You can’t deny it, the march of the electric car is picking up momentum. Not only do you have the coverage of Tesla, but now the larger mainstream manufacturers are jumping on board such as Volkswagen with the E-Golf and we’ve already seen the more first-generation cars such as the Nissan Leaf and those dinky looking city cars from Mitsubishi and Renault. As with all early ideas, there were downsides such as range and cost which are slowly being improved to be more accessible to everyday users.
The latest to jump on the bandwagon are Faraday Future, a company based in California promising a fresh look at connected vehicles, running solely on electric power. At CES they unveiled the very striking FFZero1 concept car, akin to the Batmobile if Bruce Wayne got Apple to do the styling and shortly they’re poised to unveil their latest addition to the range, directly aimed at taking on Tesla as well as the more luxury end of the market.
Sure this is a wild concept, it’s certainly not something you could use to do the weekly shop in Waitrose, but it was a showcase of their design talent and more importantly their Variable Platform Architecture (VPA). A number of manufacturers are taking this approach, again a good example being Volkswagen with their modular chassis, as a very efficient cost cutting exercise. This modular approach allows a greater range of models to be produced over a shorter amount of time thanks to the shared chassis and powertrain layout. This is where I find electrical vehicle manufacture very interesting due to the weight and size of the batteries in use.
Faraday Future have developed their own battery container which can be laid out in what they term as “strings” – these strings are made up of 6 batteries and can be added to or removed from the overall shape of the vehicle to reduce size, or increase range depending on the desired use. So add 3 more strings and you’ve got a long distance luxury vehicle, take a few away and you’ve got a compact city car. Of course like most other electric vehicles, the batteries are mounted flat, low in the chassis to lower the centre of gravity as much as possible.
I think as batteries improve both in terms of size and range, we’ll see more interesting approaches to chassis development across the industry with more varied designs as a result. They’re putting this into practice with their new car which looks to be a large luxury saloon unveiled at CES once again this coming January. They’ve kept their cards close to their chest on the actual details, only serving up some teaser videos of the car beating several modern supercars in a drag race so it’ll be an interesting one to watch out for.
They’ve even partnered up with Formula E team Dragon Racing with their senior vice president, Nick Sampson quoted as saying:
“I clearly see Formula E as the right venue to challenge our engineers and technologies in the most extreme performance conditions.”
Could this be the return of “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”? It worked out well for the car manufactures of old, so why can’t it appeal to a newer generation of fans? As long as the cars can get into that affordable cost range then why not? Their aims are to develop the powertrain during season 3, then once the regulations are relaxed again (as has been the norm over the introduction of Formula E) they’re going to move into improving other various components including the motors, gearboxes and inverters, which they say we will find being adapted to the road cars.
I suppose that is the advantage of Formula E – the cars aren’t as highly strung as a modern Formula 1 car – don’t get me wrong, they’re still racing cars through and through, but I really admire the fact that the technology can be adapted in this way.
It’s been a long time coming for Faraday Future, and they’ve had a bit of a hard time in the motoring press due to some delays in the process, sometimes unfairly. As someone who loves cars, including everything from classic sports cars through to modern supercars, I think any forward thinking or pushing of boundaries can only be seen as a good thing and I think we should embrace any company that wants to try something new.