Say hello to Faraday Future - and the FFZero1 Concept to be precise. If you thought that Tesla, Apple and Google were set to make up the newest automotive guys in town, hold on to your hats and prepare for a new wave of Chinese-funded, American-based Tesla challengers, too.
At CES 2016, Faraday was first out of the blocks, beating potential rivals NextEV and Atieva in the race to unveil a concept car. And what a concept it is. From the teaser videos we were expecting a BMW i3-meets-Minivan style electric, autonomous car. Instead what we got was a single seat, carbon fiber race car to rival Jim Glickenhaus's recent SCG003 and the host of recent PlayStation GranTurismo concepts.
Except the FFZero1 is fully electric (natch), kicking out 1000 horsepower from 4 quad-core motors, and has autonomous capabilities too, with a fully connected in-car system, complete with virtual, heads-up and smartphone displays.
Kid in a sweetshop design
If it all reads a bit like a kid-in-a-sweetshop of future car design, then that's because it is. Someone on twitter rather cruelly put up a picture of Homer Simpson's "car built for Homer" post-unveil of the FFZero1. Viewers of The Simpsons may remember the cob-futuristic, shambolic, homemade car Homer turned out when his brother Herb gave him a job at Powell Motors.
While that analogy is unfair, there's definitely a whiff of rush-job about the FFZero1, and well there might be, given it went from sketch to Las Vegas strip in 4 months. Most car company concepts take 9-months to a year to complete the same process.
The exterior has a whiff of recent Peugeot concepts about it in its design language and split colour way, but to castigate it for that is to slightly miss the point. Faraday is trying to grab attention with this and it knows it'll get the column inches of the petrol head magazines if it goes big on the horsepower and race-car angle. And hey, at least they avoided the obvious own-goal: they designed a supercar that clearly isn't just a Ferrari ape-ing machine.
Constructed from carbon fibre, and with a single driver's seat made from materials apparently developed by NASA (new car companies always make claims like this), it is none the less the interior the really stands out. Although we weren't allowed to sit in it or open up the cabin, the cocoon-like, Helix shape of the cockpit and seat feels genuinely new, the materials and detailing are exquisite and the tech looks impressive without being over the top.
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From concept Future to production present
But the point of this concept is also to prove that Faraday's platform, which it will use for a series of production cars in the coming years, has tremendous flexibility. It's called Variable Platform Architecture, or VPA (yes, we know), and is optimised for electric vehicles says the company. Its point is that one platform can underpin race car, family wagon, saloon or coupe. If you think that sounds tenuous, it's only a step on from what most car manufacturers are doing today with their vehicle platforms. And Faraday will build real cars you can buy, or at least ride in/drive. One of the reasons for launching in Las Vegas is that it's building a factory here on the edge of town.
At the end of its press conference, Faraday went to great pains to explain how it thought it had a role to play in the emerging mobility revolution, and explained that today, a successful car brand today didn't need to have a 100 years of history to be credible.
Emphasising the point, SVP Nick Sampson talked about the iPhone, how 10 years ago those in the audience would have had Motorola, Blackberry or Nokia in their pockets, and how the iPhone changed all that. The trouble is that cars and phones are not analogous in the way that some in Silicon Valley think they are. There are massive hurdles ahead, but Faraday's next steps will be worth watching.
Ten years ago who would have predicted Tesla to be where they are now? Clearly, although they don't want to talk about Elon Musk's car brand, newcomers like Faraday hope to mirror, and even outperform Tesla's success, nicking its designers and engineers. We know, because we talked to some of them.
But perhaps more important is Faraday's financial backing. The company is sat on a huge stack of cash, from none other than Jia Yeuting, Chinese Billionaire and CEO of LeTV. He talks of wanting to start a mobility revolution. Based on his previous track record, we may want to watch what he and Faraday do next, very closely indeed.