Exactly one year after starring as the sleeper of Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show for its radical take on the future of the electric self-driving car, startup Faraday Future has returned to the show to reveal a production model: a 1,050 horsepower all-electric luxury vehicle that shoots from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in an unheard-of 2.39 seconds.
Called FF 91, the car is expected to go into production in 2018. Similar to Tesla’s approach to selling its forthcoming Model 3, Faraday has already begun taking refundable reservations for $5,000 through its website, FF.com.
The FF 91’s predecessor, the Batmobile-like concept car Faraday unveiled at last year’s show, grabbed headlines for the company’s vision of an electric, autonomous, and modular future, where a pickup truck could be built on the same platform as a coupe by tweaking some measurements and the size of the battery pack. Few people had heard of Faraday last January, but the company pledged to disrupt the automotive industry the same way Apple changed telecommunications.
At the time, the flashy prototype design generated skepticism whether the under-the-radar company owned by a Chinese Internet billionaire could create what it proposed. On Monday at CES, Faraday finally revealed a production model of that car. If the FF 91, which Faraday says can eke out 378 miles on its fully charged 130-kilowatt battery, delivers on its promises, its performance will leave Tesla – and the rest of the automotive industry – far behind. (In comparison, Tesla says that its Model S sedan, currently the fastest mass market car available, can accelerate from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 2.5 seconds when equipped with its 100 kilowatt battery in Ludicrous mode.)
Much like Tesla’s early days, Faraday has drawn critics who argue that such a small company lacks the money, resources and know-how to upend the century-old automotive industry. Underscoring the difficulty and expense of manufacturing an automobile from scratch, Faraday reportedly failed late last year to make payments on a $1 billion manufacturing facility outside of Las Vegas, six months after breaking ground.
Faraday, which was founded in 2014, argues that its startup mentality is an asset. “It’s starting with a clean sheet of paper and building from nothing,” Nick Sampson, Faraday’s senior vice president of research and development, said at the FF 91’s media reveal at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters in December. Before joining the company, Sampson worked at Tesla designing the Model S and the Model X SUV.
Boasting technology previously depicted only in science fiction, the FF 91 will unlock its doors using facial recognition and iris detection. It will also park itself, using four different sensors to eventually shimmy into “any parking lot in the U.S,” according to Hong Bae, Faraday’s director of self-driving.
Inside, the FF 91 features several infotainment screens, while cameras embedded in each seat keep track of passengers’ personal preferences, from climate to music. The car will contain multiple modems from a variety of carriers and aggregate the signals into one stream for a stronger connection. “Our vehicle will be the most connected vehicle in the industry,” said Director of Entertainment Mark Zeinstra.
During the press conference at CES, Sampson called the FF 91 the world’s first truly connected car. “What we’re creating is a category of technology that has not existed before,” he said.
The production model promises technology well ahead of anything else currently available, but critics are skeptical of Faraday's staying power. So far, the company seems to be a revolving door for key executives, losing its acting CEO, chief brand and commercial officer, and vice president of product marketing and growth within the past month. Meanwhile, its workforce has ballooned to 1,400, as it snatches talent from automakers including Ferrari, Jaguar, and Ford, as well as Google, and Apple, which are developing their own electric, self-driving cars.
“Faraday Future has taken significant strides over the last 12 months," said Jeremy Carlson, an analyst at IHS Markit. "Now it comes down to execution."