Faraday Future's electric car gets a face and a name: FF 91

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LAS VEGAS — A year after puzzling auto analysts and enthusiasts with a prototype racing car, Faraday Future returned to the Consumer Electronics Show here Tuesday to unveil its first passenger vehicle, named the FF 91.

While the Gardena, Calif-based company finally put an automotive face to its proposed mass-market plans, details were scant. Officials said the sleek four-door would boast 1,000 horsepower produced by electric motors, and that it would begin taking $5,000 deposits on the company website.

In March, one FF 91 will be auctioned off for charity at an undisclosed event. The main production run is slated for 2018, company executives said.

As for price, Faraday representatives were mum, saying only that  the company aims "to deliver the value of an ultra-luxury car at the price of a premium sedan." Most premium sedans, vehicles such as a BMW 7-Series, can cost upwards of $80,000 to $100,000.

Last year, Faraday's debut product unveiling right before CES was of the most anticipated — and teased — moments of the show. To great fanfare and under a massive tent, executives took the wraps off a 1,000-hp racing machine that clearly had nothing to do with the company's consumer aspirations.

In the ensuing 12 months, Faraday produced little in the way of automotive plans and mock-ups and instead generated reports that questioned the Chinese-backed company's future.

Most recently, an investigation by Buzzfeed cited anonymous sources who claimed the company's woes include an employee exodus, unpaid bills and plant production setbacks. Faraday has repeatedly denied that the company is in trouble.

Over the past year, "we have moved from the idea of a company to a company with fully functioning beta vehicles," said Nick Sampson, Faraday's senior vice president of R&D and engineering. "We have to flip the automotive industry back on its head, break it down and build it up the way it should have been in the first place, independent of fossil fuels."

The FF 91's battery not only gives the vehicle that staggering horsepower number, but also a range of 378 miles. Both figures best a range of top end vehicles. Only million-dollar machines such as a Ferrari LaFerrari can summon 1,000 horsepower, while Tesla's top electric sedans provide a 300-mile range.

To demonstrate the FF 91's superior 0-to-60 miles per hour capability, Faraday exec Peter Savagian ushered in vehicles from Tesla, Bentley and Ferrari and let each speed past the bleachers full of media and other attendees in a giant hanger in downtown Las Vegas.

Faraday's FF 91 set a new record of 2.39 seconds in the trial, he said. "It outruns gravity," said Savagian, the company's vice president of propulsion engineering.

While FF 91 may be faster than a Tesla, it would have a rival in the newly announced Lucid Air, the product of another California-based electric car startup. Lucid Motors recently began taking $2,500 deposits for its cars, which are due later this year and will cost as much as $160,000. Lucid says its car can be upgraded to provide a 400-mile range on electric power.

Lucid Air will have sensors for autonomous driving, as will Faraday's FF 91. Tesla also is currently producing Model S and Model X sedans that are packed with self-driving sensors that will gradually be activated via software updates as the technology is proven.

The crowd at the Faraday event responded encouragingly to the speed tests, as well as a demonstration of the vehicle parking itself after the driver left it. However, many grumbled at the lack of information about how much the vehicle would cost.

In an apparent response to those reports suggesting Faraday Future has hit some potholes, Sampson finished the event by saying that "despite all the naysayers ... we will carry on to make the impossible possible."

Faraday Future Tips Sleek, Autonomous FF91 Electric Car

LAS VEGAS—Faraday Future, a would-be Tesla competitor with deep-pocketed Chinese investors, unveiled its first production vehicle Tuesday at CES, an electric self-driving supercar called the FF91.

Although executives promise it will be laden with futuristic infotainment, the car's chief innovations so far lie firmly on the driving spectrum, albeit at opposite ends. The FF91 boasts a blistering zero to 60 time of 2.39 seconds, according to in-house tests, while its automatic parking feature is so advanced that after a day of drag racing, you can leave the car at the entrance to a parking lot and it will very slowly roam the aisles looking for an available stall all by itself.

The ability to leap off the starting line is thanks to a 130kWh battery coupled to a drivetrain that delivers 1,050 peak horsepower. Faraday also says it will deliver a Tesla-killing 378 miles of range. Meanwhile, 10 cameras, 13 radar sensors, and 12 ultrasonic sensors power the self-driving tech.

Demonstrations of both features mostly went off without a hitch at a press event here at CES on Tuesday, although the prototype initially failed to respond to one parking command on stage, and Faraday didn't offer a live zero to 60 time for the demo, so all we have to rely on is the company's own factory tests.

The most revolutionary aspects of the car, however, weren't on display at all. Those include features that, to hear Senior Vice President of Engineering Nick Sampson tell it, will make the FF91 an "intelligent entity," and "more than just a car."

For instance, the infotainment system has displays that fold down from the ceiling, offering the ability to finish the TV show you were binge watching on your living room television on the way to the office. And you won't have to select the show, either: FF91 already knows a ton about your needs and preferences thanks to an online profile—and you'll be able to set up three more of them for your family, too. Each one corresponds to a different seat in the car.

"We're not stopping with automotive," Sampson said. "We don't even consider ourselves just a car company."

To find out if the company will deliver on its promises, you'll have to plunk down a $5,000 deposit. That will guarantee you a slot once deliveries commence in 2018, but Faraday didn't reveal the final MSRP.

Faraday has been hyping its product all year, including multiple teaser videos, like a 15-second YouTube clip that showed an SUV heavily disguised in black shrouds racing around a desert track.

