Category Archives: CleanTechnica

Faraday Future Shoots For The Stars With The FF91 Concept

Tonight, Faraday Future unveiled what it believes is not just the next step in the evolution of the automobile. No, the team at Faraday Future have stated that the FF91 is a complete step change. It is a new species. Huh? Yeah, me too. Faraday Future has always acted a bit differently, talked a bit differently, and done things a bit differently, so maybe this is just another Faraday Future thing, but don’t take my word for it — they unpacked a ton of details about the FF91 in the big reveal tonight.

The Outside

The FF91 exterior had been teased for so long by the Faraday Future team that it was almost anticlimactic seeing it revealed tonight, but at the same time, it’s a completely new beast. I can’t shake the feeling that it looks just like a Range Rover Evoque with a full suite of sensors on it, but maybe that’s just me. Even with two different prototypes driving past, it was hard to get a good feel for the car, as the masses were packed in so tight around it for the vast majority of the night.

The UFO line! FF mentioned this mysterious “UFO line” at the reveal of the FFzero1 in January last year and continued that talk tonight. The UFO line manifested itself in the FF91 in the form of a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way up the car that quite honestly doesn’t feel unique or creative, nor does it add anything unique to the exterior of the vehicle.

What it does do is to sound strange. I’m not sure how a company starting out from scratch (albeit, with a fully stacked team) thought it would be a good idea to add such an odd label to a rather unassuming design cue, but hey, there it is. The UFO line is here to stay folks.

Richard Kim, Head Designer at Faraday Future, took the stage to talk about the various styling cues that were integrated into the design of the car and broke the FF91 down into 3 sections — the black section, which includes the tires and rolling chassis (like the Tesla skateboard); the silver section, which is the lateral panel of silver that wraps the car (presumably metal?); and the glass section, which creates unique spaces for each of the passengers in the vehicle (why talk about a driver in an autonomous vehicle?).

Looking towards the rear of the car, there’s a fin on either side of the exterior of the car that reaches up from the silver section into the glass section of the FF91. It creates a very fun effect from the rear, as it creates a gap between the glass and the metal, much like the rear quarter panel section on the BMW i8 (which I love!). It’s not clear that this helps or hurts the drag coefficient of the car, but with it already down at .25, it’s clear that aerodynamics was a priority in the design of the FF91.

Fins

Comparisons

Tonight, Faraday Future talked about the FF91 as a production vehicle. That’s tough to swallow, as this car is still so far from being in production that the title just doesn’t stick. There’s literally not even a factory that can build it let alone a final vehicle for the factory to build. The blatant comparisons between the still-in-development FF91 and a car I can buy today — the Tesla Model S P100DL — frankly seemed disingenuous:

→ 0–60 MPH in 2.39 seconds … just a hair faster than the Tesla Model S P100D (2.5 seconds).

→ 1050 horsepower as compared to Tesla’s  760 horsepower.

→ 200 kW charging as compared to the ~130 kW charging speeds of Tesla Superchargers (though, Tesla recently indicated plans to increase that dramatically)

→ 130 kWh battery (optional) as compared to Tesla’s max pack size of 100 kWh

→ 378 miles of range … versus 315 miles of max Model S range

→ with the ultimate comparison being the in-person drag race between the FF91 and the P100D where the FF car beat out the Tesla Model S P100D by .01 seconds at the event (2.59 vs 2.60).

Looking back on the presentation and the stats shared by the FF team, it’s even more clear that the entire presentation was one big statement that “FF is better than Tesla in every way.” I wish all the best for the FF team but there’s still a long ways to go before the FF91 gets into the hands of consumers.

It’s also odd that the Variable Platform Architecture that FF touted as groundbreaking at CES last year is effectively the same skateboard design that Tesla has for the Model S, just with a better graphical representation when the pack gets larger or smaller.

The FF91

We knew the FF 91 would be autonomous and Faraday Future is still using that language. It’s a tough commitment to make because mandating that it be autonomous at launch can easily delay the car months if not years, as each state and every nation has unique laws governing autonomous driving that need to be worked through before the car could hit the streets.

Shifting to autonomous driving allows all of the passengers to engage with the car via the in-built WiFi hotspots that bridge the “multiple CAT6 LTE modems” into a WiFi network for passengers. Having a high-quality internet connection is critical in the next (unannounced) part of the story — the interior — which is sure to be packed with LeTV-style content consumption options.

Rolling all of this together, the FF91 is a powerhouse of technology mixed with a slew of new EV bones underpinned by the largest battery ever put into a “production” electric vehicle.

