The Lucid Air was supposed to be revealed to the public for the first time at the New York auto show, but the coronavirus put a crimp in those plans. In a press release on June 17, the company says the reveal will now take place online September 9. Peter Rawlinson, CEO of Lucid Motors, says, “Our mission is to deliver sustainable luxury with class-leading range in the form of the Lucid Air, and we are closer than ever to turning that dream into reality.” Rawlinson worked previously at Tesla, where he was directly involved in getting the Model S into production.
Peter Hochholdinger is another former Tesla executive who has joined the Lucid team as head of production. Prior to his time with Tesla, he spent 24 years with Audi. “We’re building a brand-new factory to produce the world’s first true luxury EV,” he says. “That requires an incredible amount of effort and planning, with our ‘just-in-time’ model continuing to serve us well as we enter this critical home stretch.”
The press release says the factory in Casa Grande, Arizona is nearing completion, with production robots ready to install and the paint shop nearing completion. Lucid expects to begin pre-production activities there before the end of the year, with full production beginning in early 2021. Lucid calls it the “only purpose-build facility in the US for electric vehicle production,” which is technically true since the Tesla factory in Fremont is a repurposed GM/Toyota factory. Pricing for the Lucid Air will begin at $60,000 — considerably less than the price of a Tesla Model S.
An Interview With Peter Rawlinson
Earlier this month, Peter Rawlinson conducted an interview with Digital Trends in which he talked openly about Lucid Motors in general and the Lucid Air specifically. In that conversation he spoke about his passion for making electric vehicles that are as efficient as possible, calling a car that can travel 5 miles on a kilowatt-hour of electricity the Holy Grail of the EV business. The Lucid Air won’t be quite that efficient — even though it reportedly will have more than 400 miles of range in some configurations — but Rawlinson is already thinking about smaller, lighter, less expensive cars that could reach the 5 miles/kWh goal.
“What I want to do is create the most range with the smallest battery pack,” Rawlinson says. “There’s dumb range and there’s smart range. Dumb range is stuffing a huge battery pack into the car. There’s talk of one company having a 180-kWh battery pack. That would literally weigh a ton. So you’ve got this extra weight, the extra space the pack takes up, and the extra cost, which gets passed onto the customer.
“Then you get this vicious circle, because the car is heavier, so the suspension has to be beefed up, the brakes have to be bigger, and that creates yet more weight. So then you have to add more [battery] cells. For every extra hundred cells you put in the car, you need a couple of cells to have the energy to propel those other hundred.”
Luxury Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
During the interview, Rawlinson made this controversial statement: “The first product any new company makes effectively defines the brand. Our first product will define Lucid, so we need to make this technological tour de force, because we’re a tech company. Tesla’s great, it’s high tech, it’s beautifully engineered, and I applaud everything Tesla’s done but, to be honest, Tesla’s not luxury.” We are quite sure our readers will have a few things to say about that remark.
Racing Improves The Breed
Lucid is heavily involved in Formula E racing, being the sole supplier of batteries for all 12 teams in the series. The Lucid Air will use a 900 volt system — a big step forward from the original prototype that appeared in 2106 with a 400 volt system.
“A lot of the architecture, the size of the modules — we’ve gone for a more Lego-brick type approach, which was very much our approach in Formula E,” Rawlinson says. “We have 14 modules in Formula E; we have a few more in our Lucid Air. We’ve gone for this digestible, super-easy-to-manufacture module, which is truly mass-producible. It’s about the size of a Formula E module, and we’ve used a lot of the technology that we’ve used in Formula E.”
Miniaturizing the powertrain is also part of the company’s focus. “We have this space concept where the car is bigger on the inside, and more compact on the outside. The Lucid Air is shorter and narrower than a Porsche Taycan, and has greater legroom than a long-wheelbase Mercedes Benz S Class. So we really have the best of both worlds,” Rawlinson says. The electric motor the company has developed is rated at 600 horsepower and weighs just 160 pounds. “We can fit one of those units, two, or three into a Lucid Air, depending on the specification of the vehicle that’s ordered by the customer.”
Looking Ahead, Cautiously
“The first platform, the Lucid Air, we’re going to make an SUV off that platform. I’m confident we can get to 100,000 units a year with platform one, with its derivatives. Then we have a 10-year plan with future platforms,” Rawlinson says. He claims the Arizona factory has an annual capacity of 400,000 cars. When asked about less expensive models coming in the future, he added, “There’s potential, but it’s early days for me to disclose that.”
Lucid, like many other electric car startups including Tesla, has come close to shutting its doors forever. The delay getting its first car into production caused by the coronavirus hasn’t helped. But the company has gotten a billion dollar lifeline from the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund which has allowed it to keep the wolf from the door while it gets its factory built.
The Lucid Air certainly looks like an attractive vehicle. Its performance and luxury appointments should appeal to high end car buyers. Whether it survives production hell and becomes a viable electric car manufacturer remains to be seen. The market thrives on choices and competition and the Lucid Air gives every indication of being a worthy competitor. We can’t wait to get a ride in one as soon as the opportunity arises.
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