SF Motors unveils electric concept car; factories in Midwest, China

A Silicon Valley company that includes a co-founder of Tesla held a global launch party Wednesday that revealed a new luxury electric vehicle that aims to go wheel-to-wheel with Tesla and other manufacturers.

The red carpet rollout brought VIP's in by the busload from across the U.S. and China to get the first glimpse of a new electric vehicle concept cars by SF Motors Wednesday night.

Two vehicles were unveiled at the global launch. The sleek SF5 and SF7 luxury SUV models are not yet in production, but the Santa Clara-based SF Motors company aims to roll out the SF5 by 2019. The SF7 could go into production by 2020. 

Both concept cars are high tech, with cameras instead of rear view mirrors, streamlined designs that can go 300 miles between charges.

SF Motors designed a flexible motor system which the engineers say integrates up to four electric motors that can go from zero to 60 in less than three seconds. 

SF Motors has been quietly creating a supply chain, purchased manufacturing facilities in Mishawaka, Indiana and Chonqing, China, and established research and development partnerships with University of Michigan and researchers in Germany and Japan. 

Guests viewed displays highlighting the engine components and technology. 

"I think it's a very cool car and I like the motor very much," said Zhou Lin, who flew in from Beijing.

SF Motors Founder and CEO John Zhang laid out the vision.

"Our technology is driving everything. and that is why 1644 we're headquartered in Silicon Valley supported by a strong presence in the Midwest to leverage that region's technology and engineering expertise," said Zhang.

SF Motors staff say the Indiana plant purchased in October 2017 was a former assembly plant for Humvees and Mercedes R class vehicles.

The crowd also heard a video greeting from SF Motors' Chief Strategy Officer Martin Eberhard, who was a co-founder of Tesla, now turned competitor.

"What you're building today is the legacy you'll leave for  your children tomorrow," said Eberhard, who apologized for missing the event due to a college admissions tour with his teenage son.

Jim Finn, Chief Production Officer for SF Motors, said both of the company's plants have integrated the entire assembly in one place. 

"Both plants are fully flexible and can produce multiple models at the same time. Total capacity will be about 200,000 vehicles per year and we expect to employ 3,500 workers worldwide," said Finn. 

"Both plants utilize a comprehensive manufacturing footprint that means everything from body welding to final assembly including battery pack production is done on site," said Finn.

"It's very exciting to see the new rollout of the car. It's something we've been looking forward to for the last couple of years," said Jaron Campbell, HSBC U.S. Head of Multi-national Corporate Banking, who has been a supporter of SF Motors. 

As for the recent bad news around electric vehicle fires and self-driving technology, some in the crowd said they do not see those incidents as a roadblock for this company.

“With a company like this I think it's an opportunity, a chance to improve on some of the mistakes that others have made, so I'm not really discouraged by what has happened in the past," said Campbell. 

SF Motors hopes to begin taking pre-orders at the end of 2018. The company has not yet disclosed a price for the SF5.