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Lucid Motors CEO gives us the details on the 400-mile Air electric car

Joe

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The Lucid Air almost seems too good to be true. It’s a luxury electric car that boasts 1,000 horsepower but also, Lucid claims, a real-world range of 400 miles.

The Air was unveiled in late 2016, along with ambitious plans for production at a new factory in Casa Grande, Arizona. Then Lucid’s funding dried up, halting development work in 2017. A $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund got things rolling again, and Lucid hopes to build the first pre-production cars before the end of the year.

The goal of the Air was always to build the most efficient car possible, said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid, and original chief engineer of the Tesla Model S. In a Zoom interview, Rawlinson explained how, for electric cars, power and efficiency go hand in hand.


Digital Trends: When most people hear the word “efficiency,” they think of getting more miles per gallon (mpg) in a gasoline car, but what does efficiency mean for an electric car?
Peter Rawlinson: I much prefer to talk about how far you can go for a kilowatt-hour, how many miles you can travel. It’s like mpg, and the unit of electrical energy widely used is kWh, that’s what you pay for with your electricity bill.

If you look at where we are today, a really good electric car on an EPA five-cycle [the standard testing protocol in the United States] can get close to about four miles per kWh. It would be our goal over the next several years, perhaps with a smaller car than the Lucid Air, to get to five miles per kWh. That I would see as the holy grail.

That depends very much on the duty cycle. This is the problem when we look at range estimation. NEDC and WLTP [European testing standards] are not as realistic as the EPA five-cycle.


DT: If efficiency is the goal, why start with a luxury sedan?

PR: 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.

We also went for a relatively high-end luxury position because it’s relatively easy to come down in price point, but it’s very tricky to push that price point up.

The other aspect to this is that, if we were to try to make a more affordable car, a mass-market car, that actually requires greater amounts of capital to industrialize, because that’s a higher-volume proposition. Tesla wasn’t able to go straight to the Model 3. For a small company like us, we need to go for a car which is a modest volume to start with.

Also, when you look at the price point of batteries today, it’s still at such a point where the margin on a low-priced car is less attractive. There’s a more compelling business case around a higher-end product.

Why did we go for a sedan rather than an SUV? It is true that SUVs are growing in popularity, but the luxury sedan market is still very solid. It’s still worth $100 billion a year worldwide, and there isn’t an EV play in that market. 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.

The Lucid Air is also the first car to be designed from the ground up around the advantage of the miniaturization of the electric powertrain. 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.


DT: How did you achieve that miniaturization of the powertrain?

PR: It’s the result of a fastidious, nerd-like analysis of that powertrain. We’ve come up with a series of innovations, particularly on the motor and transmission. Our power unit is about 73 kilos [160 pounds], in standard form it’s 600 horsepower, and it’s readily upgradable to 650 hp. 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.


DT: You previously discussed a range-topping model with 1,000 hp. How many of these units does that have?

PR: The 1,000-hp car has two of these units.


DT: So potentially there’s room for even more power by adding that third unit?

PR: We promised a car with 1,000 hp.


DT: Instead of fiddling around with these powertrain components, why not just make the battery pack bigger?

PR: What I want to do is create the most range with the smallest battery pack. 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.

So we’re trying to achieve a 400-mile range with as small a pack as is reasonably possible. However, that does mean a sizeable pack with today’s technology, unfortunately. The byproduct of that, and it is absolutely a byproduct, is that you have a lot of power available. That’s why we’ve got a 1,000-hp car. This is the great paradox: That high performance is a byproduct of the range. That’s the weird world of electric cars.

It is true that if you went for purely the most efficient EV, there is some drop-off in performance, and it’s fair to say that if you go for the most powerful EV, there’s a drop-off in range. These are tunes we’re going to play with derivatives of the Air in the future. But there is an 80% overlap between range and performance with EVs.


DT: What has changed on the car between 2017 and now?

PR: I would say the design has matured like a fine wine. It’s just a little bit nicer, our air intake grille is a bit smaller, there’s a degree of finesse that [first] car lacked.

The technology inside is a whole new generation, nothing is the same. We moved to a 900-volt electrical system; we were 400-volt then. We’ve re-architected our battery using all the knowledge we’ve accrued from our Formula E racing. Lucid designs, engineers, and manufactures the batteries for all 24 cars on that grid. What we’ve been able to do is use that learning to benefit our production design, our battery pack for the Lucid Air.


DT: What specifically did Lucid change on the battery based on that racing experience?

PR: 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. 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.


DT: Before Lucid can start building cars, the company needs to finish its Arizona factory. Where are things right now?

PR: We just had the first shipping loads coming from our tool suppliers in Japan, and we’re fitting out the body shop. We’ve got robots all lined up ready to come from Michigan.

The is phase one of the factory. We’ve got 500 acres, we can expand that site. It can be bigger than the Tesla Fremont plant over a period of phases. We can make up to 400,000 units a year there. With phase one of the factory, when that is complete, and it’s going to be complete in a few months’ time, we’ll be able to start making pre-production cars, hopefully, this year. We were originally planning to start production proper this year.

With COVID coming along, we’ve worked remotely as a company, we haven’t furloughed any of our staff, we haven’t given anyone a pay cut, except one or two executives. We’ve actually expanded the team; we’ve taken on 120 new recruits in this past month.

We are able to progress the construction of the factory because there were fewer restrictions in the state of Arizona. We had the team onsite observing social distancing, wearing masks, etc. We’ve been able to progress that factory and keep it broadly on track. We’ll be able to make 34,000 cars there with phase one.


DT: The extra capacity will be filled out with additional models?

PR: Yes. 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.

DT: Will that include lower-cost models?

