The FFZERO1 Concept: No, Really, Is Faraday Future for Real?

Source: Faraday Future

Source: Faraday Future

In 2014, California-based startup Faraday Future appeared out of nowhere, and while it hasn’t divulged much about what it’s up to yet, it’s certainly swinging for the fences. Located somewhere at the nexus of autonomous cars, EVs, and ride-sharing apps, the deep-pocketed startup wants to reinvent the automotive world as we know it, and be on the road in 2017. Which means it has to finish its billion-dollar plant in Nevada, establish some kind of dealership and parts network (even if it’s a top-down system like Tesla’s) and start building and selling its cars in 23 months and some change.

We’ll know a lot more about FF (as company reps prefer to call it) after this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but on Monday night the company gave the world its first real glimpse into the mysterious company, and the response was, well, not good. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt,” and by the time the wraps came off its first prototype that night, it looked like FF may have removed whatever doubt was left about the company.

Vice President and face of the company Nick Sampson said that the FF cars would “change mobility the way Apple changed the cell phone” at the event, and while that may conjure up visions of a sleek, pod-like autonomous city car, it wasn’t. Nor did it look like a Tesla, a Prius, a Leaf, an i3 (though it came from the same designer) or any other practical green car on the market. Instead, the company showed off the non-running, autonomous, electric, 1,000 horsepower, tandem-seated, finned, and Le Mans-inspired FFZERO1 – the exact opposite of a realistic near-production prototype that the world expected from a company that’s hoping to sell their first cars before your next doctor’s check up. And while nobody’s saying the FFZERO1 isn’t a concept worthy of Gran Turismo, it’s called into question the startup’s ability to deliver an actual car, so much so that Sampson had to declare to Business Insider minutes after the reveal: “We are certainly not vaporware.”

Source: Faraday Future

Source: Faraday Future

So the automotive world went into FF’s big coming out party expecting the next great people’s car, and instead got the 21st century take on the 1953 Firebird I dream machine. But the fact of the matter is: Sampson is probably right. It may have been ill-timed for FF to unveil a non-op halo car before it ever offered a glimpse into its actual lineup, but what’s important to remember about the FFZERO1 isn’t its insane theoretical power or its impractical tandem layout, it’s the car’s Variable Platform Architecture, the only thing that’s likely to make it into production vehicles.

Speaking to The Verge in November, Sampson outlined the necessity for flexibility in FF Models. “I don’t have to buy one compromise vehicle, I can just have use of the perfect model when I need it,” he said. While that touches on the company’s planned ride-sharing program, it also highlights how important a flexible platform is for FF’s future, whether it be used in a subcompact commuter car, or a 1,000 horsepower hypercar. Like Teslas or the upcoming Porsche Mission E, batteries on FF models will be placed flat along the floor the car, but the company has made a packaging breakthrough. Referring to its batteries as “strings,” they’re placed width-wise in the car, with the amount varying depending on the size of the platform. They can be swapped out individually too; while most current EVs brick once any of its batteries develop issues, Sampson says, “if one battery goes out, the rest continue to function,” like a string of Christmas lights.

Source: Faraday Future

Source: Faraday Future

Regardless of what FF’s production models look like, its battery setup and modular platform could have a major impact on the EV market. And despite the misfire that was the FFZERO1 launch, the company is still working toward its highly improbable deadline. Sampson told Business Insider, “We have prototype mule vehicles on the road testing various technologies such as our electric motors and battery packs,” meaning you may have already passed a FF car and never would’ve known it.

For better or for worse, we now have our first look into Faraday Future, and by the end of CES, we’re likely to have even more information about the company. That said, there still isn’t that much to go on, and if the FFZERO1 has done anything it’s only created more interference about what its actual cars will look like. But don’t be distracted by the autonomous electric hypercar on the stand. The truth about Faraday Future is probably in there after all.

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