The electric vehicle industry is abuzz with the latest contender to join the fray: Faraday Future. The company, which says “you can just call us FF,” is targeting a 2017 release date for a new high-tech car it’s developing. While scant details are available regarding exactly what the stealthy California-based EV start-up has in mind, one point is no mystery: FF has Tesla in its crosshairs and has even poached some top talent from Elon Musk’s team to prove it.
FF has Tesla in its crosshairs and has even poached some top talent from Elon Musk’s team to prove it.
With this newcomer making headlines, The Fuse has the breakdown on the real, the rumored and the “revolution” FF claims it will stir. The Fuse reached out to Faraday with questions, but it did not respond.
What does “Faraday” mean? FF is referencing 19th century British inventor and electricity scientist Michael Faraday who famously pioneered studies in electromagnetism. The FF website acknowledges that Faraday is a focal point for the company: “As the father of both the electromagnetic motor and electrochemical batteries, Faraday was a man dramatically ahead of his time. FF launches in 2017, and it follows a similar paradigm: 100% electric, zero-emission, fully-connected and personalized in ways you’ve never even considered possible. After all, the greatest leaps in evolution require revolution.”
Room to grow: Both evolution and revolution are exciting—but they require a place to develop. Right now, even with its stated goal to launch in 2017, FF reportedly has no plant yet—and will need one soon if the company truly intends to have a product on the market in less than two years. If FF can indeed launch a new vehicle to market by 2017, it will be in direct competition with Tesla’s Model 3—which is also set for release in 2017 at a more-affordable projected price of around $35,000. FF meanwhile has yet to release any pricing information about its car—and some speculate the company may be targeting a higher-end audience.
Thinking outside the “Valley”: Although it’s been described somewhat erroneously as a Silicon Valley start-up, FF is actually currently based in a former Nissan plant in Gardena, CA—situated about halfway between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach. At this location, FF is practically sitting in SpaceX HQ’s backyard in neighboring Hawthorne, CA.
Should Tesla Motors be worried? This question is perhaps the one that has generated the most industry gossip since FF’s emergence. It’s an issue with several different aspects:
- Talent: A few Tesla veterans are already positioned in prominent positions at FF. Nick Sampson, product architect, was formerly an engineer on the Tesla Model S. Porter Harris is a battery expert formerly of SpaceX. Other top FF talent includes former employees of BMW, Chevy and Ferrari in addition to Tesla. With more than 200 on staff already and claims that it’s hiring 10 people per week, FF says it plans to grow to ranks and have more than 300 by 2016. Regardless of where it has recruited, FF appears quite proud of its team, if its website is any indication: “We’ve already recruited hundreds of the best of the best technology-focused talents from the most innovative companies of today, because only the most creative minds have the ability to create the kind of future previously unseen.” One thing that has so far remained entirely unseen? The company’s CEO. The only clue as to who might be at the helm of FF is the company’s first mysterious tweet saying two former Lotus colleagues conceived the company over cocktails.
- Technology: Keeping Tesla Motors’ technology secret has not been a priority for the company’s founder Elon Musk. In 2014, Musk made headlines by declaring all of Tesla’s technology patents to be open-source and available for anyone to study and research. At the time, Musk wrote in his statement announcing the move: “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” Given statements like this, it’s hard to see how Tesla would be surprised at another competitor in the field of EV development. Under the hood, FF boasts some upgrades to Tesla’s Model S according to Motor Trend Magazine—including a 15 percent boost in specific energy from an 85 kW-hr pack to about a 98 kW-hr pack. That difference could also alleviate some range anxiety by giving the FF an estimated 300 miles per charge. But why stop there? FF has its sights set on having the highest specific energy on the market and the highest energy density available as well. Like Tesla’s Model S, the FF battery calls for a multi-cell solution—but the FF battery will be designed so that it can be replaced in parts and will not need to be fully swapped out.
FF boasts some upgrades to Tesla’s Model S, including a 15 percent boost in specific energy from an 85 kW-hr pack to about a 98 kW-hr pack.
- Expert opinion: Levi Tillemann, author of The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future, says: “All of this action in the transportation space heralds a new automotive age. A century ago, there were dozens—if not hundreds—of U.S. automakers. As mass-production became dominant, the U.S. industry was winnowed down to three automotive giants: Ford, Chrysler and GM. They also dominated international markets. But Tesla proved that an upstart could build a world-class car. That has sparked an investment rush into a sector that, until recently, would have seemed impossible to penetrate. That said, doing what Tesla did is not easy. [But FF] certainly has some high-quality team members. I’ll be watching them with interest.”
Can an automotive start-up bring a fully-realized EV to market by 2017—without a factory (as of July 2015) while maintaining a hyper-secretive masthead and an anonymous CEO?
- Reality check: Can an automotive start-up bring a fully-realized EV to market by 2017—without a factory (as of July 2015) while maintaining a hyper-secretive masthead and an anonymous CEO? Hard to say. Tesla’s success—hard won and an ongoing struggle to be sure—is the exception not the rule in the world of automotive start-ups.