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Revealing the Future: Faraday debuts its FF91

Jim ResnickFaraday's FF91 design is somewhat derivative, echoing the Jaguar F-Pace and evoking a latter-day Saab SUV, had the company not died before designing their own proper one.
Financially beleaguered and lacking two top executives—who left just before the end of the year—Faraday Future unveiled its first actual electric car at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Calling it "a new species" that "reformats the future," the FF91 ("nine-one") has a name which will confuse rather than clarify, but the critical numbers are impressive.
Faraday claims the FF91 will have bigness on its side: the biggest electric drive system, at 130kW of energy (using cells provided by LG Chem but packaged by Faraday); the greatest range, at a minimum of 378 miles using the EPA's protocol (700km on the EU cycle) before needing a charge; and a power output of 783kW (equivalent to 1,050hp). Charging is important to Faraday, too, and an open charging strategy across networks works at 1.5, 10, and 15kW power levels, though the fastest DC charging will operate over 200kW.
"[We have] the greatest energy density, the most compact and most potent system in the world," said Faraday's propulsion engineering VP, Peter Savagian. "We have 20 percent more battery, motor and more useful torque than anyone else." Clearly, all of this puts the cart before the horse a bit, because the FF91 is not yet on sale, is not yet in its final phase of R&D, and won't hit the market until sometime in 2018 at the earliest.
Getting all that power to the ground requires a bunch of traction, so the FF91 has optional all-wheel-drive through multiple motors, yielding torque vectoring at the rear. There's also rear-wheel steering. Savagian also told us the stability and traction control operate at a far higher resolution than other systems, netting much better cornering stability and acceleration at the limit of traction, the latter ringing a supercar bell with 0-60 mph reached in an official – even though it's not in production yet – 2.44 seconds, with a best-ever test figure of 2.39 seconds. That is seriously quick and far quicker than anything in the SUV class with which the FF91 will compete, even the Tesla Model X P100D.
"We will always challenge the limits of performance," Savagian said. But is outright performance the tipping point for people interested in a pure electric luxury SUV like the FF91? Hasn't most of the research proven environmental, emissions, and fossil fuel use proven to be the elephant in consumer's heads?
The FF91 platform will be a scalable chassis, able to meet a variety of size and duty needs across segments, a claimed innovation. Y'know, like the Volkswagen MQB platform which yields everything from the Golf, Jetta, Tiguan, and the next-generation Passat to Audi's A1, A3, Q3, and TT.
"Form follows multi-function," stated Faraday's head of design, Richard Kim. Some cars like the Toyota Prius Prime are slipperier in drag, but one big goal was giving the maximum amount of space inside (151 cubic feet/4,276L), blurring the line between mid- and full-size. Yet, for all the book-rewriting Faraday claims for the FF91 design, it cuts a figure scarily like a Jaguar F-Pace or the proper Saab SUV that the company never lived long enough to build. And parking it within inches of a wall on the passenger side at the reveal event leads one to wonder what might be hiding there.
The FF91 also promises to be a top-tier Internet of Things device. "The FF91 will provide full digital integration, to the extent that you will never even have to think about it," said R&D engineering VP, Nick Sampson.
"We won't innovate in 1-2 percent increments," he added. "Plenty of other companies make those small advances, but disruption is what the world needs. Faraday is not predictable; we will create things that have yet to exist. We're going to reformat the future. Air pollution, accidents and congestion will be obsolete." Brave words from a company that hasn't built a single commercial thing yet.
Autonomous driving is a large part of the FF91's soup and it uses 30 sensors - including a retractable LiDAR system - from around the car to enable a self-parking function where it can hunt around a parking lot, not just take over after you've lined the car up, as production Lexuses, Fords, and plenty of other brands have been selling for years now. But this does raise a question: when did parking become as stressful and impossible as three-layer chess? And shouldn't anyone operating a car have the basic ability to park the thing? When it came time to demo this feature, the car chose not to cooperate, sitting motionless on stage, requiring troubleshooting.
The FF91 will also use an open ecosystem where any app you have on your smartphone, such as one that provides video, will integrate across platforms. Multiple modems and two Wi-Fi antennae will make the FF91 the "most convenient hotspot on earth."
While the FF91 is due in 2018, for now, anyone interested in the vehicle must register online with a $5,000 deposit to secure a slot. But no actual price has been announced yet. There are also no details about the interior.
Some of Faraday's innovations fail to meet a basic smell test, though. Other cars can park themselves, even if they cannot locate spaces. Other cars adjust temperatures automatically. Other cars compensate for poor weather conditions. Other cars have Wi-Fi. Other cars have torque vectoring that actively works to apportion drive power most effectively to the wheels. And other companies have a track record in the luxury sector.
As ever, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. And the driving.
Listing image by Jim Resnick
Revealing the Future: Faraday debuts its FF91 Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 8:50 PM Rating: 5

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