Las Vegas, Nevada – Although Chinese-backed startup electric car company Faraday Future has yet to build a car for sale to a customer, this prototype, the FF91 (Nine-One) looks more achievable, at least on paper, than the frankly science-fiction concept it displayed at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Revealed at an exclusive event ahead of the 2017 CES, it’s unashamedly aimed straight at the Tesla Model X. Faraday boss Nick Sampson describes it as a luxury crossover with supercar performance (sorry, but to us it looks more like an MPV with attitude) and he’s talking some big numbers, starting with a 195kW/450Nm electric motor on each wheel for a total of 780kW and 1800Nm, enough to take it from 0-100km/h in a claimed 2.39 seconds.

It’s also a big car, 5250mm long on a 3200mm wheelbase, 2283mm wide and 1598mm high, but Sampson doesn’t quote weight which, given that it has a huge 130kWh LG battery pack under the floor (the biggest you can get on a Tesla Model X is 100kWh) is likely to be considerable, although rear-wheel steering will help to make it more agile, particularly at freeway speeds.

That humungous powerbank does, however, give the Nine-One an EPA-estimated range of more than 600km, according to the maker, from what it claims is the world’s highest energy density battery.

Each production model will also come with a home charger, which Faraday says will work with any domestic supply in the world. Connected to a 240 volt AC outlet, it will top up the battery from 50 percent to fully charged in less than four and a half hours – which means it will probably need a full overnight charge if the battery is anywhere near flat.

Nasa-inspired seats

Both front and rear doors open from the B pillar outwards, with sensors to prevent car-park dings, and the Nasa-inspired ‘zero gravity’ rear seats, with adjustments for upper back, lumbar and calf support, can recline to 60 degrees, while also offering heating, cooling and massage functions.

The glass roof, side and rear windows are made from polymer-dispersed liquid crystal dimming glass – just tap on the glass with a finger for instant privacy and/or shade.

There’s no key – the FF91 uses FFID, a smartphone app from partner internet company LeEco, and built-in cameras, to recognise your face; it can even gauge your mood from your expression and adjust accordingly, like a well-trained butler.

It will greet you, open the doors, and adjust the seats, climate and infotainment settings to your preferences – then you just get in, buckle up and put foot to drive away.

In place of rear-view mirrors, there’s a high-definition display that merges the images from a rear camera and two side cameras into one seamless image that almost eliminates blind spots – although, ironically, this system isn’t street-legal in the United States, so each Nine-One sold in the domestic market will also come with conventional side mirrors that clip on in place of the side cameras.

Autonomous driving

The FF91 also has an unprecedented array of ‘eyes and ears’, including 10 high-definition cameras, 13 long and short-range radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors, as well as what Sampson says will be the first Lidar transponder on a production car, in a little housing that looks like a yacht bollard and pops up from the bonnet as a visual signal to pedestrians and other road users that the car is driving itself.

These will enable the Nine-One to park itself – and to come and pick you up on request via another LeEco app – in private car-park areas. As legislation advances, says Sampson, that’ll be extended to the public roads as well.

Place your order

Even though its planned assembly plant in Nevada has yet to be built, Faraday Future is taking deposits at $5000 (R68 500) each for delivery sometime in 2018, at a price yet to be determined.

The first 300 orders will have the opportunity to upgrade to a special first-edition model, the Alliance Edition, in March 2017. A portion of the price of each Alliance Edition will be donated towards an environmental fund, as will all the proceeds from the sale of the first FF 91 Alliance Edition, which will be auctioned at a gala in March.

This is especially appropriate as the company is named for British scientist Sir Michael Faraday (1791-1867) the discoverer of electromagnetic induction, the principle upon which all electric motors are based. Less well known is that he was also one of the first to document the effect of man on his environment, in an investigation of industrial pollution in Swansea, Wales, in the early 1850s.   

IOL Motoring

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