Lefteri: And just looking at the technological part of this. There's lots of lighting in the car can you tell me about how that fits with the CMF Design?
Beermann: There's actually a lot of lighting throughout the vehicle interior and exterior. On the interior it's mostly there to support very precise control over the atmosphere. The user can select which color or mood or function they want that lighting to support, whether they are in spa mode with an intention to relax, or in a work mode with an intention to focus, the lighting scenarios support that.
Lefteri: It seems unique how you're using the lighting. You've given the ambient lighting examples. But you use lighting more so than other car interiors. Did that provide any challenges in terms of plastics and integrating technology with the lighting?
Beermann: Using plastics really enabled the use of lighting. It allows us different approaches to manufacturing and form factors and allows us to control where the light goes. It’s very strategic the way the lighting and the plastics were used in combination. To your previous point about these pillars, a sense of luxury is hard to define. You can say that a villa that's partially gilded and has marble floors conveys a sense of luxury. In the automotive world, using fine materials like leather with nice quilting and stitching, with wood décor, is traditional luxury. There was a phase for a while where carbon fibre was understood as having some luxury characteristics. If you get a chance to sit in an FF 91 you will see the approach is a little bit different. We have a layering philosophy with our design language. There's a technology layer, there's an experience layer, there's a comfort layer. We've broken that up in terms of where the materials sit. Any contact surfaces, where you're physically contacting the interior, these are really nice materials. Be it leather or PUR, we make sure the hand on those materials is a joy to interact with. You feel on a tactile level bathed in these luxury materials. Then when you interact with the information, and the displays, the tactile experience is very different. We've also made sure through coatings, and the design of those surfaces, that it’s also an exceptional experience. Touching a screen isn’t always pleasant. Running your finger across a piece of glass doesn't give you much information. We’ve done some things we can't talk about too much, to give you an FF specific haptic experience. Whether it's this tactile soft experience or whether you're interacting with the information itself.
Lefteri: It's very interesting how you address on such a fine level the idea of haptic, the sensory experience to provide luxury and premium. You mentioned wood. That's traditionally a luxury material. What did you do to replace that sense of luxury without using wood? Did you treat plastic in a certain way?
Neuhauser: We played with a variation of "man-made" materials like plastics. The overall benefit of a "man- made" material is that you can design it the exact way you need it to meet your purpose, specifications and performance – which also leads into the design aspect looking at the material appearance and how it feels. Plastics have come a long way and can cater to many aspects or functionalities as well as experience levels by integrating smart tech. They also have great weight, cost, and manufacturing benefits.
We figured that working with innovative plastics and designing those in different ways throughout the vehicle, we have the ability to create a new sensory and luxurious experience. Furthermore, we achieved to tie the interior and exterior surfaces and its technology flow closer together as one entity. Chris you mentioned Wood – I am a big fan of wood as it has a very amazing feel and sensory experience, but because it is a natural grown source it deviates a lot and make the material process of creating "identical" interior parts very difficult. This means a lot of part get thrown away not meeting the specifications and quality standards we have to go through in this industry. This also means we are adding to the landfill problem while cutting down trees. Wood is a resource that needs time and space and specific climate to grow depending on the kind of wood. An amazing alternative is Hemp wood as the plant grows extremely fast and also gives off an amazing level of oxygen and requires very little water – which is beneficial for our climate. Those materials are areas we are investigating in of course. There are hybrid solutions between plastic and sustainable wood that are now getting into more feasible directions to use and I am super interested in for the FF brand.
Lefter: So here's a tough question. Do you believe that plastics can still provide that sense of luxury even though it has a negative perception?
Beermann: I think that the negative perception is somehow from a prior era. If you're in the plastics world now, there are a million options for plastics that feel amazing to touch, and have an amazing quality when light hits them. I would say 90 percent of the time customers don't even realise they're interacting with plastics, because they think it’s metal or they think it's something else. I think that stigma is long gone for us; we don't really think about it.
Neuhauser: Yes I do think so Chris, like mentioned in a comment before – plastic have come a long way and a lot of innovation has been created with and around the plastic and its hybrid materials including 3 d printing possibilities and combining natural and man-made components. The ability to create surfaces that have an amazing smooth and silky touch while generating a soft "drag" when touching utilizing silicon coatings for example. Plastics can feel and appear like a honed ceramics but are a fraction of the weight and cost which is pretty amazing. Not to mention the anti-bacterial properties and cleanability which play a tremendous role since the pandemic.
Lefteri: Let's move on to this idea of co-creation which you have quite prominently on the Faraday Future website. Co-creation is about the customer of course but does it also involve the way you work within a design studio?
