Published Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 | 8:40 p.m.
Updated Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 | 10 p.m.
It’ll still be another year or two before Faraday Future’s electric cars start rolling off the manufacturing line in North Las Vegas. But today, many miles south on the Las Vegas Strip, the world got its first glimpse of what those cars might look like at the company’s pre-CES event in a tented section of a parking lot across the street from Luxor.
Politicians, company executives and suppliers for the new venture gathered under blue and violet mood-lighting to see the company's concept car Monday evening. When a sheet covering the car was removed in front of the packed room, the concept car for the company that pledges to redefine mobility, resembled the Batmobile — a sleek black and silver body, low to the ground with rear tail fins.
The car, dubbed the FFZERO1, is a one-seater racecar with a seat positioned at a 45-degree angle that is supposed to emulate NASA’s zero-gravity technology.
It can dock a smartphone in the center of its steering wheel, part of what makes the vehicle, in the company’s global head of design Richard Kim’s words, a “tablet on wheels.” The car can also broadcast live images and real-time data visualization.
Faraday also announced it had developed a modular approach to car design, called Variable Platform Architecture, that will bring cars to market at an accelerated pace with reduced costs. The modular system allows the company to easily make significant adjustments to the car, including the number of motors, the size and shape of the body and other driving configurations.
With their design approach, company officials said they can manufacture cars ranging from SUVs to compact vehicles — or even a racecar, like the concept vehicle revealed Monday.
"Virtually anything is possible," Kim said.
The 1,000-horsepower vehicle is projected to go from 0 to 60 in less than three seconds, reaching a top speed of over 200 miles per hour. By comparison, Tesla drew headlines this summer when it announced a top-spec Model S that had a horsepower of 762.
Monday was the first time that state officials saw the car.
“Concept cars are meant to display the engineering prowess and pieces that will be incorporated into the production car,” said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Hill noted that even though these types of reveal events happen often in Las Vegas, it’s rare for one of those companies to have a continued presence here in the state. Nevada officials worked closely with the city of North Las Vegas, Clark County and other local partners to bring Faraday’s factory to the state.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But what is built in North Las Vegas is going to go out to the world,” said North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who made the initial push with city staff for Faraday to come to Nevada.
In December, Faraday announced that it had selected North Las Vegas’ 18,000-acre Apex Industrial Park as the site for its car factory. Just before Christmas, the Nevada Legislature approved a $335 million incentive package during a special session to lure the company to Nevada, including tax abatements and incentives, a workforce training program and infrastructure improvements for the long-dormant industrial park.
State officials hope that Faraday will spark much needed development out at Apex, which has remained relatively vacant for the last two decades, as well as across the state. Gov. Brian Sandoval said he hopes that Faraday’s example will attract other advanced manufacturers and data centers to the state.
Just as Silicon Valley is a hub for technology and Southern California has been at the epicenter of vehicle design, with Faraday and Tesla Motors here, Nevada could play a role in electric car manufacturing, said Rob Lang, co-director of Brookings Mountain West.
“It looks like Nevada is going to be a workbench, and that’s a great place for us to be,” Lang said.
Faraday had invited speculation for months after it made a vague debut this summer with few details about what it hoped to do beyond building an electric car. Auto magazines and blogs speculated whether Faraday could really build an electric vehicle or whether it was merely promising, as Motor Trend said, “vaporware.”
Though many questions were answered tonight, some remain.
For one, the company has still not publicly announced a CEO, though it has acknowledged its partnership with Chinese media conglomerate Leshi Internet Information and Technology, known as LeTV. The company is often referred to as the “Netflix of China.”
Nick Sampson, the company’s senior vice president of research and development, said the two firms will work together on vehicle development, adding that LeTV would be able to open doors for Faraday into the Chinese market. LeTV’s CEO Jia Yueting, who is a founder and investor in the company, did not speak at the event.
Before revealing its concept car, Sampson touted a team that has come from organizations that include Boeing, NASA, Apple and Tesla.
Some of the features Faraday has teased have yet to come, like an Uber-like subscription service where a customer could summon a sedan for a quick trip to the grocery store or an SUV for a family trip to the mountains. But Sampson described the company as more nimble than a traditional car company or even Tesla. He noted that in 18 months, the company had hired 750 employees and plans to break ground on its North Las Vegas factory in the coming weeks.
“This is happening right here in our hometown,” Sandoval said. “We have the attention of the world.”