Just months after its very existence began to leak out, Chinese-owned electric vehicle start-up Faraday Future will show off its first model at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
The company, which operates out of a Southern California office building once owned by Nissan, released a brief teaser video ahead of this week’s debut. But there are few details and it doesn’t even confirm the widespread speculation that the Faraday car will be battery-powered and possibly offer some early form of autonomous technology.
For his part, Jia Yeuting, the Chinese billionaire who is financing Faraday, is only talking in superlatives. “We plan to revolutionize the automobile industry by creating an integrated, intelligent mobility system that protects the Earth and improves the living environment of mankind,” he said in a letter to Nevada politicians aimed at winning financial support for the venture.
Faraday now plans to build its first factory in the Las Vegas suburbs, not far from the convention center housing the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. It was lured to the gambling mecca by a large tax incentive – this one reportedly worth $250 million. In return, the North Las Vegas factory is expected to generate 4,500 jobs and should even boost tourism by offering plant tours and “other engaging experiences,” the budding carmaker promised.
(Start-up Faraday picks Nevada for its first plant. For more, Click Here.)
Faraday’s headquarters are expected to remain in Gardena, California. The company has been on a hiring spree, luring a number of engineers and other automotive veterans from conventional carmakers as well as high-tech rival Tesla Motors.
Nick Sampson, Faraday’s head of R&D and Engineering, and Dag Reckhorn, its new manufacturing boss, both came from Tesla. Meanwhile, Richard Kim, who is handling design for the new Faraday vehicle, led the styling team at BMW on the Bavarian maker’s i3 and i8 battery cars.
But it is far from clear exactly what they are working on. The 1.5-minute teaser video shows only the vague outline of a bubble-like vehicle that could just as easily be one of the self-driving prototypes now being tested by Google.
(Click Here for more details about Faraday’s plans in the U.S.)
The closest anyone has come to describing the project is Sampson who, in a profile in the Verge, took a swipe at his former employer. “Many people look at Tesla and think they’ve done it differently than the traditional auto industry — and they have,” he said. “But there’s other ways and other things we can capitalize on.”
Faraday was originally incorporated in the State of California in May 2014 as LeTV ENV Inc. It operated under the radar for more than a year, and even when early reports first hit the media it was unclear who was actually running – or financing the show. Jia only recently confirmed his lead participation in the project. Recent reports suggest Faraday has $1 billion in Chinese money behind it. How much of that comes from the entrepreneur is uncertain.
Faraday isn’t the only mysterious player in the automotive world. Apple is also reported to be working on an advanced electric vehicle and has been hiring a number of veteran automotive engineers for a project it has yet to confirm exists.
There is even some speculation that Faraday could be a front for Apple’s efforts – and the name could be a jab at Tesla. That carmaker, which has announced it sold just over 50,000 electric vehicles in 2015, was named after Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American engineer and inventor who pioneered critical concepts in electricity, including alternating current.
(To see more plug-in EVs hitting U.S. roads in growing numbers, Click Here.)
Michael Faraday was a British scientist who preceded Tesla by nearly a century, coming up with a number of fundamental concepts in electromagnetism and electrochemistry.