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SF to launch two electric SUVs in 2019

SF Motors' SF5 SUV

SF Motors’ first SF5 and SF7 SUV models revealed with deliveries in the US and China slated for next year, as the company unveils its production plans

In a sea of Silicon Valley start-ups clamouring for supremacy over who can generate the most hype for their EV, SF Motors has played a much quieter game.

Indeed, while the rest of the automotive industry moved to New York this week for the International Motor Show, SF stayed home in northern California to make its latest announcement. At an event on March 28, the start-up revealed that its first two production models – the SF5 and SF7 SUVs – would be produced and delivered in 2019.

Although it has been quieter in its approach than ill-fated start-ups like Faraday Future, SF Motors has a reassuring pedigree. Backed by Chinese carmaker Sokon, SF acquired US-based InEVit last year and with it its chairman and CTO Martin Eberhard – also a former Tesla CEO. According to SF, Eberhard’s venture had developed and patented a “unique EV chassis architecture, battery module design innovations and manufacturing techniques”, and “a chemistry- and form-factor-agnostic battery module design” which would help it develop its own EVs.

Prior to this it also acquired an Indiana auto plant formerly used to assemble Hummer vehicles. This site will be the main production facility for the SF5 and SF7 in the US, with another in Chongqing for Chinese models.

The models too have look to have impressive specifications. SF will use a tiered platform offering models with up to four electric motors, offering a whopping 1,000HP and a 0-60mph sprint in 3 seconds. Unlike many of the big-ticket, high-performance vehicles on offer elsewhere though, SF will also offer the models with fewer motors and mid-range prices.

SF Motors' SF5 SUV
SF Motors’ SF5 SUV

Their range is competitive with most EVs on the market too, at around 300 miles, and its architecture will support some form of range extender.

The SF models will use 21700 battery cells, with a density of 280 Wh/kg which it will produce in-house. Assembled into packs, the overall density will be around 160 Wh/kg once the battery management and cooling systems are factored in. All told, that should mean an 80kWh battery will weigh a reasonable 500kg, or just over 600kg for 100 kWh.

In addition, the models promise multilink suspension, rear steering and all-wheel-drive torque vectoring. Autonomous capabilities were also hinted at, with a “protective autonomy” system that uses lidar sensors to monitor driving.

Exact battery sizes and motor configurations were not specified, but the mid-size SF5 will be available to pre-order in the US and China later by the end of 2018, with models rolling out in 2019. The larger SF7 will then follow.

SF looks particularly promising largely because its technology is tangible and it has already secured production facilities, not to mention the backing of its major Chinese investors. And unlike many other start-ups, it seems committed to building its own proprietary technology, making for a far closer comparison with Tesla than other would-be rivals. As CEO John Zhang remarked at the launch event: “We can’t follow the same path as every other EV company. We aim to be the company that shares integrated technology solutions and provides the manufacturing expertise to make more EVs a reality. We believe everyone wins with the wider adoption of EV technology.”

That technology too could become even more crucial as the industry grows. In its presentation, SF said that it aimed to produce the world’s first solid-state 21700 cell within the next few years, for use in its future models.

We’ll have to see what other details emerge over the course of the year, but far from New York as it was SF’s unveiling is certainly one of the biggest announcements of the past few months.

You can watch the full launch presentation here.


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