An all-electric, single-seat supercar, Faraday Future’s FFZERO1 Concept upped the ante at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 4. Equipped with motors at each wheel, the 1,000 hp vehicle vaults from zero to 60 mph in under 3 seconds (on its way to a top speed of 200 mph), while representing the next generation of connectivity.
RobbReport.com recently caught up with the company’s head of global design, Richard Kim, to discuss the car’s development, the future of alternative mobility, and even the role virtual reality plays in the process. (ff.com)
RobbReport.com: What was your career path to Faraday Future?
Richard Kim: The group at Faraday Future wanted someone from an electric-vehicle and new-mobility perspective. I had previously been a lead designer with BMW and part of the founding team that developed the BMWi before the marque even knew what the “i” was going to be. I had moved on to Audi for a few years when Faraday found me and I joined. The company had only been in existence for a couple of months at the time.
RR: How did the idea for the FFZERO1 Concept first come about?
RK: So many luxury marques have been around for ages—BMW just celebrated its 100th anniversary, for example—and that gives them a legacy to lean on. When you don’t have that, you are forced to reinvent the wheel in order to stand out. We have the freedom and flexibility to push boundaries, and a car like the FFZERO1 allowed us to express our design language and experiment with what we could do visually and functionally.
RR: Explain the unique design process for the FFZERO1.
RK: The entire car was designed using virtual-reality technology. Our headquarters is now a state-of-the-art facility, but when I first started with Faraday Future it was an empty warehouse for all intents and purposes. All of the most talented people I had met along my professional journey, a group of about five or six guys, were now with me and we were used to working with the support of CNC machines, every tool you could think of, and a full fabrication team. Here, at the start, we had nothing.
One of my colleagues, who was very involved in the video-game world, had an idea for fast-tracking our development and brought in a virtual-reality headset that soon became our lifeline. The process eventually matured and virtual reality is now the way we design all of our projects. The technology has given us incredible freedom, efficiency, and cost-savings—we could have developed the car in a park or my backyard.
RR: How does the FFZERO1 express Faraday Future’s aesthetic vision?
RK: We wanted it to be super-sculptural, really extroverted in appearance. When people first see the car we want them to say “I want it” and then ask “what is it?” That visual appeal is somehow missing in a lot of current sustainable trends.
With the FFZERO1 we looked to push the limit in regard to materials and three-dimensional sculpture. And because our power-train platform allows for such flexibility, we incorporated two air tunnels that extend the length of the car and allow for unobstructed airflow for enhanced cooling of the batteries and increased aerodynamics. That design element is only possible with a battery platform like ours. Whether it’s a crazy one-seat supercar or a large 10-person family van, the platform supports it all very easily. Modular platforms have been talked about but this is the first time I’ve actually seen it done in such an efficient and honest way.
RR: Why did you decide on an all-electric power train?
RK: The point is clear: We have to clean up the environment, and electric power trains and battery technology are the best path forward. But along with that, we want to make sustainable driving exciting and sexy, and we plan to do that better than anyone else. There is still a notion today that electric cars are these funny little creatures that basically amount to a glorified bus pass. We want the experience to be amazing. Even if you are sitting in traffic for hours, our goal is that you will actually be refreshed in the equivalent of a mobile spa oasis—your home away from home. Our first production car will express that.
RR: Describe the car’s innovative Halo Safety System.
RK: The Halo is a sculpted extension of the car’s interior carbon-fiber structure and was designed to secure and protect the driver in case of a roll-over or crash. Its three-dimensional geometry also hugs the driver’s specialized helmet for head and neck reinforcement. We form-fit the helmet to the system and designed it to deliver oxygen and water to the occupant as needed. Halo also streams biofeedback through the steering column to a smartphone.
RR: What was the time frame for the FFZERO1’s development?
RK: The FFZERO1 was developed a bit on the side. We had our regular production programs, which were about 95 percent of our focus, but during downtime or during the evenings and on weekends we would experiment with the concept. Cumulatively, the car took about three months to design and another three to build.
RR: Is there an actual working prototype?
RK: The carbon-fiber chassis has been engineered by our research and development team and is 100-percent real. Even the batteries and motors are all package-protected and ready to be added in. We just didn’t have enough time before its debut to test and validate the integrated version and, of course, make sure it’s safe.
RR: Are there plans for the FFZERO1 to go into production?
RK: As far as the FFZERO1 goes, we are not saying a definitive yes or no right now. Our first production car will be a distant cousin to the concept and share many similarities, although it will obviously have more than one seat and be a little more comfortable to be sure. However, there will be a version of the Halo Safety System incorporated, as well as the lighting, the wing elements on the exterior, and the propeller-like instrument panel. The latter is an elegantly floating feature that houses the steering wheel and instrument cluster in a twisting display. We are also pushing very hard to make our production car the most connected automotive experience available—designed from the inside out as an extension of your smartphone. The FFZERO1 is symbolic of what we want to accomplish.
RR: What is your timeline for Faraday Future’s first production car?
RK: Our first production car will be a couple of years out. We are currently working on a 3-million-square-foot factory in Nevada, but anticipate that it will hit capacity in its first two years. With that in mind, we are already planning for a second facility on Mare Island in the city of Vallejo, Calif.—an experience center where people can take delivery of their vehicles and tour technology exhibits. It will be a destination.