The Name

While this is yet to be confirmed by Faraday Future, we have it on good authority that the name 91 (“nine one” … not ninety one) is an amalgam of what Faraday Future calls the best number — 9 — and then 1 for the first version. So, it amounts to the first version of the best car, which is actually pretty neat. It was strange that Faraday Future presented the name of the car without explaining it, but perhaps there was too much to fit into the already bloated agenda and the explanation didn’t make the cut. Or perhaps Faraday Future wanted it to remain a bit mysterious.

What’s Next?

Faraday Future will open up reservations for the FF91 shortly, whereby potential customers can thunk down $5,000 to reserve their very own FF91. That’s a large chunk of cash for a vehicle that has no sales price announced (though, it will likely be up around $100,000), no factory to build it, and no timeline to back up the actual production of the car.

I really do hope the best for the FF team and the FF91 looks great to me … but there are a lot of gaps in the data — large, obvious gaps — that call into question what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Was the presentation this year just a ploy to get potential customers to drop a few thousand, so that FF could use that as capital seed money to build the factory? Is FF a shell company for LeEco? Will the FF91 ever have an actual production run? How much will it cost?

There are a lot of serious questions that beg for more than vague, futuristic answers, but FF seems content to leave potential customers in the dark. There is one thing we know after tonight — time will tell if FF will succeed … and based on the rate at which it was burning through capital in 2016, we’ll know sooner rather than later.

For more information on the Faraday Future FF91, check out the official website and the official press release.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica 

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Leveraging Technology To Settle The Climate Change Debate

Originally posted on CleanTechnica

The Backstory

Climate change is a challenge unlike any other ever faced by humanity. It is the slow creep of change starting as a result of actions taken by humanity, building industries that helped hoist us out of thousands of years of toil into decades of technology-enabled prosperity.

But that prosperity exacted a toll that amassed into a series of inconvenient realities that have begun to confront humanity in ways we never could have imagined. Further complicating an already unenviable scenario, the fortunes extracted from the earth were redirected on humanity to intentionally obfuscate the truth, to intentionally introduce doubt to the equation.

These “Merchants of Doubt” had vast funds at their disposal and leveraged past experience to skillfully muddy the waters of truth, converting millions over to the opposition. These factually challenged fellows fight for the old way. They fight for antiquated methods and gladly embrace the blindfolds that keep them in the dark.

The Problem

The great iron of the climate change challenge is that the solutions humanity needs to leverage to reduce emissions at a rate necessary to avert catastrophic climate change already exist. We can generate power in renewable, sustainable ways that are more than sufficient to provide for our current needs and even well into the future.

Electric personal transport, mass transit, and bulk commerce solutions exist and are already being deployed around the globe. Adding insult to injury, many of these technologies are cost competitive with legacy power generation and transportation solutions today, without government subsidies. Change, it turns out, is not easy.

Distilling the problem down to the core issues and pairing them up with respective potential solutions has already been done for many cities, states, and even whole nations.

The missing technological development is not, in fact, another clean technology. We don’t need another 10% efficiency improvement in photovoltaic solar panels or another 200 miles of range in electric cars or even lower-cost lithium-ion batteries for cheaper grid-scale battery installations.

The Solution

What we need is to get clear on the facts. As President Obama recently stated in an interview with Bill Maher, because of this obfuscation, “people have difficulty now just sorting out what’s true and what’s not.” With the explosion of social media over the last 5–10 years, the way people get their news … and the facts that it should contain … has radically changed.

Now, one zinger headline on a clickbait article or picture with a catchy caption can provide a critical mental linkage that reinforces a social or political bias subconsciously. What’s scary is that, as the 2016 US election proved, the facts don’t even matter too much. You read that right — it doesn’t matter if the article, headline, or picture is true.

We latch onto them and share them out to our friends and the echo chamber effect continues. Obama triaged the struggle to communicate the facts, asking “How do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs?” He closed the segment with the summary problem statement: “Let’s agree on facts then argue about means after that.”

Ultimately, this single item — developing and leveraging technology to communicate the facts to the public in a way that is universally accepted — is the largest challenge facing climate change. The day we can communicate truths and facts to the public in a way that’s meaningful and believable is the day the masses will start working in earnest to make the required changes to avert catastrophic climate change.

We already have the technical solutions we need to solve the problem. But it’s all for naught if the people don’t take action.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

91% Of Tesla Owners Would Buy Another Tesla, Tesla Takes #1 In Consumer Reports Survey

 Originally published on CleanTechnica

Consumer Reports finds itself between the proverbial rock of its own creation — the low reliability rating of Tesla vehicles — and the cold, hard reality that is the uber positive opinions of thousands of Tesla owners. The 2016 Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey found that Tesla owners were amongst the most satisfied and that 91% would purchase another Tesla.

