Electric vehicle start-up Lucid is touting its all-electric Air sedan as a more efficient, faster and spacious vehicle than the Tesla Model S, a car the company’s CEO Peter Rawlinson helped develop.
“What we’ve got is a breakthrough in electric cars,” he told media ahead of the Air’s unveiling on Wednesday. “That’s not just due to batteries, it’s due to a whole host of big picture thinking that’s added up.”
Rawlinson, who was the Model S chief engineer and vice president of engineering at Tesla from 2009 to 2012, claims the Air – priced “well north” of $100,000 – is 17% more energy efficient than Tesla models, allowing for more range with fewer cells.
The Air heavily resembles previous prototype models and a concept of the car, which Lucid initially unveiled in 2016. There are small changes to the exterior, including larger side mirrors to meet regulations, as well as curved screens in the interior.
The car is estimated to achieve an EPA-rated range of 517 miles on a single charge, according to third party testing. That easily tops Tesla’s industry-leading 402 miles with a version of the Model S. It also can achieve a quarter mile in 9.9 seconds, according to Rawlinson. Tesla’s fastest vehicle reportedly takes 10.4 seconds.
“This has never been done before,” Rawlinson said. “An electric car which has got 500-mile range and is the fastest thing on the planet.”
The company says the car, thanks to a 900-volt architecture, can charge 300 miles in 20 minutes. Its highest charging rate is 2 miles per minute, according to Lucid.
Starting pricing for the Air will range from about $80,000 for a base model to $169,000 for a limited-volume “Dream Edition.” The higher priced vehicles are expected to go on sale in the second quarter of next year, followed by lower priced models in the fourth quarter and into 2022.
Lucid says the Air will come to market with 113 kilowatt-hour battery pack, but smaller packs with less range will be available in the future, likely reducing the price of the vehicle.
The performance and range of the vehicle varies by price. Top-end models are expected to achieve more than 500 miles and offer up to 1,080 horsepower. The company did not disclose details about the entry-level model.
Lucid says a big differentiator is its interior. The Air offers the space of a large sedan in a midsize car, according to Derek Jenkins, vice president of design at Lucid. “This is where the marvel of Lucid packaging and our space content is quite incredible,” he said.
The vehicle features a “floating” driver information screen behind the steering wheel as well as an angled control touchscreen in the lower center of the dash.
Rawlinson expects the Air to be the catalyst for a lineup of future all-electric vehicles, including an SUV starting production in early 2023 and more affordable vehicles down the line.
The car is expected to begin production early next year at the plant being constructed in Casa Grande, Arizona, southeast of Phoenix. Production was scheduled to begin late this year but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The $700 million facility, including $300 million for the first phase of production, is expected to have an initial vehicle production capacity of 34,000 units, which Rawlinson believes will grow to a maximum capacity of 400,000 units toward the end of the decade.
Lucid is among several electric vehicle start-ups and “traditional” automakers attempting to compete with Tesla, the global leader in EV sales. Thus far, no one has been able to rise to the level of the Silicon Valley automaker.
Lucid was founded in 2007 as Atieva, a name it now uses for its engineering and tech arm that supplies batteries to electric racing circuit Formula E. The company first focused on electric battery technology before changing its name and shifting to an electric-vehicle manufacturer in 2016, three years after Rawlinson joined the company to lead its technology development.
The Lucid Air sedan is the company’s first production vehicle.