Faraday Future has been ratcheting up expectations for the past few months. The secretive electric car start-up from Southern California has been hinting that its first prototype would make us start thinking about cars in a whole new way. In a recent teaser video, it asked “What if the back seat was the new front seat?” and “What if all those cars parked in driveways had more interesting lives?”
At 8:00 pm Pacific time on Monday, January 4, it finally pulled the wraps off its FFZero1 to reveal…..a single seat jet fighter kind of a car with a swallow tail, clear plastic cockpit cover, 4 electric motors, 1000 horsepower and a top speed of 200 miles an hour. Wait, what? This is the groundbreaking, paradigm shattering, never seen anything like it before car that will make Elon Musk quake in his boots?
The motoring press gave a collective shrug, as if to ask, “Is this all you got?” The headlines are filled with such adjectives as “ridiculous,” “bizarre,” and “wild.” Is this what Chinese billionaire Jia Yeutang spent his money on? Surely the company isn’t spending a billion dollars to construct a factory in North Las Vegas to build something like this, are they? That would be insane. There is virtually no market for this car.
Actually, the answer is “No.” This is just a prototype, a car designed to let the world know the wonders Faraday Future is capable of. In fact, this car doesn’t even run. The only way to drive it is on a virtual test track back at company headquarters. Here’s a video of what that looks like.
So what’s the big deal about Faraday Future? For one, it doesn’t actually plan to sell to private customers. It says the chassis underneath the FFZero1 is fully customizable and can be used to produce sports cars, sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks. Customers will simply choose what kind of vehicle they want today and summon one to the front door. It could be a jaunty roadster on a sunny summer day or a pickup truck to haul building materials in.
The underlying platform features what the company calls Variable Platform Architecture. “That platform is done on a very modular and flexible basis such that we can change the size of the platform,” says Nick Sampson, a senior VP in charge of R&D and engineering told The Verge. “We can change the number and power of the drive systems. We can change the physical size and electrical size of the battery packs, so we can get bigger and larger packs and smaller packs both on the electrical size and physical size because of the modularity of how the battery architecture is being done, which is unique compared to anybody else in the industry. The underlying story is all about the platform that’s being built.” In other words, pay no attention to the goofy time machine you see here. We are going to build really terrific cars — in about 4 years or so.
And what does Jia Yeutang get for his billion dollar investment? Control over the video screen that will sit in the center of every Faraday Future car ever built. People will have a lot of time on their hands while they are being driven to and fro by the self driving cars of the future. Heaven forefend they be bored for one millisecond. Yeutang will make his money delivering what is known as “content” to all those video screens. He already is in the content business in his home country, where his company is known as “the Netflix of China.”
Faraday Future will certainly be disappointed in the lack of excitement and buzz generated at CES. But as one person who wrote a comment online said succinctly, “Nothing to see here. Move along.”