That puts Tesla #1 in owner satisfaction … by a landslide. It beat #2 Porsche (84%) by a whopping 7 percentage points and #3 Audi (77%) by 14 percentage points.

I have to admit that I do not come into this news as an outsider, but rather, as a veteran owner of a Tesla Model S. My first year of ownership was well documented in our ongoing long-term review, with a more refined summary in my recent “year in review” article.

The results of the Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey put Tesla far above well established brands such as Porsche, Audi, and Subaru — an impressive result to say the least, especially in light of the well documented reliability issues that persist, particularly in the Tesla Model X.

Rank Brand Would Buy Again
1 Tesla 91%
2 Porsche 84%
3 Audi 77%
4 Subaru 76%
5 Toyota 76%

The Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction Survey was looking at overall owner satisfaction, with a specific focus on whether they would definitely buy the car again:

“Our brand rankings represent owner sentiment across each brand’s product line. (Model satisfaction is determined by the percentage of owners who responded “definitely yes” to the question of whether they would buy the same vehicle if they had it to do all over again.) To determine brand love—or disdain—we took a straight average of the satisfaction score for each brand’s models.

“Our survey revealed that the TeslaPorscheAudi, and Subaru brands remained in the top four spots again this year. Some other brands were on the move. Lincoln climbed from 21st place last year to 12th this year, and Hyundai shot up to 13th from 24th, based on the strength of new and recently redesigned models.“

While this is only one data point, it highlights just how important the improvements are that Tesla has delivered to consumers (zero emissions at the point of use, electric drive, smooth ride, quiet interior, user-friendly tech, Supercharger network, great customer service, not treating service centers as profit centers, manufacturer owned dealership experience, etc., etc.) when weighed against less-than-stellar reliability that is inevitable in a new mass-market vehicle.

On the flipside of the electric revolution, slow adopters and dieselgaters (cough … VW) didn’t fare so well in the survey:

“Meanwhile, Ram, a brand that sells just pickup trucks and vans, took a huge tumble from last year’s 5th place ranking to 17th. Other brands that fell in the rankings include BMW (from sixth to 14th place) and Volkswagen (from 16th to a dismal 24th).”

Hat tip to Curt Renz over on the Tesla Motor Clubs Forums for highlighting this gem.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Tesla Model S – Thoughts After 1 Year of Ownership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

In December 2015, I hatched an admittedly convoluted plan to purchase a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S some 2,600 miles away in Columbus, Ohio; fly out to pick it up; … then drive back to my home in California with a few fun stops along the way. Thankfully, just about everything worked out flawlessly and I made it home safely.

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Picking up my Model S in Columbus, Ohio

Having owned the beast for a year now, I took some time to step back to think about what it’s been like to own a Tesla Model S as compared to our 85 mile range Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive — as well as what ownership is like compared to more conventional gasmobiles.

Summary

Taking a 30,000 foot view of the last year, it has truly been phenomenal. The car drives like a dream. It’s quiet. Thanks to the skateboard design of the battery pack, it has an amazing center of gravity which is a key contributor to great traction, which doubles up with the super intelligent traction control system that all but prevents the wheels from slipping and “burning out.” It’s packed with technology making an IT geek like me smile every time I get in. And it has enough range to make range anxiety a thing of the past.

The Power of the Supercharger

While on my road trip, I vetted the Tesla Supercharger network, which I found to be more than sufficient for long-distance road trips across the arterial highway routes in the US, and with more Superchargers being added seemingly every week. Coming from a year of driving my wife’s electric Mercedes and a few months in a Nissan Leaf of my own, the Tesla Supercharger network truly was a game-changer.

supercharging_colorado

With CHAdeMO and SAE Combo Level 3 chargers (aka DC fast-charging stations), there are usually only one or two chargers per location. On top of that, they aren’t fast enough to add enough range to truly enable anything even remotely resembling a road trip. On the Chevy Bolt, for instance, stops will have to be ~60 minutes to get a 20–100% charge. Yes, that’s not terrible, but it’s also less than half the speed of a Supercharger, which will add ~170 miles of range in just 30 minutes.

On my road trip and many long-distance trips since, the Superchargers provide the perfect balance of a pit stop — time to go to the bathroom (which are typically in high demand after 2+ hours of driving with my family), grab a coffee or a bite to eat, stretch my legs, and get back on the road. Extending that to an hour adds quite a bit of idle time to the agenda. Yes, it’s still possible … but it’s going in the wrong direction.

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Supercharging is a game-changer for today’s EVs and becomes an absolute “have to have” for EVs with 200+ miles. This single fact will become evident as the masses of Bolt owners hit roads around the US over the next few months.

