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Mystery Electric Car Startup Unveils Prototype

Faraday Future unveiled its new concept electric car, which they say will redefine mobility.

The mystery electric car startup Faraday Future, which seeks to "redefine mobility," unveiled its first prototype vehicle on Monday while offering few details on its ownership and structure.

The company took the wraps off its tech-inspired Batmobile-style vehicle that is part of a plan to compete against the likes of Tesla and reshape the auto sector.

5 Tough Terrains And How To Drive In Them

"We are redefining the very nature of cars and mobility," said the company's senior vice president of research and engineering, Nick Sampson, unveiling the "FFZERO1" prototype car on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

A company statement described the car as "a high performance electric vehicle built upon... a modular engineering system optimized for electric vehicles, on which all future FF production vehicles will be based."

The "variable platform architecture" will help minimize production costs while speeding development, according to the company.

5 Driving Myths Busted

The company said it is aiming for an entirely new concept for vehicles with an emphasis on technology and personalization, instead of adapting existing automotive systems.

The cars will for example integrate the smartphone into the steering column to provide real-time data to drivers and potentially use augmented reality to show road conditions.

The concept car could also be "fully autonomous," according to the company.

The FFZERO1 "is an amplified version of the design and engineering philosophies informing FF's forthcoming production vehicles," said Richard Kim, head of design.

12 Electric Cars For Speed Freaks

"This project liberated our designers and inspired new approaches for vehicle forms, proportions and packaging that we can apply to our upcoming production models."

Sampson said Faraday intends to move "very fast" on its plans and has already announced a $1 billion factory to be built near Las Vegas.

In just 18 months since its founding, Faraday has 750 employees and intends to produce its first car within two years.

Faraday will move fast because it will act "more like a technology company than an automotive company," Sampson said.

5 Tough Terrains And How To Drive In Them

At the event, Faraday confirmed a "strategic partnership" with China-based media and tech firm Letv, but did not provide details about its ownership or even indicate who is its chief executive.

The company told AFP that its investors include Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, founder of Letv, which is sometimes described as the Netflix of China.

Faraday Future employees include former executives from Apple, BMW, Google, NASA, Tesla and other prominent firms.

Faraday is exploring "new types of ownership" for the vehicles, Sampson said, without elaborating.

5 Driving Myths Busted

Earlier, he told AFP the company was looking at shared ownership options and added that "ownership models will change over time."

Based in California, Faraday Future announced its factory plans in early December, saying it would be a "first phase" for the new company, which is yet to get a vehicle on the road.

The facility is "something more than an ordinary 'assembly line,'" according to its announcement, and will include three million square feet (280,000 square meters) "for passionate creators and diligent visionaries, where new concepts will be refined and implemented."

It will create 4,500 jobs in the region -- the same area where Tesla is building a major new battery manufacturing facility.

12 Electric Cars For Speed Freaks

While Faraday Future has often been compared with Tesla, Sampson said he does not see the company created by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk as a rival.

"We compete with companies selling gasoline cars," he said. "Tesla in some respects we should consider as our allies, not our competitors."

The Batmobile-style FFZERO1 is part of a plan to compete against the likes of Tesla and reshape the auto sector.

Debate still rages on the

best way to sell electric cars

. Should automakers be boasting of their environmental credentials? Or should they talk in a language people understand -- money -- and highlight the economic benefits? Maybe it's all about silence and refinement? Rarely mentioned is just how fun

electric cars

can be to drive. So we've taken a primal, quantitative measure of driving fun -- the 0 to 60 mph acceleration sprint -- to rank each battery-electric vehicle on sale today, or on sale soon. At the very least, this gallery will serve as a handy list of which

cars

not to try and beat from the next green light.

You probably aren't surprised by this one. The Model S is comfortably the most powerful electric

car

on sale, and while it's also the heaviest, it still offers super-sedan performance. If you like that airliner-on-takeoff feeling on your commute, this is the car to offer it.

Another car with Tesla influence (

though not for much longer

) and apparently Tesla-style performance, the RAV4 is a Toyota product. With a 115 kW (154 hp), 220 lb-ft electric motor and a Sport mode, the RAV4 EV will see off most other crossovers and

SUVs

at the lights. A 103-mile EPA-rated range isn't bad, either.

BMW's electric city car has attracted attention for its styling more than anything else, but with a 130 kW (170 hp) electric motor driving the rear wheels and a lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic chassis, it's also brisk. It's worth noting that the extra weight of the range-extended model does dull performance a little.

The key figure for the Spark EV isn't the 97 kW (130 hp) power output -- though that's not bad for such a small car. No, it's the incredible 400 pounds-feet of torque, more than a Ferrari 458 Italia. Okay, so the Ferrari is still quicker and perhaps a little more attractive too, but the Spark comfortably sees off its combustion counterparts, which is much more interesting.

Mercedes-Benz is pitching its

upcoming B-Class Electric Drive

as a rival to the BMW i3, and pricing is near-identical. It's got a little more interior space, but isn't quite as innovative in its construction and in terms of both acceleration and cornering, the BMW driver will be having more fun.

The best demonstration of the Fit EV we've yet seen hasn't really called for outright acceleration; there's a limit to how much you can use

sliding around on a frozen lake

. But 8.5 seconds to 60 mph is still better than most compact cars, let alone subcompacts. And you still get all the other Fit benefits -- an agile chassis and spacious interior.

The

Fiat 500E is a hoot to drive

whether you're going in a straight line or zipping around city streets, and a 0-60 dash of 9.1 seconds is similar to that of its gasoline counterparts. But let's be honest, you'd prefer to have that performance with a quiet, clean electric motor, wouldn't you?

Volkswagen's entrant into the electric

compact

sector isn't yet on sale, but it's not too bad a performer. "Around 10 seconds" is VW's estimate for the e-Golf (to 100 km/h, or 62 mph, it's 10.4). More pertinently, it's good over those first few yards too--proving fun to drive around the streets of Berlin

on the car's recent launch

.

Like the Golf and Leaf, few will regularly do a full 0-60 mph sprint on their daily commutes, but the Focus is par for the course for acceleration performance. The Focus's main trump card is handling though -- the gasoline Focus is already widely praised, and the Electric model is also a neat handler.

The Leaf lags its compact rivals here but many owners are content to cruise around using as little energy as possible. Like all

electric vehicles

, it's pretty good over those first few feet anyway -- thank the 80 kW (110 hp) and 210 lb-ft electric motor's instant torque characteristics for that.

We've driven the electric Smart Fortwo on several occasions, and

consistently deem it a better vehicle

than its jerky gasoline siblings. It's also quicker, hitting 60 mph in the same time as the Leaf -- quite an experience in the Fortwo's upright body shape.

If you're a speed freak with a penchant for electric

vehicles

, the i-MiEV probably won't be on your shopping list. The 15-second sprint has been bettered by some drivers, but as the official figure that's the one we have to run with, and it does the i-MiEV no favors. Luckily, low lease rates make it one of the cheapest electric

cars

to get your hands on.