Faraday Future, Disruptive Mobility, and the Allure of Possibility
Everything there is to know about the latest California EV upstart.
Faraday Future is focused, in the heinous parlance of our time, on disruptive mobility solutions. Their long-term plan, according to the company’s director of communications, Stacy Morris, is to “create a vehicle that meets the unmet needs of today’s drivers.” This, of course, means something heavily tech-enabled, something shareable and not ownership based. Something that is zero emissions and battery powered, something that is autonomously capable. Something that maintains the majority of its functional systems and knowledge in the cloud. Millennials love this shit.
“These are all big ideas that we’re working on right now,” Morris says. “Though we’re not ready to share exactly how we’re going to do it.”
In order to bake this pie in the sky, Southern California-based Faraday has poached hordes of engineers from top automotive and Silicon Valley cohorts, namely Tesla and Space X. They’ve also nabbed cap-feather Richard Kim—who led the design of the stunning and radically futuristic BMW i cars, the i3 and i8—as well as designers from Jaguar, Land Rover and others. And they have Morris, formerly of BMW, to corral the press.
“We’re attracting people who want to work from a clean sheet of paper,” Morris says, “so we’re getting amazing talent because they don’t have to conform to an existing form language. They can develop a form language together. It’s a really strong team.”
Helping to accomplish these goals is a mysterious but incredibly deep funding stream from unnamed and un-nameable partners (Tech? Automotive? Robot? Aliens?). Morris says there aren’t any partners that Faraday is “ready to talk about right now.” We’d rather know where the buck stops, but a stop-less buck pile is encouraging nonetheless because creating rifts in the global vehicular fabric seems expensive.
What Faraday doesn’t have just yet is a car of any kind.
“We’re going to the Consumer Electronics Show [CES] and we will exhibit there,” Morris says, referring to the mammoth Las Vegas tech convention this January. “We’ll show a concept there that is inspired by our design and engineering and will give an indication of where we’ll be going. It will have elements of our proof of concept. But it won’t be a production vehicle.”
This upcoming concept will demonstrate where the company will be going in the longer term. In the shorter term, they’re taking the same controversial path charted by their closest competitor, Tesla. “The first step is an electric vehicle in the premium end that is a technologically advanced vehicle,” Morris says. She won’t confirm that it’s a Model S rival, but this is clearly the way the wind is blowing. Neither will she confirm timing on this production vehicle, save to say that it is slated to be released “in the next couple years.”
Morris also tells us that the company will be making an imminent announcement regarding production. “We’re selecting a manufacturing facility right now and we’re down to a short list of four locations. We are looking to ideally make an announcement by the end of the year.” This year: 2015. The four candidates are located in Nevada, California, Louisiana, and Georgia, and include both those that involve a repurposing of an existing facility and the construction of something new.
We’ve been promised an affordable electric-powered automotive future—one in which vehicles can drive a significant and useful amount of distance between charges—in the past, but haven’t seen it materialize. Yet.
Part of this is driven by economics—specifically that the great majority of automotive profits are concentrated in the top end of the market, and that a new company tends to focus here to show value. Part of it is based in the slow adoption of electric vehicles and the correlative unavailability of practical economies of scale in terms of battery production.
Solutions like General Motors upcoming Bolt electric car, or Tesla’s rumored Model 3, are slated to appear in the next couple years as well. Prices are rumored to be sub-$40k. Faraday Future’s current plan for increased access relies instead on the ability to spread the cost around to a multitude of individuals. “If you’re only paying for a subscription, then you can maybe afford a nicer car than you otherwise would,” Morris says, “because you’re not having it all the time.”
This is interesting. It’s predicated on consumers’ willingness to share, something people—especially young people—are keen on right now. But it’s also something that market data indicates seems to erode with age, dissolving during later life phases, like partnering up and raising kids or moving out of their parents’ basements.
As with most wonderfully compelling big ideas—from the League of Nations’ promise of world peace, to the Manhattan Project’s promise of, well, world peace—we’re thrilled by the allure of the possibility, and unabashedly encouraging of the goals. We’ve also had our fingers pulled many times in the past, so we’re skeptical.
This seems like the right team, with the proper depth of pocket. We don’t look forward to the shit-show that is CES, but we look forward to glimpsing whatever it is that Faraday reveals there, and beyond.