On December 14, Lucid Motors finally unveiled its new 1,000-horsepower electric car, the Air, with the option of a huge 130-kilowatt-hour battery and 400 miles of range. It will cost more than $100,000 in that configuration, but we know there are customers out there.
The smart money said there was little market for expensive electric supercars, but Tesla Motors has proven that notion spectacularly wrong. And the race is on to do Tesla one better, building a sort of “Tesla+.”
Did I mention that the Lucid Air sedan, with a 2.5-second zero to 60 time, looks like a cross between the Tesla Models 3 and S? It does, with some Mazda thrown in since chief designer Derek Jenkins was previously there--and is credited with the new Miata. In effect, every electric performance hot rod is chasing Tesla. Lucid’s chief technology officer, Peter Rawlinson, is ex-Tesla.
This particular market niche rather bizarrely combines brutish power with green tech. It’s a small and exclusive segment, and Arizona-based Lucid Motors (formerly Atieva) is one of the more interesting entries. I saw a camouflaged prototype of Lucid’s sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and it was hugely unfinished—wires all over the place, and a very basic interior. But it was driving.
Like the Tesla Model S, the Lucid sedan is aimed at performance luxury buyers. And it aims to one-up Tesla’s impressive range accomplishments. The Lucid will come standard with a (slightly bigger than Tesla) 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack—good for 300 miles. But there’s also that optional 130-kilowatt-hour pack. The battery cells, reportedly a new design, are coming from Samsung.
Tesla’s Elon Musk says the company is unlikely to build any packs bigger than 100 kilowatt-hours, and there’s good reasons for that. Big batteries are not only hugely expensive, but they take forever to charge. The Rimac has only 82 kwh—and 220 miles of range. Let’s say that fast charging at 480 volts is going to be essential on the Lucid, and the version with the killer pack will be six figures, but there are also going to be $65,000 Lucids (maybe with 600 horsepower) that can compete with imported luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
And Tesla. Tesla, of course. Like new Teslas, the Air comes autonomy ready, with built in radar, Lidar and cameras. And it’s ready for over-the-air updates. One of the advantages of electric drive is that you gain a lot of interior space (with batteries under the floor), and the Air is said to be the size of a Mercedes E-Class but with the cabin of an S-Class.
They’re going to start building these cars at a new Arizona factory next year. Some 2,000 jobs are to be created. It’s a tough world out there for auto startups (Nevada-based Faraday Future, with some of the same Chinese funding as Lucid, has stopped work on its own factory), but it’s hard not to wish such an enterprise all the best, and Tesla could use the competition.
Here's a video introducing the Lucid Air: