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Electrified Idealists

The newcomers arrived on the scene in style (Photo: Faraday Future)

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Some carmakers just want to sell cars. Faraday Future, however, aspires to make the world a better place with its vehicles. The Silicon Valley start-up relies heavily on autonomy, connectivity and electric drive – as could be seen at CES 2016.

“What if?” With these two words, Faraday Future questions more than 125 years of car manufacturing history. “What if we could forget everything we know about cars today? Would we really invent the same car industry that we have now?” These are the questions posed by the youngest carmakers in the Silicon Valley. And they also provide the answer right away: a resounding “No!”

The American start-up dreams of a future beyond noisy, dirty, conventional petrol-burning vehicles in congested cities. They conjure up a vision of clean and smart electric vehicles that buzz autonomously through a quiet metropolis while being closely connected to their environment – making the world a little better with every mile. “We are going to change the way cars are being built and used.”

Their approach is so extravagant that Faraday Future has already made headlines in recent weeks. And ever since the company – that was founded primarily with Chinese investments – successfully headhunted top talents from BMW, GM, Tesla, Google or Apple and announced the construction of its first billion-dollar production site in Nevada, the newcomer has not only been noticed but taken pretty seriously in the boardrooms of Detroit or Wolfsburg.

As revolutionary as Apple’s iPhone

R&D Manager Nick Sampson (Photo: Faraday Future)

It does not seem to bother R&D manager Nick Sampson that Faraday is still eyed with some skepticism and that people remain doubtful of whether the newcomer is really capable of becoming a game-changer. Quite the opposite: Sampson sees the experience of established OEMs rather as a burden for them. “You don’t need a past of 100 years to shape the future,” says Sampson and refers to his role model Steve Jobs. “With the iPhone, Apple not only put a new cell phone on the market out of nowhere. At the same time, they re-invented the telephone. This is what we want to do with mobility.”

More digital freedom and fewer empty journeys

While the iPhone took the world by storm with apps and a revolutionary user experience, Faraday is focusing particularly on clean power and autonomous driving. Yes, Faraday customers are supposed to benefit from complete connectivity and immerse themselves into digital worlds while on the road (which secures new revenue streams for Chinese investor Jia Yueting with his Internet media service LeTV). But beyond that, Sampson is convinced that an entirely new kind of mobility will become reality, once vehicles drive through cities on autopilot and collect their passengers everywhere. “It will be less about owning and more about using,” says Sampson as he describes the Faraday approach. It is obvious that he is implying an automated car sharing service. 

Spectacular premiere: a sports car as a show piece

Therefore it is rather ironic, that the very first car the company unveils at CES 2016 in Las Vegas you really wouldn’t want to share with anyone or leave to the autopilot. Because for their premiere, the Americans have developed a spectacular show piece: a 1000 hp electric sports vehicle that, quite frankly, would be a bit wasted on autonomous driving.  With a 0-60 time of less than three seconds and a top speed of more than 200 mph (330 km/h), this is a car that even the most future-oriented driver would still like to enjoy with his hands on the wheel.

The FFZERO1 in all its glory (Photo: Faraday Future)

However, apart from some design elements, the variable platform and the display concept in the Monoposto cockpit, this concept car has nothing in common with the actual production vehicle, according to Sampson. For the series debut, he promises a more conventional car concept in which you will be a lot more inclined to let yourself be chauffeured.

The mystery not yet revealed

What exactly will this car look like? What features will it be equipped with? And how will the novel payment model work? Those are all questions that Faraday Future is not yet willing to reveal. Undoubtedly, the start-up has made huge strides in the first 18 months after its founding: it employs 750 people and soon begins the construction of a billion-dollar factory. But even though Faraday is moving at a faster pace than, say, Tesla did in its early days, it will still take two or three more years until the first cars hit the road. Until then, Faraday Future still needs a bit of mystery and teasing – to hold people’s attention and make the headlines at events like this one. 

Designed "from the inside out" (Photo: Faraday Future)

How do you think such fresh faces will fare in the automated driving game? Leave a comment below!

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