Remember when the Detroit auto show — rather grandly known as the North American International Auto Show — was the top dog on the global auto show circuit, the place where every manufacturer brought its best prototypes and concepts to wow the world? Times have changed.
Cars today aren’t just cars. They are computers on wheels, thanks in large part to the efforts of Tesla. So it makes sense that automakers are bringing their wares to CES in Las Vegas instead of Detroit. That alone illustrates just how much the industry has changed in the past 10 years.
At CES 2020, the big news in electric cars was the announcement by Sony that it is working on an EV, a story fully reported by Zachary Shahan on Monday. But there were two other companies that brought new electric vehicles to Las Vegas this year — Nissan and Faraday Future. Here’s more about that.
Nissan Dual Motor Platform
Nissan brought a concept version of its all electric Ariya SUV, scheduled to arrive in showrooms in late 2021. As visually appealing as the Ariya may be, it’s what’s underneath that counts. The Ariya will reportedly be the first production car to use Nissan’s new dual motor, all-wheel drive platform.
Specs are few and far between. Last fall, Autoblog reports, the company claimed 304 horsepower and 501 ft-lbs of torque for its new electric platform, which has been saddled with the unfortunate moniker of e-4ORCE. At CES, no specs were offered other than to say the car would have more than 300 miles of range. There was no mention of what measuring stick Nissan is using to arrive at the number — NEDC, WLTP, or EPA.
Autoblog goes on to say the new platform permits precise torque control to all four wheels and enables regenerative braking from each wheel individually. The system is said to improve cornering, which implies a degree of torque vectoring is baked into the system. Part of its all-wheel drive capabilities are said to be derived from Nissan’s super sports car, the GT-R.
Faraday Future FF91 Lives
Faraday Future may or may not ever start producing cars. It is still waiting to raise enough funding to get production started at its Hanford, California factory which has a capacity of 30,000 vehicles a year. But CEO Carsten Breitfeld drove a prototype to CES 2020 and let Autoblog take a ride in it.
Not much has changed since the FF91 appeared at CES 2017. It still has a 130 kWh battery and a projected range of 360 miles (579 kilometers). The top version still has three 350-horsepower electric motors. And the interior still feels cavernous with a flat floor and wide, comfy seats.
Despite a plethora of electronic geewizardry, the FF91 will not offer Level 4 or Level 5 self-driving technology when production begins. Brietfield told Autoblog in Las Vegas, “When we go to the market, we will have Level Three technology. We’ll move on to level four, but, you know, in this whole autonomous driving discussion, the expectations are sometimes a bit too high.”
“Some people are saying we’ll have level four everywhere five years from now, and I just don’t think it’s going to happen.” He suggested the cost of developing such self-driving systems is too high, and the task of satisfying regulators in countries around the world is too daunting to be worthwhile. Don’t tell that to Elon Musk, however.
Faraday Future is hoping to build a factory in China, but will begin by shipping cars there from California — assuming there are any to ship. The company has been beset by serious financial hurdles thanks to the antics and bankruptcy of its founder, Jia Yueting. Is there a Faraday Future in your future? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.
The whole world is waiting for compelling electric cars from a company other than Tesla to arrive. There was little at CES 2020 to suggest that wait is over. Sony may or may not be dipping its toe in the electric car waters. The Nissan Ariya is really little more than a jacked up LEAF with a second motor. If Nissan has not outfitted it with liquid cooling for the battery, it will be a non-starter in the race to bring competitive electric SUVs to market. And Faraday Future? What can we say? So many promises and so few results.
Meanwhile, Tesla is boldly going where no car company has gone before, but few are following in its wake. By the time CES 2030 gets here, there is a strong possibility many of the mainstream car companies doing business today won’t still be around.
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