Over the years I've seen a lot of concept EVs at a lot of motor shows from a lot of companies that were never heard from again, little startups making big promises about big cars with big wings. Undelivered promises, for the most part. And so, it's easy for me to look at the unveiling of the radical Faraday Future FFZERO1 here at the International CES in Las Vegas and see just another far-fetched idea from an idealistic company with ambitions broader than its budget.
But that doesn't seem to be the case here -- and that's despite no lack of ambition. Faraday Future is backed by Letv, a Chinese media and technologies company with a market value in the tens of billions of dollars. This backing has enabled Faraday to build a team of hundreds and invest $1 billion in a battery factory here in Nevada. That should be enough to silence plenty of critics despite the car itself looking like little more than a flight of fancy.
And indeed that's all it was originally intended to be. It was just a doodle sitting on the desk of Richard Kim, head of design at Faraday Future. Nick Samson, Faraday's product architect and VP of product R&D, saw the sketch and decided it was the perfect opportunity to show off what the company's technologies can do. And thus was born the FFZERO1.
It's a 1,000-horsepower, all-wheel drive hypercar with room for one hypothetical driver who sits nestled in the center of a carbon fiber cocoon, surrounded by a cockpit that looks straight out of some utopian vision for the future. The dashboard uses what designer Kim calls the company's "propeller IP," a shape that extends over the drivers' shoulder and twists around to become an instrument cluster.
But that isn't the focal point of the interior. Nestled in the center of the steering wheel is neither airbag nor big corporate logo, but instead your phone. Yes, you slot your smartphone into the steering wheel -- but only after you use the car's app to configure settings, things like traction control and throttle response to personalize the experience.
Kim described this to me in an interesting way: "The car gets the information, transfers the information from your app, and the car basically becomes an extension of your phone." In fact, Faraday Future wants you to think of your car much like you'd think of your phone.
"If you lost that phone," Kim said, gesturing to my Galaxy Note 5, "how would you feel? The thing about phones is they increase in value as you use them... You drive a car off the lot and its value tanks immediately. It's now a used vehicle. We're working toward that idea that the car is adapting to you, is actually increasing in value."
The phone isn't the only thing smart thing here. The FFZERO1 is conceptually fully autonomous, not only on the road but on the track, where the car could show you proper lines and driving technique. To be autonomously ushered around a track, lap after lap at speed, could do great things for the confidence of new racers -- and terrible things to the egos of more experienced ones.
But is this really the vision for Faraday Future? "Our platform is powerful, it can go up to 1,000 horsepower," Kim told me. "It's such a slim and efficient packing space, a racecar is a good way to communicate that. So it just sort of happened."
But don't expect this to just sort of make its way to production. The FFZERO1 is a concept, an extreme vision for what the company's technology can do. Driving you around a track? Neat, sure, but the folks at Faraday are more interested in making sure your commute is stress-free. And, while 1,000 horsepower put through all four wheels courtesy of four independent electric motors is nice, here it serves only as an opportunity to show what the company's Variable Platform Architecture (or VPA) can do.
Again, all great in concept, but it's going to take a lot more than a conceptual hypercar to silence Faraday Future's critics. To do that, the world will need see something even more exotic than the FFZERO1: an actual, viable production car that's available for purchase by you and I. Sadly, something like that is still a few years away.