A few weeks ago, startup carmaker Faraday Future (FF) broke ground on a US$1 billion manufacturing facility in North Las Vegas, Nevada. It will be the first plant for the California-based, Chinese backed company that started in 2014 with a view on developing a range of connected electric vehicles. With robot greeters and a long-term goal of being powered completely by renewable energy, the plant is set to be as innovative as the cars that will come out of it.
When we first caught wind of FF last year, the auto startup set tongues wagging with its plans to produce a line of connected electric car. The company had only been founded a year before in 2014 and with nothing but a few stylized sketches to show for itself, it would have been easy to dismiss the company – after all, churning out a few drawings is easy, starting a car company from scratch isn't.
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But the company silenced the doubters last year when it announced plans to invest $1 billion in a new manufacturing facility in Nevada and followed this up at CES in January when it unveiled its single-seater FFZERO1 Concept vehicle. The concept was intended as a test-bed for the company's future line of intelligent electric vehicles, which will be produced at the Nevada facility.
Those cars will be based on its Variable Platform Architecture (VPA), which it says is made up of "battery strings that can be removed or added to alter the wheelbase." On this basis, it says vehicles of different types, weights, efficiencies, ranges and speeds can be produced from a single basic design.
In order to build those cars, though, the company needs a production facility and says that the one it's building in Nevada won't just be a collection of assembly lines, but will "be the formative breeding ground for [its] vision for future mobility." The company tells Gizmag that the facility will use "the latest materials in the construction process and aim to exceed standards set forth by the industry."
The firm currently employs around 600 people with expertise in the automotive, technology, energy, aerospace and design industries, but the plant is expected to eventually have 4,500 workers under its roofs.
FF views the recent ground-breaking on the 900-ac (364-ha) development as an important milestone in the move towards production and it doesn't want to dilly-dally.
"We are moving extremely quickly for a project of this size," explains the company's vice president of global manufacturing, Dag Reckhorn. "Our aim is to complete a program that would normally take four years and do it in half the time, while still doing it right."
The structure itself is designed to be "futuristic looking" and will be made from steel, with large glass panels forming its façades and allowing light into the building. This is aimed at promoting a more open space and encouraging passers-by to drop in and "see the latest in mobility manufacturing."
While Faraday says it has no plans to pursue any environmental certification, such as LEED or the Living Building Challenge, it is adamant that the building will be built to the highest environmental standards. LED lighting will be used throughout and water-based paints will be used to minimize volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the plant. The firm also says it intends to follow environmentally-friendly construction practices, although hasn't provided details.
Perhaps the most ambitious aspect, though, is Faraday's long-term goal to run the new facility completely on sustainable energy. For now, Faraday tells us it's too early to say how much energy the plant will use and that, to begin with, it is working with Nevada Energy to source the majority of its power from renewable sources, such as geothermal, wind and solar power.
Inside the facility, Faraday envisions "an entirely new customer experience." A robot will greet visitors, provide information about the production status of their car and guide them to the zone in which it is being assembled. Customers will also be able to interact with robots at the facility remotely and send them to ask staff questions about their car. Updates will also be provided throughout the production process.
High levels of robotic automation will be used elsewhere to carry out manufacturing operations, too, including cover body assembly, powertrain and battery pack assembly and final vehicle assembly. Equipment on-site will include laser measurement systems, vision systems, autonomous material delivery, aluminum joining technologies and coating technologies.
There are a variety of adaptable workspaces planned, along with courtyards and social spaces for meetings and collaboration. In addition, there will be a water-free paint shop and a heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and plumbing system aimed at improving energy efficiency. Finally, one of the plant's large exterior walls will feature an outward facing LED video screen to display what is going on inside the factory in real time.
The site was cleared in January and the ground breaking ceremony for the facility took place on April 13th. Construction is set to begin shortly.
Source: Faraday FutureView gallery - 3 images