Service

For better or worse, I was able to experience Tesla service firsthand a few times over the last 12 months. I had my door handle extending mechanisms replaced, which took a ranger appointment and an in-house visit to fix completely. Initially, they were only going to replace the one … but when they were at my house fixing it, they confirmed that the others needed to be replaced as well. To Tesla’s credit, the process was painless and they came out and picked up my car, brought a loaner to me, and vice versa to return my car to me.

Everything about how Tesla processes service requests to how the services are scheduled to the unique approaches to repairing vehicles is a vast improvement over conventional dealerships. For the first door handle, Tesla offered to fix it in my garage with the Ranger service. That meant no dropping my car off, no waiting an hour at the dealership, no hassle of loaner cars … I opened the door and they went to work while I went inside and made dinner. It was great.

For the seatbelt recall earlier this year, Tesla staffed service techs at Supercharger locations to perform the quick 5 minute recall check in order to make it even easier for customers. This was a great example of how Tesla can and is leveraging its unique differences to improve the customer experience.

20160712_170951

In another interaction with Tesla service, I received a proactive call from Tesla Service to schedule a replacement of an electrical switch for the battery that wasn’t performing up to Tesla’s high standards. There was no impact to me and I received a loaner for the duration of the check. It took all of 1 day and I actually enjoyed getting to try out a different configuration of the Model S for a day.

This shows how Tesla is thinking of the vehicle as more of a smartphone than a car. Remote monitoring of vehicle health including diagnostics enables a level of preventive maintenance that simply does not exist in other car companies. This is just one more example of how Tesla doesn’t just have the longest range EV on the road but has exceeded current vehicles in just about every way.

Finally, in my most recent service experience, a notification popped up in my car that my 12 volt battery needed to be replaced. This was a known issue but it happened 2 days before Thanksgiving — for which we were planning to drive several hours a day for the entire weekend. I called Tesla and in under 5 minutes on the phone Tesla had confirmed that the battery needed to be replaced (again remotely, with no action required from me), confirmed that the battery didn’t need to be replaced immediately (had 2 weeks of life left), and had an appointment booked for early the following week.

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Overall, my Model S has had more service issues in 1 year of ownership than my Prius did over 6 years, but frankly, because of how much better the car is than any other car out there, AND just how painless Tesla Service is, I don’t mind it one bit. In fact, I enjoy calling them about an issue because they’re just so darn good at doing service.

A point of caution moving forward: it will be challenging to deliver the same high quality of service as they do today when Model 3 … and Model Y come online. I fully expect service staff to grow over the next 2 years and for the number of service locations to increase accordingly.

The Best Jerry, The Best*

My favorite part of owning the car is the rearview mirror. It’s no technical marvel — though, it is photochromatic, meaning it gets darker when bright lights (headlights) are shining in it, but that’s beside the point. I love seeing the people behind me pointing at my car and having little discussions. In addition to being in a Tesla, which draws looks by itself, my license plate is “NOGAAAS,” which helps close the gap for folks who aren’t as familiar with Tesla or electric cars.

I imagine what they’re saying and can honestly tell when they are talking about the car. I love that the car gets people talking about it. They may just know that Tesla is a nice car or a fast car or a high-tech car, which gets people excited about it … but it’s also an electric car, and to have people excited about electric cars and to get them talking about them is a huge win.

The car starts the discussion and I’ve swooped in many times to fill in any gaps in knowledge about it — dozens of times over the months I’ve owned it. For people I know, I’ve had several dozen people drive it. Again — it’s a sexy car and that draws people in and gets things going. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody was asking to drive my LEAF when I owned it … or my wife’s electric Mercedes. The Tesla is a different beast.

*This subheading refers to a somewhat obscure scene / character from the popular sitcom Jerry Seinfeld. 🙂

Put a Bow on It

In summary, this is the best car I’ve ever owned. When combined with the Supercharging network, it definitively puts range anxiety to rest once and for all. It packs more tech than any car I’ve seen in a way that’s more intuitive than I would have thought possible. It drives better (and quieter!) than any other car out there, and is faster to boot.

The Tesla app on my smartphone gives me all sorts of fun control and visibility of what it’s doing that has been helpful to me more than a few times. It can even unlock and turn on the car, allowing it to drive without a key in it. My wife — who’s not the most tech-friendly person and not a huge EV fan — feels comfortable driving in it with minimal instruction … which is great for my stress level and our marriage. 🙂

The only downside is the price … and that’s going to improve by leaps and bounds in another 12 months.

If you’re looking to buy a Tesla, feel free to use my referral link (here) to save $1,000, which is the only way to get a discount on a new Tesla.

All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica