Faraday Future's FF91 launch: A stumbling start for the new king of electric cars
Faraday Future might be making some of the most exciting electric cars on the market right now, but if I ever have to watch one of their presentations again, I may leap in front of one just to end the pain. In an excruciating 90-minute cringe-fest at CES Las Vegas, the company told the assembled masses it wasn't building an electric car, it was building the "first of a new species," and preparing to "reformat the auto industry."
I suspect company leadership will look back and wish it had reformatted the presentation. The long-awaited reveal of the FF91, Faraday Future's first flagship consumer car, was nearly buried under a ceaseless torrent of buzzwords, unnecessary demonstrations and embarrassing cock-ups.
In a boring and drawn-out car-by-car drag race, the FF91 edged out Tesla's Model S P100D by just 1/100th of a second, prompting propulsion VP Peter Savagian to claim it would do much better if the stage wasn't so dusty, and the Tesla didn't have such grippy tires on.
Then, as CEO Nick Samson asked YT Jia, CEO of LeEco, to hit the button to make the car park itself center stage, the audience was treated to a 30-second wait as the car did … well, nothing, prompting Samson to scramble for explanations like "as a new baby, she's often very, very timid." Five minutes later, he tried again, and this time, after an agonizing 20-second wait, it rolled three meters forward, to a smattering of bemused applause from the CES crowd.
Please, Faraday Future, cut down on the onanism and keep the next one to 20 minutes. Leave us wanting more, not pining for the sweet release of death.
Now that we've got that out of the way, the car itself looks pretty terrific.
Face-melting performance figures
Performance-wise, the FF91 sedan makes about 1,050 horsepower and a ludicrous "over 1,800 Newton-meters" of torque. For reference, an 11-liter MP7 diesel engine from a frickin' Mack semi-trailer makes "just" 1,627 Nm of torque, and it certainly doesn't smash it out from idle like the Faraday powertrain does.
With super-quick traction control operating, the FF91 is said to be able to accelerate from 0-60 in an eye-watering 2.39 seconds. If you dropped this thing off a cliff, it'd take 2.75 seconds to reach the same velocity. It's a clear demonstration that EV acceleration will really only be limited by the tire-to-road friction interface as the segment progresses.
An interesting tidbit thrown into the launch is that the FF91 will attempt to proactively adjust performance and handling depending on road conditions and your driving style.
Batteries and charging
Battery-wise, the FF91 boasts the biggest battery pack yet seen in a production EV – some 130 kilowatt-hours of capacity, leading to an impressive 378-mile (608-km) range, on the EPA adjusted test. On Europe's gentler NEDC test it gets even more – over 435 mi (700 km), and the car will go a very impressive 482 mi (776 km) at 55 mph (89 km/h).
Even more impressive are the DC quick charge stations Faraday is working on, which will pump power in at up to 200 kilowatts – a massive improvement on Tesla's 120 kW supercharger stations. That kind of charge rate represents about 500 miles (805 km) of range per hour, an extraordinary achievement. The company is also working on wireless charging.
Autonomous driving and driverless valet
Faraday Future hopes to up the ante in self-driving systems with the FF91, in particular by boosting the car's ability to see and read the road. It features 10 outward facing cameras (the Tesla has 8), 13 radars (the Tesla has 1), and 12 ultrasonic sensors (the Tesla's got 12, too).
It's also got a 360-degree "3D" Lidar sensor, in the form of a little disc that rises up out of the hood and becomes one of the FF91's most recognizable design features.
While it's unclear as yet how well the self-drive system will work (there's some suggestion that it will use deep learning to build its driving model), Faraday has built in a very nifty feature called the driverless valet, which lets you effectively drop yourself off at the front door of wherever you're going, and the car will wander around looking for a place to park itself, and send you a message when it does.
Clearly that's dubious from a legal perspective at this point, and indeed it's hard to see how it would work in a real-world scenario, but in the CES parking demo it worked well, driving up and down the rows of parked cars to find a spot, and reversing neatly in.
Connectivity and comfort
Faraday Future is keen to make the FF91 a big leap forward in connectivity. It features multiple modems and Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as individual HD screens for everyone in the car and "zero gravity" vented back seats that recline up to 60 degrees back for extreme passenger comfort.
User profiles, activated by menus, Bluetooth or even face recognition, save each person's preferences for entertainment, ergonomics, climate and whatever other tricks the car has up its sleeve through a system called FFID, and it appears this system will integrate with smartphones, PCs and other devices so you never have to take your eyes off whatever you're watching or reading. The goal here is seamless motion between the many screens and speakers in your life.
Pricing and availability
No final price was revealed today, although the company stressed that the FF91 will be priced as a "premium flagship model" – and given the level of specification and performance, as well as that giant battery, we can expect it'll be hefty.
For US$5,000, people to whom price doesn't matter (and there's plenty of those in the Valley) can reserve one now, and "Alliance" special editions will begin to ship in March.
Source: Faraday Future
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Man... what a bad presentation. Next time they should just pick someone at random from the audience to give it.