Beermann: It does. And co-creation is a philosophy. It's deeply embedded into the brand. In the past, you don't really want to create something and tell the world "this is the most amazing thing!" You need to interact with all of your potential customers and glean their knowledge and their desires. That's the base philosophy for product development at Faraday. During product development cycles – whether it's early in the ideation phase or it's later on in the implementation phase – we actually bring in groups of customers or reservation holders and we do workshops with them. Their ideas will sometimes end up in the product directly. For example, a customer was very interested in having a private environment in the rear of the FF 91. Their suggestion was to create a physical barrier between the front seat row and the rear seat row, like with a taxi cab for example. We worked through that idea with this customer, and the best solution was not physical but using audio software to create sound zones. This is the kind of feedback we get from our reservation holders, because they have very specific use cases, especially with this premium price class, and that really helps us create unique selling points for Faraday Future.
Lefteri: Does that co-creation ever involve any hands on and playing with materials? For example, with testing, even on a basic level without getting supplies, do you get samples from a CMF lab and ask users for opinions?
Beermann: For sure, that's exactly what we do. We lay out a lot of samples from our library. We do internal colour testing. We create a variety of colour concepts for, let's say, exterior paint, and then we get feedback from our customer base. We have a couple of mechanisms for that: we like to do it 1-on 1, in person, in the studio, as well as we get information through our app. We'll post different colour concepts on our configurator, and get feedback from the users that way as well.
Lefteri: I'd like to go back and touch on this idea of what it's like to start a brand and define it from scratch versus both your previous experiences where that’s a very well-established brand. Can you just describe what that’s like – what do you prefer?
Beermann: For me, that's the reason why I left BMW after 18 years. There were lots of different learning opportunities at that OEM. But I was never asked to think about defining the brand over. It was always through the lens of creating design proposals and shifting brand perception through the product design. Future Faraday was a blank sheet of paper, there was no logo, there wasn't even a name. You can imagine the amount of churn that happened, in terms of what it was really going to be about, it was so exciting. It’s a designer's dream. Because designers love solving problems. We're puzzlers. You get a kick out of solving that Rubik's cube. When there are no walls put up around you, your area of influence is a lot larger. That was really rewarding at Faraday. It took a lot of discussion with the founders and leadership, and everyone down to the engineers and designers, thinking about the market opportunity. The founder had a very clear vision of a space that was open in the market, where vehicles were not being seamlessly integrated with the technology that people use. It was very clear early on that this vehicle wants to be a super computer, and it wants to replace the cell phone when you get into a car. That's our credo. Even with a Tesla, people pull out their phone when they get in the Tesla, because the interface is what you're used to. It's more optimised for your daily life versus what's on your screen. That's the intersection we targeted. How do you create a vehicle that addresses that lack of integration? How can we bring the vehicle into the future in a way that's as easy to use as your cell phone? That's the impetus for the creation for the company.
Lefteri: Do you think that statement of the "third internet living space" captures that?
Beermann: If you're in certain circles, in certain parts of the world, that phrase is clearly understood. I'm not sure all people in the US are aware what the first and second internet living spaces are – which are home, and work, and so vehicle is the third.
Lefteri: One last question. What would you most like to see at an event like the K Show, which is a plastics event; what would you most like to see from the plastics industry?
Neuhauser: I would love to see the next level of tech integration catering not only to information screens but to active wellness screenings and sensory feedback between Human and machine, allowing the car to react and engage with its occupants though surfaces and generating a 2way path of communication. Modularity adaptability and self-healing surfaces would also be of key interest. And of course, the sustainability and eco conscious aspect of plastics of the future, showing directions to go full circle causing minimum to 0 waste, produced in a sustainable way with 0 or negative carbon foot print.
How versatile can a plastic be? There's still lots of "greenwashing" going on and I would love more transparency. Where's the future of plastics going and what are suppliers actively doing to transition to that?
Beermann: I'm equally focused on sustainability. It's not really clear which suppliers out there in plastics have the advantage. You have to do a lot of research in terms of who your best partner is going forward as you develop your product. It would be really interesting: could we have something like Leed certification, like you have for architecture, but for automotive and materials industry so you can understand who meets your needs and who doesn't? Who can allow you to create a five-star sustainable product? That would be interesting to me. I'm also interested in plastic alternatives. You have mycelium leather, cactus leather, there are also hybrids between that and plastics, you're using these natural products as substrate filler which can create all kinds of wonderful new hybrids which I’d be interested to see.