Despite unveiling its concept car in January with much fanfare, electric car startup  Faraday Future hasn't shaken its reputation as a mysterious company that operates in shadows. 

The startup has continued to work in secrecy, sharing little bits of information now and then like a trail of breadcrumbs for the auto world to follow. This kind of uncertainty led to concerns last month from Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz about whether Faraday backer Jia Yueting, a Chinese billionaire, would be able to fund the company's proposed $1 billion car plant in Southern Nevada. Schwartz asked Faraday for $75 million in the form of a surety bond to help quell those fears, and the company reportedly delivered a promise to that effect on March 2.

So what else do we know about Faraday's progress as a company so far? In a surprise announcement on March 1, Faraday lifted the curtain on its  first patented auto part, a device called the Echelon Inverter. (If you think that sounds a little bit like Back to the Future's flux capacitor, you wouldn't be the only one.) A type of power inverter, the small, shiny box doesn't produce power itself, but instead changes direct current to alternating current, an essential process in electric car technology that lets battery power spin the car's motor.

Faraday's team of engineers built the device from scratch rather than using off-the-shelf parts so they could reduce the total number of components, giving the inverter a simpler design. Fewer parts means less opportunity for electrical current to be shared unevenly among components, something that could cause certain parts unintended stress.

"This stress could lead the inverter to shut down - possibly causing your car to suddenly stop moving altogether," Faraday wrote in a blog post. The company also claims the inverter's compact design allows for an "unprecedented degree" of power density, which refers to the amount of energy that can be transformed per unit of volume. 

While the Echelon Inverter represents Faraday's first ever patent, the company has applied for more than 100 others.

"It's the first patent out of many to come in all areas of vehicle engineering," Faraday senior director of electric drive Silva Hiti told Inc. via an email.

Faraday claims its all-electric car will have a top speed of 200 miles per hour, compared with 155 miles per hour for Tesla's Model S, and will offer an autonomous driving mode. The futuristic design drew comparisons to the Batmobile, thanks to its covered glass cabin and aerodynamic tailfin, when the company unveiled the car at annual Las Vegas tech trade show CES in January.

Faraday is also working on a unique type of modular battery technology that will give its larger vehicles more batteries built into the frame. The company is expected to release a production version as early as 2017.

Published on: Mar 7, 2016