Can Faraday Future Deliver At CES 2016?

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Faraday Future aims to develop a self-driving, long-range, people-centric electric car that has the potential to revolutionize the auto industry and — even broader — the personal transportation industry, including not just personal automotive sales but also taxis, buses, and light rail. The company has a team of over 400 employees at its Los Angeles Headquarters and recently announced plans for a $1 billion factory just a few miles outside of Las Vegas, which comes with a healthy $335 million dollar incentive package.

Faraday Future Factory Design Concept

The excitement around Faraday Future has been building for months now, with its marketing team pulling out all the stops to create a buzz around the next major milestone — the reveal of Faraday’s first concept car. While the young startup has cast a compelling vision, the launch tonight will not answer any of the real questions people should be asking about Faraday Future. Let me explain.

There are four major pillars of the Faraday Future vision:

  1. A new electric car
  2. Capable of fully-autonomous driving
  3. Long range (aka large battery packs)
  4. A people-centric approach

While the reveal of the company’s first concept car tonight promises to be a very exciting, very visual step towards the goal, the concept car fundamentally cannot prove that the young company has the capability to deliver even one of these MAJOR pillars of work.

Taking The Wraps Off Of Faraday Future
FF Concept Teaser

Building an electric car is difficult — just ask Tesla. It has taken more than a decade of focused, intense work with the early years being, per Elon Musk, the equivalent of “eating glass” (which hasn’t quite made my bucket list). Having a handful of hand-built prototypes is one thing, but taking those learnings and scaling them up to full production quantities comes with a different set of challenges. While coming up with the physical design and the engineering layout of a series of prototypes is also difficult and is something we will likely see proof of tonight, that is only the first step on a long road towards full production numbers rolling out of a yet-to-be-built factory.

Automakers have made major progress towards autonomous driving but we are still years away from it being a reality. Tesla is arguably the leader in this space — based on the number of actual cars driving on real roads with real autonomous driving features — and by it’s own admission, is still at least 2 years away from just having the technology with a few more years beyond that to work out all of the regulatory details. Assuming the best case for Faraday Future, and even if the startup was to catch up to Tesla in a very quick 3 years, it would still likely be at least 4 years away from putting an autonomous car on the road, and more importantly — up for sale.

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Building a long-range electric car is a key component of the Faraday Future plan that will bring new, more stable, higher density batteries to the market than what Tesla is using today. While this may seem like a bold assertion at first, battery technology continues to improve in cost and energy density every year to the tune of 7–8%. With all of the money being poured into battery R&D in the last 3 years alone for electric car batteries, grid-scale batteries and residential battery installations, major leaps have been made that ground these claims and give them credibility. Faraday is not claiming an overhaul to batteries as we know them, but rather, to deliver the incremental improvements that have been made across the industry in a production vehicle.

All of these pillars rally around a central theme that is core to what Faraday Future brings to the table — a people-centric approach. Faraday started “from the inside out” … starting with the passenger experience. The intentional integration of autonomous driving removes the need for an active driver and, thus, frees up all of the time spent driving for discretional activities. Employers may have a fleet of Faraday cars to send out to pick up employees for work to enable a few more minutes of productive time on the way into the office. The daily commute may be one spent on leisure with movies, social media, and photo browsing. Maybe the commute becomes the place where people get ready, using the privacy of the vehicle to get dressed, put on makeup and other hygienics.

However the experience plays out in reality, Faraday boldly envisions commutes being transformed from a task to be completed… into an experience. Yet another slot of discretionary time for people to enjoy. This part of the Faraday vision is built on the core competency of founder Jia Yueting, whose work at LeTV positions him well to craft the new automotive experience. The car is now a place where people want to go. Road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas? Sure! The vision transforms the inside of the car into something much like a living room — a place to be desired, not detested.

Faraday Future CES 2016 Teaser

Can this team of new visionaries create the compelling Faraday Future that has been promised? I hope so… and I’m looking forward to watching the next step in that journey as the energetic startup lifts the veil of secrecy that has been crafted around its first (and second?) concept car tonight.

UPDATE: Images that appear to be the concept were leaked online by someone who claims to have been able to install an early version of a yet-to-be-released app (h/t InsideEVs). I’m hoping for something a bit more practical than this from Faraday but there’s no denying the cool factor of it. 

Images by Faraday Future

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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