In the same week that Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced Tesla would be expanding its flagship Model S lineup to include an optional 90 kilowatt-hour battery pack and so-called ‘Ludicrous’ acceleration mode, another Californian electric automaker was gaining traction with Internet blogs and mainstream media outlets.
Enter Faraday Futures — or FF as it suggests you call it — a startup founded back in 2009 which hit the headlines when MotorTrend did a feature piece on the enigmatic company and its claims to bring a car to market by 2017.
But who runs Faraday Futures? What do we know of the company’s background? And will it make good on its promise to bring a fully-electric car to market in just two years’ time that will change the way you think about transportation?
Sadly, there’s very little to go on. Worse still, the company won’t even disclose the name of its founder or CEO. But with a little digging, here’s what we can tell you.
About the name
Like Tesla Motors — named after Serbian inventor, scientist and father of the AC induction motor Nikola Tesla — Faraday Futures is named after another of history’s greatest inventors: British scientist Michael Faraday.
Aside from the Faraday’s discoveries of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis, the company says the name was chosen partly because of Faraday’s incredible life story and spirit, despite the odds against him.
Born into a family described as ‘not well off,’ Faraday received very little in the way of a formal school education. Despite this, a seven-year apprenticeship at a local bookbinder and bookseller from the age of fourteen enabled him to supplement his basic school education with a great deal of autodidactic learning, particularly in the field of science. By the time he had completed his apprenticeship, Faraday knew enough basic science to attend the lectures of chemist Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution, which eventually led to him becoming the Davy’s assistant, a path which would eventually open doors to great things.
Faraday Future’s website, like so many other startup websites, is furstratingly vague about exactly what its first electric car will offer.
“FF launches in 2017,” the website proclaims, offering a “100%, zero-emission, fully-connected and personalised in ways you’ve never even considered possible. After all, the greatest leaps in evolution require revolution.”
Below, it simply states that its vehicle will offer “Clean connected smart mobility for all,” while it also boasts that the Faraday Future will have very little in common with the cars of today — save for having four wheels.
In its original article, MotorTrend says Faraday is targeting the highest energy density and specific vehicle energy on the market with a battery pack to lead other battery packs. Indeed, it claims a 15 percent higher specific energy than the Tesla Model S P85, a figure which suggests a battery pack of about 98 kilowatt-hours.
The battery pack — built using multiple-cells in a single battery pack like Tesla — will be designed in such a way that engineers can replace cells as needed without replacing the entire pack. Moreover, a single battery design will be used across the entire Faraday Future range of vehicles, with just the capacity changing to allow interoperability (and dare we suggest it, battery swapping?)
But here’s the problem. The Motor Trend article was written on Wednesday, ahead of Tesla’s 90 kWh Model S announcement last week. Now, Tesla is snapping at the heels of FF — and the car isn’t even due for another two years.
When it comes to design of FF’s first vehicle, there’s little to go from on the website either. Save for a few indistinct computer-generated renderings, we’re not even sure what that first production model will look like.
Whatever the design however, FF says it will be fully connected to everything. that makes us think of the Tesla Model S on steroids.
Here’s where we get a little luckier. While FF’s website only lists a massive selection of job postings at the fledgling company and the name of the company’s current CEO is a closely-guarded secret, its current list of staff are nevertheless impressive.
There’s Nick Sampson, former Vehicle and Chassis Engineer from Tesla, who is FF’s Product Architect. Then there’s Richard Kim, former BMW i8 and BMW i3 concept designer, who is occupying the old of Head of Design. His former colleague from BMW, Page Beermann, joins FF as Exterior Design Chief.
The list continues. Silva Hiti, FF’s Senior Director of Powertrain, lead the powertrain development on the Chevrolet Volt, while Pontus Fontaeus, formerly of Lamborghini, Ferrari and Land Rover, is focused on Interior Design.
Even one of Elon Musk’s former SpaceX employees, Porter Harris, is operating as FF’s Batteries specialist, and MotorTrend claims FF employs a ‘Boatload of Former Tesla employees’ among its current staff.
Vapourware, or Real?
“We’re not Tesla. But we’re not Fisker either,” the company is reported to have said to MotorTrend when it questioned the viability of a startup company few have heard of bringing a car to market in just two years. “We’re not fucking around.”
That’s certainly fighting talk. But in the big bad world of the automotive industry — one that’s a great deal wiser and leaner than it was nearly a decade ago when Tesla Motors was founded twelve years ago — we’d argue that starting a company building a high-performance electric car is even harder now for a startup than it was for Tesla.
That’s because when Tesla started building electric cars, very few other automakers were. Now pretty much every mainstream car company — all of whom have far more money to spend on development than any startup — has its own electric car engineering program or production electric cars.
Tesla, FF’s first and possibly only real competitor, is well on the way to its second mass-proaction car, is building the world’s biggest factory in the Nevada desert, and has plans to revolutionise the way we think about energy storage.
We think it’s too early to call FF a viable company or indeed just vapourware like so many before it — but we know one thing for sure.
It has a lot of work ahead of it.
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