Since teasing CES audiences last year with an undrivable mockup, Faraday has had several missteps on its journey to becoming a viable alternative to Tesla. One of its main cheerleaders and investors is Jia Yueting, the exuberant CEO of LeEco, a Chinese company that arrived on the American tech scene with its own splashy event in October. LeEco makes TVs, smartphones, electric bicycles, and even a car of its own, which wasn't present at the October event because one of two existing prototypes was damaged as shippers were preparing it for transit.

Even though LeEco and Faraday Future are separate companies, the links between them are more than just financial. Sampson told The Verge in December that LeEco and Faraday Future are "partners, we each help each other." There are reports that LeEco is siphoning off talent from Faraday for its own car project, and that the startup is so cash-strapped that it couldn't pay the bills on its Nevada factory.

"Despite all the naysayers, the skeptics, we will persist," Sampson said on Tuesday.

Faraday Future’s FF 91 is an SUV-shaped supercar with a lot of promises to keep

Faraday Future unveiled the FF 91, its first production EV, at CES in Las Vegas Tuesday night. Unlike the fantasy racecar at last year’s show, the FF 91 (pronounced “nine-one”) actually moved and drove—drove itself, parked itself, and did 0-60 in 2.39 seconds live onstage (with a driver). Also unlike last year’s car, Faraday has plans for the FF 91, including the production of 300 limited editions in March and mass production sometime in 2018.

What was like last year’s show was the raft of big promises. The FF 91 is “the first of a new species,” said Nick Sampson, senior vice president of R&D and engineering. Sampson and other Faraday Future presenters heralded the FF 91’s unparalleled intelligence, cutting-edge design, fast charging, and pure, raw speed. They even promised a mobility ecosystem where the car would provide connectivity, convenience, and customization to enhance the user’s driving experience.

That’s big talk from a company with known financial troubles, underscored by a recent, steady stream of executive departures. Key players remain, like Sampson and Richard Kim, the vice president of design. Still, it’s hard to know what FF can realistically accomplish in a still-volatile EV market. Consider that Tesla, a far more established EV company, still struggles with financial and production problems.

Faraday Future’s job on Tuesday night was simply to prove it has something real. It started by showing how the FF 91 could park itself, which it did live in the lot outside of the press conference.

The demo had its hiccups: The car took a long time to find the free spot, and as with other automated parking systems we’ve seen, it had to drive itself all the way past the parking spot to see it as empty, whereas humans can see the spot ahead and go straight into it.

The FF 91 can drive itself because it contains a raft of sensing technology, far more than I’ve seen on any other self-driving car prototype: 10 front- and rear-facing cameras; 13 long- and short-range radars; 12 ultrasonic sensors; and one high-definition 3D LiDAR.

That LiDAR is distinctive for being integrated into the hood of the FF 91. Where other automakers are trying to hide this bulky component, Faraday Future gave its LiDAR a glowing blue circle to show when it’s operating, and it can also rise out of the hood like a high-tech periscope.

After its parking adventure, the FF 91 drove itself onto the stage, with Vice President of Propulsion Engineering Peter Savagian riding in the driver’s seat.

Savagian got to show the sizzle. He started with videos of 0-60 acceleration tests that pitted the FF 91 against Tesla, Ferrari, and Bentley competitors. All EV fans know that one of the joys of the technology is the instant torque that shoves you back in your seat while traditional transmissions are still working their way through the gears. Guess what: The FF 91 smoked them all.

To underscore the results, Savagian trotted out all the competitors to repeat their 0-60 acceleration tests live onstage. As each car shot away, Savagian took swipes at all the noise and smell from the Ferrari and Bentley’s internal combustion engines, compared to the swift, yet silent Tesla and Faraday Future cars. The FF 91 smoked them all again, though by a mere hundredths of a second over the Tesla Model S 100D.

Okay, so the car can move. The next step is to make more of them. Faraday Future is starting with a splashy soft launch, where it will sell 300 limited editions of the FF 91 in March—yes, just two months away. The company will also assert its environmental friendliness by donating part of the profit from the limited edition to an environmental group yet to be named, and auctioning off an FF 91 for the direct benefit of that group.

Making 300 cars is a good start, but it’s another thing altogether to mass-produce thousands. Faraday Future said it would start doing that sometime in 2018, and it opened reservations for those cars Tuesday night. All you have to do is plunk down $5,000 (refundable) to get in line for the FF 91.

The fact that this deposit is five times bigger than the $1,000 deposit for the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t mean the FF 91 will cost five times as much in total—Faraday Future actually hasn’t set a price yet, though given all the technology, it will likely be expensive. The higher deposit does suggest that Faraday Future is looking for serious and well-heeled buyers. If you want one of the special limited editions coming in March, you’ll need to upgrade that reservation deposit by an unspecified amount.

A lot of people expect Faraday Future to fail. The company has many interesting ideas and seems committed to its EV mission, but it may just plain run out of money and executives before it can reach the point of sustainability. Even the self-driving tech looks a little shaky, as an FF 91 balked at driving onstage during the last part of the presentation. But if enthusiasm and optimism can combat adversity, the Faraday Future executives that remain displayed gobs of it. Nick Sampson’s last words at the close of the event were almost poignant in their defiance: “Despite all the naysayers and skeptics,” he said, “we will persist. We will carry on.”

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