV.
Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture platform will underpin every new model the company introduces in the near future. Volvo’s new XC90 is the first to be built on it.
According to Sampson, what makes Faraday Future’s design different is that with an all-electric powertrain, its VPA platform is truly modular.
“Other companies who have done modular platforms are not truly modular,” Sampson said. “Everyone else who is doing it are still compromised because they have to allow for several different gasoline, diesel and even hybrid powertrains.”
As a result, they have to find a way to package electric motors, battery packs, and internal combustion engines all at once. Sampson says, because of that, other carmakers are unable to optimise the ideal performance for any one application.