Faraday Future, the start-up Chinese EV maker that has been compared to Tesla Motors, at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas on January 5 unveiled its first concept vehicle that company executives called “a testbed for vehicles we’re working on.”
Called the FFZero1, the exotically styled, carbon-fiber-bodied machine—a “high performance electric dream car,” as it was presented to the audience—features interesting battery-pack design and capability to package one to four electric traction motors, delivering up to 1000 hp (746 kW) to two or four drive wheels, depending on configuration. An extended-range powertrain, with a combustion engine and hybrid drive, is also under consideration.
Connected-car and HMI technologies include broad use of gesture controls, augmented reality (AR), and integrated head-neck protection in the cockpit, which features two NASA “zero gravity” seats as pioneered in the auto industry by Nissan (see http://articles.sae.org/11073/). The vehicle is designed for autonomous operation, the executives noted, although the concept is fitted with a conventional steering wheel and electric steering.
The FFZero1 is based on a VPA (Variable Platform Architecture) that Nick Sampson, the company’s Senior Vice President of R&D and Engineering, said will be used for Faraday’s entire model range. In the media conference prior to the FFZero1’s debut, a video showed wireframe-like renderings of an SUV, sedan, people mover, and sports car.
The VPA features what appear to be identical front and rear suspension modules, each mounted on a lightweight cradle. Sampson, who led Tesla Model S development before joining Faraday, said the modular approach enables “larger and more protective” front and rear crush zones.
“VPA is a designer’s dream,” noted Richard Kim, Faraday’s Chief Designer who previously led BMW’s i Design Group on the i3 and i8 projects.
The battery technology consists of cell modules joined like a string—“like a set of Christmas tree lights,” Sampson said. By adding or subtracting strings of cell modules, and engineering in one, two, three, or four traction motors, Faraday planners can tailor a vehicle’s performance and efficiency characteristics, faster than achieved by traditional vehicle powertrain architectures, Sampson indicated.
Founded in 2014, Faraday Future has more than 500 employees working in various locations on a range of new EVs. Late last year the company selected a site in North Las Vegas, NV, for a new $1B manufacturing plant for a luxury electric car that would compete with the Tesla Model S and the upcoming wave of high-end EVs (see http://articles.sae.org/14508/).