Faraday Future spawned from the innovative spirit of Jia Yueting, who we quoted back in 2014 as saying, “This is our dream and passion…. Look at China’s skies. All responsible corporate citizens want to do something about it. This is the truth.”
He truly is a man on a mission, as anyone who has paid any attention to the speed at which Faraday Future is moving can attest. But this man takes it even one step beyond that. Just as Elon Musk was not content to just send humans to Mars with his startup SpaceX, and also took on the challenge of starting up Tesla in parallel, Jia is pursuing his vision for the lithium-ion-powered future of human mobility along two tracks. Faraday Future is racing against ever-skeptical critics for a place at the table in the US, while newly minted LeEco, a recreation/rebranding of the massive LeTV empire, is similarly pushing forward with an EV of its own in China.
Last week, Jia Yueting took the wraps off of the latest iteration of electric vehicles — and by any standard, the only product from either company that looks even remotely ready for production — called the LeSEE. From the fact sheet: “The SEE Plan seeks to build an open automotive ecosystem for energy-efficient, intelligent and connected vehicles.” Le’see what it looks like (ok, that was terrible).
Looking like something straight out of the Tesla playbook, the car rolled out of the man-made fog onto the stage shrouded in mysterious lighting and a mobbing crowd of global press. A closer look reveals dimensions and key features that bear a striking resemblance to none other than the Tesla Model S.
A low, sweeping profile that inevitably results in an über-low coefficient of drag — an extremely desirable feature for a car looking to maximize precious charge held in what are surely heavyweight quantities of lithium-ion (or some derivative thereof) batteries. A look towards the stars reveals a beautiful panoramic glass roof that slopes back to an air diffuser accenting the rear, which further contributes to a low drag at top speeds.
I won’t bore you with further comparisons, but suffice it to say, the resemblance is striking and obvious. It definitely furthers the stereotype many westerners hold of Chinese companies that would rather “reapply” western design than create their own. Fair enough — after all, this is just a concept car and will inevitably flex through several more design iterations before settling in on a final form factor.
Beyond just the sexy exterior, Jia demonstrated the ability of the car to move around in response to voice commands. This shows how he is not just building a car, but instead, taking into account the full ecosystem in a driver’s life — they have smartphones, smart watches, connected cars … let’s use all of that to make driving a better experience.
It’s very much in line with how Tesla is rolling these days, and what we see from LeEco is already leaps and bounds beyond what the entrenched automotive masses are producing. Granted, LeEco doesn’t have any cars in production, out on the roads … but if this demonstration is any hint of what’s to come in a production car, I’m excited to see what comes to the table.
Interestingly enough, the car also borrows one of the more prominent features of what should probably be considered a cousin — the Faraday Future FFzero1 — the bold LED lights up front that create a bit of a smile. That might be the only thing it shares with Faraday Future, though, as this car actually drives (the FFzero1 wasn’t capable of driving).
On top of that, as we already noted, a very emotional Jia Yueting showed off the car responding to voice commands from his phone, indicating the ability to drive somewhat autonomously in a complex environment. Granted, this isn’t the same as driving downtown with streetlights, children on bicycles, pets, and balloons flying around, but it’s a great step just to show that the company has a working prototype. Jia was visually and audibly emotional about the reveal … and maybe even the fact that the car actually drove how it was supposed to. He noted that the car would be on display on April 25th for all to see.
I’m looking forward to great things coming from at least one of these incestuous companies, and as always, to me, that means not just showing me the money … or the concept car … but showing me a car that I can buy … even if it’s going to be a few years before I can buy it.
Jia’s response reminds me of the elation expressed by Elon Musk at the Model 3 event, where the collective vision of Tesla culminated in the Model 3 being validated by over 100,000 reservations (at the time). Check out the video below covering the reveal of the LeSEE with some halfway decent English audio tracked over it (be nice!).
All images courtesy LeEco