PR: There’s potential, but it’s early days for me to disclose that.


Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/...WXhjuh_zLIZQ4N8hEtLIe6QFENmFzg5Bz0zP0WFlvw60Q
 

Alex

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This article is almost a year old. Note the reference to the AZ plant, that was still in progress and not completed at the time of writing. Also, there is reference to 1000hp and 400 mile range. It's now 1000hp and 500+ mile range.
 

hmp10

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Lucid just posted a video of Rawlinson taking an Air to the U.S. Capitol where he says a senator drove him over in the car. He doesn't name the senator, but at least someone other than a Lucid employee has now been behind the wheel, and apparently nothing fell off the car.


By the way, it seems Rawlinson has aged noticeably since he first started showing up in these videos. I also noticed in the Amelia Concours ride-alongs that Derek Jenkins has put on a good bit of weight since he first started doing PR videos. I imagine the stress and the working hours of the past few years have been monumental on these guys and their colleagues. But I think the work they've done is going to get them a chapter in the automotive history books.
 

Lucken

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It could be the harsh outdoor lighting, but he does look older. I guess both stress & tough lighting can do that to you.
 

hmp10

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This is the rate at which U.S. Presidents age in office. I hope Rawlinson comes through all this a very wealthy and fulfilled man for the advancements he has brought to vehicle electrification over the past decade. Musk may be a visionary, but Rawlinson made the vision happen at Tesla and is doing it again at Lucid.

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Lucken

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I suspect he was wealthy before this endeavor began, deservedly so. The 2016 picture is a poor one and possibly touched up in terms of the original, but nonetheless he has aged. Some of us age more gracefully than others, but stress is certainly a factor.

On another note and a subject that hasn't been discussed much, the location and number of the service facilities. The unknown locations for the Polestar service facilities was part of the rationale for me losing interest in the Polestar. I even called Switzerland to speak with someone at the corporate office and he couldn't tell me where a facility would be in the N.Y. area. There was additional confusion as to whether Volvo dealerships would service Polestar cars. The entire issue was muddy and inconclusive.

Although their concierge service claimed they'd pick up your car & drop it off up to 150 miles from the service facility, I wasn't happy with the idea of a stranger driving my car 300 miles round trip for an issue. The fact that the car was made entirely in China also helped facilitate my decision to cancel. This was something that wasn't discussed much at the onset, rather it was promoted as a Volvo engineered BEV.

I have no idea where the Lucid service facility would be in N.Y. Their sales location hasn't even opened up yet in N.Y.C. and there's a promised location on Long Island where I live. So for me, and I assume others, that's a question that needs to be resolved.
 

hmp10

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You might be able to find out if you call Lucid Sales. I asked them about service in Florida and was given the exact address of one service location and told they were scouting for another service location in another city. Although both are two hours or more away from me, I was also told they were going to have a mobile service team in my area. (My Tesla was serviced for several years by a mobile service team before Tesla finally opened a service center near me, and I actually found the mobile service preferable. They kept a storage unit filled with the most frequently needed parts, so I never had to wait for a part to get shipped in. The one time my car needed major service, Tesla picked it up on a flatbed from my driveway, shipped it across Florida for repair, and returned it the same way.)

I'm pretty sure Lucid understands they're going to have to provide this same level of service from the get-go at any location from which they accept orders for a car.
 
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Lucken

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Yes, I too had Tesla mobile service. First for a balky door handle that wouldn't extend and then for a clogged washer fluid line. That service was excellent, but if I had need for a more significant repair I would have needed the service facility. That actually was not an issue as there was one about 20 miles away and then another opened up on L.I. that was only about 10 miles away. It was nice that Tesla flat-bedded your car across Florida, but I suspect they wouldn't do that any longer if it was necessary and a service facility wasn't nearby. Much of their excellent service that many received initially with Tesla, went the wayside once the volume of vehicles increased substantially as the M3 was released.

I think you're correct, I'll give Lucid a call and see what their current plans are for service facilities in the N.Y. area.
 

hmp10

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It was nice that Tesla flat-bedded your car across Florida, but I suspect they wouldn't do that any longer if it was necessary and a service facility wasn't nearby.
I'm not sure, but I think the flatbed service was a function of its being a warranty repair for a problem that makes the car undriveable. A weld joint broke in the battery pack, taking out the rear drive unit as well. The car had to have a new battery pack, rear drive unit, and rear inverter. The car left my house as a P85D and returned as a rebadged P90D.

I had the same experience as you of plummeting service availability with the advent of the Model 3 . . . and it still hasn't returned to the excellent response level I saw the first three years. It's one of the reasons I'm willing to switch brands to sample other EV offerings.
 

Lucken

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It’s nice that they upgraded your P85, but at the same time a bit scary that a weld joint broke on the battery pack. That’s never a good thing.
 

WildRide47

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Motor Trends review of Lucid UX system:

"Lucid’s User Experience Event brought in mostly positive reviews from fans, but Motor Trend magazine published one of the first professional reviews. The publication was very complimentary of the Lucid Air and the control panel system called Lucid UX. Motor Trend pointed out the ample interior, sleek dashboard, and impressive mileage as things that can set Lucid apart from Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA)."
 

WildRide47

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News broke on Friday that Rivian, another electric vehicle startup that is notably backed by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), is looking into listing on the public markets. While Rivian may not be a direct competitor to Lucid as its main focus is electric trucks, the two brands will still eventually be vying for consumer approval. CCIV investors were riled up on social media following the announcement, as it was stated that Rivian is seeking a $70 billion valuation. The figure comes as a surprise given Wall Street’s hesitation over Lucid’s valuation earlier in the year, which was a major reason as to why the stock fell from its highs in February.
 
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