We witness Faraday's 1,050-horsepower EV romp around an oval at 155 mph
Jon WongFormer editor for CNET Cars
Jon Wong was a reviews editor for CNET Cars. He test drove and wrote about new cars and oversaw coverage of automotive accessories and garage gear. In his spare time, he enjoys track days, caring for his fleet of old Japanese cars and searching for the next one to add to his garage.
It's been a challenging road for Faraday Future with legal issues involving former executives, wholesale changes to its manufacturing plans and funding challenges, but it seems like there's been more good news than bad for the startup electric carmaker lately. After abandoning plans for a Nevada plant, construction is underway on its Hanford, California factory with machines getting placed and more recently a $2 billion round of equity funding has been secured.
With a healthy war chest of cash to draw from and a production facility in the works, the other part of the puzzle is the car itself. Throughout everything, development of the 1,050-horsepower FF 91 SUV has required plenty of testing, taking Faraday engineers through traditional exercises such as hot- and cold-weather testing, tire evaluations, general durability runs and not-so-traditional ones including last year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
For high-speed testing, Faraday traveled to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio and extended an exclusive invite to Roadshow to be on hand. Over the course of three days, a fully caged FF 91 test mule nicknamed the "Panda Express" for its black and white vinyl wrap ran through the Faraday Future Autobahn test cycle that had the EV accelerate to and maintain 155 mph for 3 minutes. That is done three times with each 155-mph run separated by two-minute cruises at 75 mph. It takes less than 15 minutes to complete the test cycle and sucks up about a third of the car's fully charged battery.
As with all testing, the goal for development team is to learn as much as possible in hopes of improving the car before heading to production. For the trip to Ohio, engineers specifically focused on the car's software to improve the thermal efficiencies of the battery pack. They also wanted to maintain a progressive drop off in performance when the battery became heat soaked in high-stress situations such as running down the German Autobahn at full bore or when doing a bunch of consecutive 2.39-second 0-to-60 runs to impress your friends.
For safety and legal reasons, we weren't able to ride along in the Panda Express, but did witness it launch hard off the line and look stable zooming past on one of the 7.5-mile oval's long straights. When it blows by, the only thing you hear is the noise of the car cutting through the air, but even that's not too loud all things considered with the FF 91's very slippery drag coefficient of 0.26.
When it was all said and done, the Faraday team seemed happy with their efforts that did produce software changes to improve the thermal performance of the LG Chem battery pack. The fact that the car didn't suffer any major setbacks was also a positive note as the team gets ready for more testing in Death Valley and an eventual return to Ohio for a second round of high-speed runs.
With an expected starting price in the $200,000-range and its sights set on competing ultra-luxury automakers that include Bentley, Mercedes-Maybach and Rolls-Royce, all the testing and development work Faraday is doing is huge. A nearly perfect product will be required to wrestle people away from those well-established names. On the performance front, the FF 91 seems to have things in order to compete with the power north of 1,000 horses, all-wheel drive, active rear steering system and a driving range of 378 miles.
We haven't seen what the interior will look like yet, but at launch it will only seat four-passengers with five-passenger examples coming a bit later. Rear power suicide doors are confirmed and a Faraday spokesperson says a champagne fridge was one of the high-end luxury features being considered, but couldn't confirm if it was going to end up on the options list. As far a tech features, facial recognition, voice control, cloud services and Wi-Fi hotspot all remain on the docket.
Either way, Faraday still has quite the checklist of things to do if it wants to meet its goal of getting the FF 91 into production by the end of the year. One that includes more testing and finishing a production plant. Distribution plans will also eventually have to get in order, which they say are in the process of being finalized. It all sounds ambitious, but things seem to be on track for the car to happen and that's a fact that seemed very questionable not too long ago.
The only thing certain is that the FF 91 will be able to get up to and hold 155 mph for a good amount of time when it does begin rolling off the assembly line in California. If that's at the end of the year or some time after remains to be seen.