Faraday Future’s chief financial and chief operating officer Stefan Krause stands in the 1 million-square-foot former tire plant in south Hanford which will be converted into a plant to manufacture his company’s electric cars. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
Over the past nine years, Tesla Motors has gone from an unknown startup with lofty goals to the king of an electronic car market that is changing the auto industry.
Stefan Krause is looking to make his Southern California startup car company, Faraday Future, the second big player in the space, and he plans to do that by building his line of electric, intelligent luxury cars at a factory in the Kings County town of Hanford.
Welcome home, Faraday Future
To that end, about a week ago, the Gardena-based startup that has spent the last three years developing and refining its prototype car signed a lease agreement for the 1 million-square-foot former Pirelli Tire plant on the city’s south end, with plans to turn it into Faraday Future’s first factory.
The company will begin converting the factory early next year, bringing in and installing assembly lines and building a track on a portion of the 100-acre parcel where new cars will get short test drives to ensure quality before sending them to customers.
As far as when that will happen, while production may begin some time after the middle of 2018, “The first customer car will leave this building here at the end of ‘18,” Krause said in an interview with The Business Journal on Saturday.
A premier employer
Initially, he said, the factory will employ more than 600 people and produce 5,000-6,000 cars in the first year. And if sales go well, the Hanford plant will kick up production and employ about 1,300 people to produce about 10,000 cars a year.
If that happens, Faraday Future would become one of the largest employers in the Valley, and certainly in Hanford, said City Manager Darrel Pyle.
But company officials clearly are anxious to get moving on their plans in Hanford, so much so that on Saturday about 370 employees and members of their families made the more than 200-mile trip north to start cleaning out and painting portions of their new Hanford factory.
They also covered up the Hanford Industrial Park sign in front of the gated factory with one displaying the “Faraday Future” name.
The employees — who call themselves “Faridians” — also painted their company logo on a two-story wall in front of the factory building.
A look at the future
While the Faraday employees worked — including Krause, who helped paint support beams on the factory floor the company’s signature light orange color — Pyle and other city officials showed up in the early afternoon to meet their new neighbors and take a tour of the plant that stopped producing tires about 15 years ago.
They also got a look at what Krause and his staff plan to build here, a prototype of the FF 91, which company officials describe as a crossover sport utility and multi-purpose vehicle for the luxury car market.
It will feature self-driving technology, which has quickly become the standard of the car market of the near future.
“I think that’s one of the coolest cars I’ve ever seen in my life, first of all. That’s magnificent,” Pyle said as he and the other city officials got to look at the black car parked at the factory.
They didn’t get to test drive it or even look inside, as Krause said that for now the company is keeping the interior of the car under wraps, adding it’s one of the reasons for its luxury car status.
The car features a lithium-cobalt battery that on a full charge is good for up to a 378-mile trip, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to a Faraday press release.
Tesla’s current S and X models have ranges of 239 to 295 miles on full charges, depending on the type of battery purchased, while its new, more affordable Tesla 3 has a 229 to 310-mile range, depending on which of the two available batteries are installed.
Faraday Future hasn’t yet announced the price of its planned car.
A connected car
As for how it will compete with Tesla and other electric cars being developed, he said, “We wanted to build an electric car, but also a connected car — a car that will contain artificial intelligence and be self driving. So our car will have a technology advantage over many of the existing cars today.”
To that end, he said the FF 91 will include the hardware and 18 cameras needed for autonomous driving, but none of that will work until self-driving cars are permitted on U.S. roads. Once that happens the cars’ owners will be able to download software to their cars to activate their self-driving capabilities.
The FF 91’s electric motor will offer the equivalent of 1,050 horsepower, allowing it to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.39 seconds, according to data provided by the company.
Krause was mum about the luxury features, but noted that he has expertise in the luxury car market, having spent 20 years as an executive with BMW, last as the global CFO.
Part of that time involved working with the company’s Rolls Royce division, he said.
A new model
One of the big selling points of the FF 91 will be how it’s sold, said Krause, explaining, “We will not sell through dealerships. You will go online and you will be able to make an appointment to test drive a car … and we will bring the car to you to test drive.”
“It’s very different than what any manufacturers can do today, and it will be very competitive,” he added.
As for why Faraday Future is setting up its first planned manufacturing plant in Central California — an area better known for growing and packing fruits and vegetables than auto manufacturing — Krause said Hanford sits between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two biggest electric vehicle markets in the U.S. Those areas will be the initial focal points of FF 91 sales until interest in the brand fuels further expansion.
He said the company looked at prebuilt factories in Nevada and California, but the former Pirelli plant was the only one in the Valley that fit Faraday Future’s needs.
From pot to electric cars
Fortunately for Faraday Future officials, an Oakland company that looked at the former Pirelli plant building to cultivate and process medical marijuana lost interest in the site earlier this summer.
Krause said things moved quickly from there, with lease negotiations beginning with the factory’s owner three or four weeks ago.
“We did not negotiate with the city,” so Hanford didn’t provide any tax breaks or other incentives for Faraday to come here, he said.
But the city has dealt with Faraday before, said Pyle, noting that about a year and a half ago, company officials came to look at the plant and spoke with city officials when they initially scouted possible sites for its plants.
“And our curiosity was piqued, based on the level of professionalism of their team that showed up for the initial walkthrough. We had no idea who they were.”
Now that Faraday has committed to launching its car manufacturing here, Pyle said he’s optimistic about what it will mean for the area’s economy.
He noted that in its heyday, the Pirelli plant provided jobs to about 1,500 people, “And I can tell you they were careers. There are hundreds of families in Kings County — and Hanford, specifically — that came here because of the jobs, and they were careers. They were lifelong employees.”
Pyle said he believes the same sort of thing will happen with the Faraday operation, and it will offer a variety of jobs for low-skilled to high-skilled workers.
“I can imaging everything from people pushing a broom to engineers, electricians, accounting people, marketing people, [human resources] people, transit people, computer-aided drafting — those kinds of careers that are so in desire for young people going to college,” the city manager said.
“And to be able to come back to say I helped build one of those [cars], that’s something. That’s as good as it gets from a local government perspective.”
John Lindt contributed to this report.