The clean energy vehicle revolution is giving rise to a new generation of connected electric vehicles that are largely being ushered into the market by a new breed of startups.
These electric vehicle startups are rethinking the automobile and reimagining them around a core electric powertrain that enables completely new vehicle designs for the next generation. But not all startups are coming to market in the same way. Here’s a look at how some EV startups are looking to the future.
Faraday Future, possibly the most infamous EV startup today, made waves with a series of high-profile unveilings in Las Vegas that brought all the glitz and glitter of Vegas to their unveilings. In 2016, the company teased that it would unveil the future and landed with a thud when it pulled the cover off of what looked like a futuristic Batmobile design.
Since then, the company made progress with its production-ready, fully electric FF91 sport utility vehicle, but struggled to gain traction with investors for the buildout of the Las Vegas factory that would reportedly produce the $260,000 (a rumored price tag) vehicle. Impressive specs on the car and high levels of autonomy at launch continue to excite prospective customers, but plans for the factory were scrapped as the company ran into a slew of financial and staffing challenges that set it back.
Faraday Future most recently refocused its efforts on starting production of the FF91 at a new factory in California, until its latest financial woes triggered massive layoffs and furloughs, executive departures, and a desperate scramble for legal cover and new funding.
NIO (formerly known as Next EV) is making a push into electric vehicles, starting in the lucrative Chinese market, where it is already building out battery swap stations for its vehicles. The company has made a name for itself and built a brand around modern design that it has honed on the racetrack with its supercar.
All that tech was packed into the NIO ES8 which looks like a vehicle that would sell very well in America, but the uncertainty of trade relations between the two countries, and the size of the prize in its existing market, have prevented that from happening so far. In preparation for scaling up its production and pushing into China, NIO went public late last year with a valuation of $6.4 billion.
As Tesla experienced first hand, it is one thing to have cars that customers want and an entirely different challenge to build hundreds of thousands of them. That is perhaps the largest hurdle for NIO and its fellow startups as they seek to not only bring their vehicles to market, but to do so at a scale that is profitable.
CleanTechnica’s Nicolas Zart has been following Byton’s progress closely over the last few months and spoke with company representatives in Pebble Beach, California, during 2018 Monterey Car Week, again in Munich, Germany, and last week at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. We rode in the M-Byte this year in Los Angeles, California, on an admittedly small course, and came away from the drive impressed.
The M-Byte is slated to move into production next year and will come to market with Level 3 autonomous driving capability. Byton is being more aggressive with its K-Byte concept, which it is claiming to bring to the market with full Level 4 autonomous driving capability.
Those are stretching goals for a 3-year old company and that’s not even touching on the challenge to bring these impressive electric vehicles to market, but Byton has a globally distributed team that is working hard to build up the systems required to deliver its impressive vehicles to customers.
Lucid Motors has been teasing customers for years with the prospect of a $60,000 sedan, the Lucid Air, that competes with or exceeds the specs of the Tesla Model S. It includes a level of interior luxury that Tesla has not yet achieved. Lucid has been taking its Alpha prototype to the track and has hit some impressive speeds with it, including chalking up a 235 mph run.
In support of the testing it is putting the Air through on the road to production, it continues to put finishing touches on the handful of versions of the car that it will offer at launch, with battery configurations that will deliver 240 up to 315 miles of range per charge and motor configurations that will offer up to 1,000 horsepower.
In support of this work, Lucid secured $1 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia that it will use to fortify its factory in Casa Grande, California, for the start of production next year.
As with many tech startups, Rivian kept its vehicles under wraps until a big launch party up at the famous Griffith Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles, California. The grand unveiling brought Rivian’s R1T electric truck and R1S electric SUV into the open, meant to cater to America’s truck lovers (a segment which Tesla plans to address in the future). The two vehicles will share the same skateboard platform that will come in three battery pack variants and several motor configurations.
Rivian is pushing to bring its vehicles to market in Q4 2020, which feels either very ambitious or very low volume, considering how difficult it truly is to bring a new vehicle from concept to customers. Elon and the team at Tesla can attest to just how many levels of production hell there are and is proof positive that Rivian wasn’t the first and it surely won’t be the last EV startup to challenge Detroit with a new take on the automobile.
The CleanTechnica team traveled to Santa Clara, California, to the SF Motors* headquarters in March for the big reveal event for the SF5 and SF7. The pair represent SF Motors’ entries into the luxury electric vehicle market, and will be built on a common skateboard platform that enables a modular battery that can adapt to the needs of the vehicle. The platform can also support a 2- or 4-motor configuration that ramps up to an impressive 1,000 horsepower at the top end.
The styling and price points on the SF5 and SF7 set the vehicles apart, just like the company’s split manufacturing footprint does, with an existing manufacturing footprint in the US and China. The vehicles will be supported by the company’s Protective Autonomy technology, which should include the autonomous parking system, for which the company was just awarded a patent.
SF Motors plans to not only build and sell vehicles, but has its sights set on licensing out the tech to other companies as a means of generating additional revenue from its R&D investment. SF Motors also sees the licensing plan as a way for it to move the entire electric vehicle industry forward as internal combustion vehicle companies look to quickly migrate legacy vehicles to fully electric powertrains.
The future is bright for the automotive industry, with the question about whether or not electric vehicles are coming having already been settled. The only outstanding questions at this point is how fast the transition will happen and which companies will benefit most. If Tesla’s early success with the Model 3 production ramp is any indication, it’s going to happen faster than anyone expected — and it may come from companies that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
In the end, competition breeds innovation and that’s a win for customers like us!
*This post was supported by SF Motors.
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