Chinese-Funded SF Motors Lays Out Plan For Indiana-Built EVs


SF Motors

Chinese-funded EV startup SF Motors emerged from stealth mode recently, revealing a pair of electric sport-utility vehicles that its founder and CEO John Zhang said he hopes will “transform human mobility—and perhaps our planet.”

At an event held at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Santa Clara, California, details on the strikingly designed vehicles were sparse, and company officials were reluctant to give specifics. The SF5 is a mid-size premium crossover that Zhang says will be available for preorder by the end of this year and be on the road in 2019. The SF7 is a full-size performance crossover with four motors delivering torque vectoring, all-wheel drive, and more than 1000 horsepower—and a targeted zero-to-60-mph time of less than three seconds. No prices were announced.

The cars will be built at highly automated factories in the United States and China, the company claimed, with trial production starting later this year and eventually ramping up to 200,000 vehicles annually. “We can’t follow the same path as every other EV company,” said Zhang. “We aim to be the company that shares integrated technology solutions and provides the manufacturing expertise to make more EVs a reality.”

SF Motors is developing its own powertrain and recyclable batteries. The company would not discuss the capacity of battery packs (or the chemistry, likely to be lithium-ion) but said the vehicles will have an EPA-cycle range of 300 miles. An optional gasoline-powered range extender will be available. Zhang said SF will make its powertrain available to other startups in flexible one-, two-, three-, or four-motor configurations.

Following the Tesla Trail

This aspiring Tesla rival is technically American. It was founded in 2016 with a $30 million investment from Chongqing Sokon Industry Group, a Chinese maker of trucks and vans. The company toyed with acquiring California engineering firm AC Propulsion, which licensed lithium-ion battery technology to Tesla for the first Roadster. As Car and Driver revealed last year, this deal never went through. Sokon finally acknowledged that earlier this month.

In December 2017, Sokon reorganized its corporate structure to give SF Motors more independence and boosted SF’s capitalization to $60 million. A document filed with Chinese regulators in 2016 says that Sokon eventually intends to invest a total of $590 million.

Talking the Talk, but . . .

SF Motors executives also touched on just about every high-tech buzzword, including voice control, visual recognition of owners, deep neural networks, software that adjusts dynamically to different drivers, solid-state batteries, and packs having a second life as domestic energy storage. The cars will have a large screen between the driver and passenger, similar to that of a Tesla Model S.

“Building an EV conceptual model is easy,” said John Zhang, who offered several not-so-veiled jabs at Tesla and its manufacturing fumbles. “But mass production of [a] high-quality EV is difficult and none of the other EV companies are doing that. We will change that. We will deliver at scale with extremely high quality.”

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