Faraday Future is joining Formula E, the all-electric racing series. The California-based electric car company announced the news today in London, where this weekend Formula E will wrap up its second season with a pair of races around Battersea Park. The company first got involved with the series earlier this year when it became the title sponsor of the race in Long Beach, a move that sparked some speculation about the company joining the series in a more official capacity.
Faraday Future will be entering the series thanks to a technical partnership with Dragon Racing, one of the 10 existing Formula E teams. The company will also become a stakeholder in Dragon Racing, which is currently owned by Jay Penske (the son of motorsport legend Roger Penske), though the two sides declined to say how much Faraday will control. Going forward, the team — which is now called Faraday Future Dragon Racing — will make its official debut at the start of Formula E’s third season in Hong Kong this coming October. In addition, LeEco — a Chinese company that is bankrolling Faraday Future while working on its own electric car — will be involved in the sponsorship with Dragon Racing.
We first learned about Faraday Future in the summer of 2015 when Motor Trend reported that the startup was poaching talent from Tesla to build its own electric car. We’ve since gotten a peek inside the company’s southern California headquarters, and watched it unveil an incredibly futuristic (albeit unrealistic) concept car at CES this year.
But the company has been otherwise tight-lipped about its plan for making mass-market electric vehicles, and it has a lot to prove. It has only recently broken ground on a factory north of Las Vegas where it plans to produce its cars, and hasn’t shown anything resembling a production vehicle. Its main competitor, Tesla, is struggling to improve quality and scale its factory in time for the Model 3 launch, laying bare just how hard it is to start a new car company.
The company will get more involved with each passing season
Joining up with Formula E gives Faraday Future another way to test out the technologies that could wind up in that mass-market car, though. For its first season, all Formula E teams had to race the same spec car. But for the second season onward, Formula E started allowing teams to make their own drivetrains, which includes the motors, the gearbox, and the rear suspension. This move was meant to make the sport more attractive to major car manufacturers, and it worked — Renault, Citroën, and Audi are all now involved in the sport on a technical level. Others, like BMW and Nissan, are rumored to be interested as well.
Dragon Racing was one of the few teams that didn’t take advantage of this freedom to develop its own unique drivetrain — instead, it bought its drivetrain from another Formula E team, Venturi Racing. (Dragon currently sits fourth in the team championship standings, after finishing second in Formula E's first season.) Faraday will start its partnership with Dragon by helping the team get the most out of the new powertrain that the team developed for season three.
In season four, however, the partnership will expand, and Faraday Future plans to start supplying Dragon Racing with its own bespoke powertrain components. By season five the sport will be adopting a new chassis and battery, and Faraday Future says it will be fully involved with the development for that changeover, creating more drivetrain components like a motor and gearbox, software, and firmware. Faraday Future also says that, in season five, it plans to equip its Formula E car with the same inverter that will eventually be found in the company’s production vehicle. (The inverter is what delivers the battery’s energy to the motor.)
Translating the electric technology of Formula E to the road has long been a main goal of the series. "One of our objectives from the beginning was to promote technology competition," CEO Alejandro Agag said when the series announced in 2015 that it was opening up drivetrain development. "We need ‘actors’ to join and to develop technologies to fight against each other in the races. Through this fight we improve the technology and then with this improved technology we improve electric cars in general."