by Bonhia Lee, The Fresno Bee
Faraday Future plans to make luxury electric cars in the old Pirelli tire factory in Hanford.
The Los Angeles-based start-up company announced Monday that it had signed a lease for the 1 million-square-foot manufacturing plant. Hanford “offered us a facility with all the infrastructure in place to help improve our time to get cars out to the market,” said Dag Reckhorn, vice president of global manufacturing.
The location was also a plus. The plant is located between the country’s two largest electric vehicle markets – Los Angeles and San Francisco, Reckhorn said.
Hanford would be home to the three-year-old company’s first manufacturing plant in the United States, beating out Las Vegas, where Faraday originally planned to build a new $5 billion assembly plant.
“It’s going to be more economical for us than to build a factory,” said Reckhorn, who did not know how much it would cost to renovate the Pirelli factory yet.
More than 300 employees drove up from Los Angeles on Saturday to clean and paint the vacant facility, the first step toward the company’s goal of making and delivering its car, the FF 91, by the end of 2018.
The car is described as a crossover sport utility and multipurpose vehicle that can park itself. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.39 seconds and the company says it has a range of 378 miles.. The vehicle also has facial recognition technology and is “highly connected” allowing users to integrate their digital lives into the car’s systems. The price has not been determined, the company said.
Clean up will continue this year with significant work to happen on site in early 2018. The factory could employ up to 1,300 workers over time and build up to 10,000 cars a year.
“The next step is really now to assess the factory, the building, and define the needs,” Reckhorn said. “We have to strip the flooring, fix the air condition…once that’s done we can start installing equipment.”
At one time, a marijuana-growing company was eying the Hanford facility for a growing operation. But Hanford city officials would allow cultivation only in a small part of the facility, and the company that was in escrow decided to pull out.
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said the idea to reuse the tire plant started two years ago when the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development said it was seeking sites for a project “of national concern.”
The city and the Kings County Economic Development Corp. submitted a proposal involving the Pirelli plant. Officials in Sacramento and the company apparently liked the proposal but the project – dubbed Project Robin – was all kind of mysterious, he said.
“In 2015, a group showed up in black SUVs” for a plant tour, Pyle said. “It was very hush-hush – no last names.”
The city learned later that the group had chosen a site near Las Vegas. Suddenly last week, the governor’s office called to say Farady Future expressed renewed interest in the tire plant, Pyle said.
“We were at least memorable,” he said. “The new CEO pulled out our file.”
Saturday, when Faraday employees came up from Los Angeles, Pyle and other local officials were there.
“We brought them a truckload of Superior Dairy ice cream,” he said, referring the the renowned ice cream parlor in downtown Hanford. A taco truck also drove in.
The plant was last occupied by Pirelli in 2000 and has been used since as storage for dry goods, Pyle said. An investor group from Southern California owns the building.
The city made no financial concessions to Faraday, such as agreeing to waive permit fees, Pyle said.
But legislation allowing companies to get a property tax rebate if they invest more than $150 million in a project requires the City Council to pass a resolution, he said. That will come before the council in October.
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