SF Motors debuted a trio of electric car platforms at its new headquarters in Santa Clara, California
SF Motors debuted a trio of electric car platforms at its new headquarters in Santa Clara, California

SF Motors: The Latest EV Startup By the Bay

By Bill Moore

A bevy of Chinese-funded electric car startups have established R&D presences in Silicon Valley. The latest is SF Motors, named in tribute to San Francisco. EV World talks with its CTO, Yifan Tang and its plans to sell cars both in China and the USA.

Byton, Nio, Lucid, Faraday Future: just some of the hopeful startups with strong ties to China that have set up shop, in one form or another, in Silicon Valley.

Now add to the list SF Motors, which is being funded by the Sokon Industry Group, a major automotive parts supplier and motorcycle manufacturer in China. Like the others, SFM hopes to carve out a corner of the EV market in both China and especially the United States. It's planning to introduce its first car, the SF5 (picture above in the center) sometime in 2019, with the SF7 to follow in 2020.

Leading the technical side of the effort is Yifan Tang, who cut his EV teeth at Tesla and then went on to work on Facebook's Aquila electric drone aircraft project.

"I went from the ground to the air and back to the ground," he commented to EV World publisher Bill Moore.

In prepping for the interview, EV World discovered the company has been laying the ground work to be a serious competitor in the US market, not only setting up facilities in Silicon Valley, including its new Milpitas R&D center, but also acquiring AM General's Hummer assembly plant in Ann Arbor, Mi. It's also shoved a stake in the ground in Stuttgart, Germany. Between the Ann Arbor plant and a larger one in China, the company has the capacity to turn out 200,000 EVs a year.

The company also acquired Martin Eberhard's InEVit startup, bringing him on as a consultant.

One of the more interesting aspects of the company is its focus on not just building and selling its own brand of electric cars, but on offering its engineering and manufacturing expertise to other would-be electric car companies. That's what the 3rd vehicle in the photo is: a rolling chassis. It's a business model not all that dissimilar to "white label" appliance manufacturers who build different models for other brands. Presumably, if EV World had deep enough pockets (don't we wish), we could go to SF Motors and have them build us our own brand of electric car: say the "Zebra" - nope been used. The "Leopard"? Also been used? The "Karat"? Maybe but it sounds like a vegetable.

Of course, no modern electric car startup worth its Baijiu has to also have a serious autonomous vehicle roadmap and that's largely the reason all these guys set up shop in California and bid for a limited pool of AV specialists as Tang discusses near the end of our 24-minute discussion, some, admittedly, a bit difficult to follow given his accented English and not a particularly good cellphone connection.

(Honestly, what's with US cell phone service? I've enjoyed better connections, including sending live video, from the streets of Moscow.)

We didn't talk much about their cars since they are still keeping details under wraps, but Tang promised to return in 6-9 months when he's free to talk more about their performance, pricing, marketing, etc.

Times Article Viewed: 18781
Originally published: 26 Apr 2018


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