Electric vehicles (EVs) have improved a lot since generation 1.0, about 15 years ago. You know which one I’m alluding to — the famous/infamous EV1. And if generation 2.0 freed us from the sub-50 mile range constraint, generation 2.5 finally broke the 100 mile range barrier with Nissan and BMW, amongst a few others. The only EV maker to flirt with the 300 mile range is still Tesla.
Lucid Motors, once known as Atieva, thinks 400 mile range is the psychological barrier to break. And, to prove it, the company will use the tried and true luxury route, as quoted from its website: “We are a luxury mobility company reimagining what a car can be”
Atieva, Lucid Motors, Who’s Who?
Atieva was founded back in 2007 by Bernard Tse and Sam Weng. Tse, an ex-Tesla VP and board member from 2003 to 2007, and Weng, a former Oracle executive, started their EV battery expertise from scratch at Tesla. You see, back in 2003, there were no real EV battery experts. Yes, GM dabbled with NiHM, but AC Propulsion was the only show in town and wasn’t interested in building cars. This gave Tesla Motors a chance to leapfrog the competition.
In 2016, Atieva became Lucid Motors. While startups often beat the marketing drum loud & clear to get funding, Atieva didn’t. It went into stealth mode from 2007 to 2014, when it slowly began to reveal its plans. Until then, the company self funded itself after Bernard retired from Tesla with its sky-high valuation. Who does this remind me of?
It was a cinch raising more capital, which included securing a 9-figure sum in private equity funding in 2014, according to ChargedEVs. The company today is backed by Tsing, Sumitomo, Venrock, BAIC, and LeEco, amongst a few, giving it an estimated $131 million value. But is that enough to open up a manufacturing center in Arizona? Not by a long shot … just yet.
Are Lucid Motors’ Claims Technically Feasible?
That’s a tough one to answer since business models around selling electric cars are still fairly new. We don’t know much about Lucid Motors. However, on the technical side, Lucid Motors has a lot of experience its competition is still trying to gather. It has the expertise to back some of its claims. While it showed an EV prototype in 2014, this year it revealed its Atvus with no less than 900 to 1000 HP. Last year, Atieva held more than 100 patents for battery, motor, and control system technologies.
To put things in perspective, fewer than 8 years ago, many believed the maximum battery capacity for an EV would be around 100 kWh. Anything over would penalize the range. Today, Lucid Motors claims to be able to shove a 130 kWh pack into a car that can squeeze a 400 mile range. At the same time, Tesla announced it would stop at 100 kWh. Tesla also claims to have a cell patent with Panasonic. Lucid Motors says theirs is with Samsung SDI. And as for Faraday Future? It claims a patent with LG Chem. Maybe they all found a way to build comparably better batteries with more energy density, but most of the time, the first researchers usually have a leg up on the competition.
Two months ago, Peter Rawlinson, Lucid Motors’ chief technical officer (CTO) — and also Tesla’s former chief engineer for the Model S — said the company signed an agreement with Formula E as a three-way partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies and Sony to provide the battery technology for the race.
Enough credentials by now.
Is Lucid Motors A Serious Tesla Competitor?
I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but there are still too many people on the fence when it comes to EVs. And there are even more people who don’t understand them. Worse yet, many people associate EVs with some secret Green conspiracy. And the truth is that conventional carmakers are very slow to move, slow to react, and seem more interested in “a better tomorrow” marketing pitches than actual deliverables today.
Instead of analyzing irrelevant PR pitches from the many, companies like Lucid Motors and NextEV are more subtle, quiet, and pragmatic. They learned from watching others that you need to put your ducks in a row first and only then show your plans — after being well funded. While hearing marketing from these companies, it manages a realistic balance of what they want to do and what they actual have, unlike many mainstream carmakers. Yes, many of us feel burned out with the slow pace of EV evolution, and the boisterous claims can only satisfy us for so long. Aren’t we all getting antsy waiting for the more affordable EVs constantly promised?
Tesla is not going anywhere any time soon. The company is a poster child of the EV revolution and can back it up with a stellar electric lineup. But companies like Lucid Motors did their homework well, learned from the best, took their time, and finally are coming out of the woodwork with a bang. Plus, they worked on the Model S and the Roadster. They certainly have the technical credentials — perhaps more than any other new mobility makers. How they present their vision of the future is where it will be important. In this aspect, NextEV already did a great job. And as to FF, I’m sure both Lucid and NextEV have learned from their premature revelation mistakes.
Lucid Motors and NextEV Are Generation 3.0 EV Makers
In many ways, Lucid Motors is the generation 3.0 company we’re waiting for. Will it strike as much a nerve as Tesla did? Most likely not. It’s hard to replace the Beatles and Rolling Stones, even though plenty of modern bands are doing amazing things. Lucid Motors doesn’t have an Elon Musk, for better or worse, nor a Carlos Ghosn, but it has members of the original research team with irreplaceable know-how, and they have already applied what they learned.
While it’s difficult to separate vaporware from real products these days, we know Nissan has the #1 best-selling EV globally. BMW has a potential EV with its i3. And yes, Tesla Motors has an amazing car with its Model S. We sure hope a company that names itself Lucid watched where others stumbled and will deliver the product at the right time, at the right place, and in the right way. In the meantime, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for more lucidity in this amazing wild, wild west EV industry.
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