CES 2017: Faraday Future unveils super fast electric car
By Chris Baraniuk, published on The BBC, on January 4, 2017
Start-up Faraday Future has unveiled a self-driving electric car that it says can accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in 2.39 seconds.
Faraday says the FF91 accelerates faster than Tesla’s Model S or any other electric car in production.
It was shown off at the CES tech show in Las Vegas.
But Faraday Future has faced financial difficulties and one analyst said it had to challenge “scepticism” following last year’s CES presentation.
The FF91 was introduced via a live demo, in which it drove itself around a car park and backed into an empty space.
Pre-recorded footage also showed the car accelerating from standstill to 60mph in 2.39 seconds.
Tesla’s fastest model did it in 2.5 seconds on the same track.
Late in the presentation, however, there was an awkward moment when Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting tried to demonstrate the car’s self-parking function on stage in front of the audience.
This time, the vehicle remained stationary.
Mr Jia is chief executive of LeEco – a Chinese video-on-demand and smartphone-maker – which has invested in Faraday.
“OK, it seems like it’s a little bit lazy tonight,” said Faraday senior vice president Nick Sampson, as the car refused to respond. It eventually complied later when they made a second attempt.
Faraday plans to release the FF91 in 2018. To pre-order, hopefuls will need to provide a refundable $5,000 (£4,080) deposit.
The event came a year after the firm’s first press conference, where it showed off a futuristic-looking concept vehicle. Several commentators criticised it at the time for failing to give more detail about what it was actually working on.
Prospective buyers were told they would be able to connect to the forthcoming car via a virtual “FFID” account.
With this, Mr Sampson explained, it would be possible to share data – such as movies or route plans – to the car from personal computers, for example.
Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, at CES in Las Vegas
Tech launches are famed for their awkward exchanges on stage, but the dynamic between Faraday Future’s Nick Sampson and LeEco boss Jia Yueting was on another level.
Sampson is the company’s figurehead at events like this, glitzy launches where big promises are made. Mr Jia holds the financial keys to keep the Faraday Future project going – the money from his China-based firm is bankrolling the efforts here (at least, we think it is – neither firm will discuss the nature of the deal).
So when the newly-launched car failed to drive itself a few feet in front of the audience, Sampson was almost apologetic to Mr Jia. For the audience, it suddenly felt like we’d stumbled into a product pitch meeting and were watching Sampson pick up the pieces.
In the unscientific poll I conducted shortly after the presentation, all felt the design of the FF91 fell short of Tesla’s vehicles in the style-stakes. As I type this, Elon Musk is yet to offer any reaction to his newest competitor. I don’t think he’ll be losing any sleep. Experience has shown him that making the car is the easy bit – producing it on en masse is far more difficult.
Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC
Faraday Future has lately been in the news for less celebratory reasons – its troubled finances.
In November, it confirmed that work had stopped on a huge factory in Las Vegas intended to manufacture a car backed by investment from LeEco.
A week earlier, the Bloomberg news agency had revealed that Mr Jia had written to LeEco’s employees to say his firm’s finances were under pressure.
Ever since it unveiled a futuristic concept car at last year’s CES, Faraday Future has been met with much scepticism, said Gartner automotive analyst Mike Ramsay.
“This is a must impress situation,” he added.
“Even if everything had been going perfectly, it is very difficult to be a start-up carmaker, particularly when you are coming from a tech background.”
Having seen the presentation, Mr Ramsay commented that he was “not convinced” that the firm was yet a clear contender.
“It still seems like it’s more in the realm of fantasy than reality,” he added.
“For the car to have a 130 kWh battery pack, it would be very heavy, and very expensive – extremely expensive to have a battery that size.”
On stage, Faraday executive Peter Savagian explained that the FF19 would be chargeable from various electrical standards.
He added its range would extend to 482 miles (775km) when driven at 55mph.
Many analysts expect interest in electric vehicles to continue to rise in coming years.
“We estimate around one in 10 vehicles will be electric or hybrid by 2020, at around 8 million vehicles,” said Simon Bryant at analysts Futuresource.
But companies like Faraday Future face competition from more established rivals – such as Tesla.
“Tesla is one of those brands – it has become synonymous with attractive electric vehicles, and the brand keeps innovating,” Mr Bryant told the BBC.
“Competing with this will be difficult but the wider electric vehicle industry will benefit from more companies competing in this space.”