Cruising the Vegas strip in style.
It seems more like a decade then four years when I was at CES 2016 in Las Vegas and Faraday Future held their first public event. I remember expecting to see a concept of what would eventually be their first production EV. Instead, much to the disappointment of pretty much everyone in attendance, we were shown a concept of an electric race car, dubbed the FFZero1.
It wasn't until a year later at CES 2017 that we were shown the FF91. Since then, Faraday Future has struggled with a series of setbacks, but they've managed to hang around and low and behold, they seem to be closing in on actual production of the FF91. In fact, they have already been talking about introducing their second production vehicle, the FF81, a lower-priced mass-market EV as early as 2021. The company recently sold its headquarters in Los Angelos and has leased a factory in Hanford, California where it will build as many as 30,000 units next year.
While I've seen the FF91 in person a few times, I've never had the opportunity to take a ride in one, until last week in Las Vegas at CES 2020. Faraday Future didn't have a display at the show, instead, they brought two FF91s to the Renaissance Hotel, and had allowed for a limited number of ride-alongs. We were fortunate enough to secure a spot.
First off, this is a seriously comfortable vehicle. Honestly, the interior seems more like a luxury limousine than a production car that you'd use to take the kids to school in. The rear seats have a "Zero Gravity" setting that reclines to a position that relieves stress by achieving the ideal weight distribution. I didn't sit in them long enough to see if my body felt like I was floating in space, but I can say the seat was very comfortable. I'd definitely like to take a long trip in that car.
In zero gravity, the human body naturally assumes what NASA scientists call the Neutral Body Posture. Our rear seats are designed to these specifications and enable the ideal distribution of your body’s weight. For even more comfort, the ventilated seats can massage away pressure and stress.
Speaking of long trips, Faraday Future's new CEO, Carsten Breitfeld, sat in that exact seat when they drove to Las Vegas from Los Angelos a day earlier. I was told the car made the 250-mile trip on a single charge and arrived in Las Vegas with 110 miles of range left. That would line up with Faraday Future's claim that the FF91 would achieve an EPA range rating of 378 miles per charge. It does have a 130 kWh battery, so 350 to 400 miles of range should definitely be within reach.
Although we were limited to the CES-packed streets of the Las Vegas strip area, we did have a couple of opportunities open up the FF91 and it didn't disappoint. The tri-motor powertrain is rated at 1,050 horsepower, but I was told for the purpose of the test rides in Las Vegas, the output was de-rated to somewhere between 500 and 600 horsepower.
Whatever - the vehicle still pushes you back into your seat with the instant force you'd expect when the driver mashes the accelerator. We went from 40 mph to 80 mph in what seemed to be about three seconds. Actually, the 1,050 hp is overkill for this vehicle and unnecessary in my opinion. Every aspect of the car is designed for ultra-luxurious mobility, not the dragstrips. Every EV doesn't have to go 0-60 in under 4 seconds to validate its worth.
The entire vehicle is extremely high-tech, with facial recognition enabled in every seat. The system brings up the passenger’s profile that includes personalized temperature settings, seat controls and media preferences like music, Netflix shows, and favorite sports teams.
The voice activation worked very well and would understand commands even if you didn't ask it a certain way. There's no need to say "navigate to..." before the address like to have to in many vehicles. You could say "Take me to..." or "Let's go to..." or "I want a hamburger" and the system will intelligently understand what you're asking for. When asking for a dining destination, the navigation screen shows many options in the area and has the establishment's ratings and Yelp reviews available.
OK, so it's a really nice EV. Super comfortable, fast, extremely high-tech and had exceptional range, as good or better than any EV available today. But is there a market for it? At $150,000 to $200,000 it tough to say how big that market is. Maybe that's why Breitfeld is talking about car sharing, fleet sales, and high-end shuttle services. Personally, I think the Chinese market is a better fit for this kind of ultra-luxury low-slung SUV. Here in the US, I think it would be more appropriately used as a corporate shuttle than a family mover.
We really hope Faraday Future has a future and has put their biggest problems behind them. It would be a shame if this EV doesn't get produced because it seems as though the FF91 is all ready to go at this point. All Faraday Future needs now are the customers, and oh, perhaps a couple hundred million more in funding. Because there's never too much cash when you're trying to start a new car company.