By on September 2, 2020

There’s no shortage of fledgling electric automakers peddling their future wares, so how does an embryonic car company avoid becoming just a face in the crowd? If you’re Lucid Motors, you aim for big numbers. The kind that matter to motoring enthusiasts, not environmentalists.

With its first model, the Air, Lucid plans to wow would-be buyers not just with an impressive driving range, but also power and acceleration specs. Those early numbers arrived today, one week ahead of the production model’s public debut.

Feel like running the quarter mile in fewer than 10 seconds? Lucid claims that, in top-flight guise, the Air can do just that. In dual-motor, all-wheel drive spec, the sedan is said to be “able to achieve quarter-mile times as low as 9.9 seconds on a consistent, repeatable
basis.”

To put that number in some sort of context, Dodge claims the 2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, maker of 797 horsepower, can do it in 10.6 seconds. Eye-popping quickness for sure, though the eco crowd might look down on such an outlandish display of muscle flexing as needlessly wasted electrons. Battery capacity and electricity generation isn’t without its own upstream environmental impacts.

Yet Lucid seems to know what an Air customer looks like, and what these consumers care about. While lesser Airs made to with a single motor, even that model isn’t a slough. The automaker revealed its in-house drivetrain today, making quite a fuss over the potency and compactness of the proprietary units. Combining permanent magnet motor, inverter, and transmission, the drive units are said to weight just 163 pounds. Output for one unit can be as high as 670 hp.

In dual-motor guise, the pinnacle Air makes 1,080 ponies, fueled by a huge — and apparently quite energy dense — 113 kWh battery pack. A 900V electrical architecture enables the car to take on 300 miles of range in 20 minutes, assuming one can find an ultra-fast charging station. And as we told you already, a third-party testing outfit pegged the leggiest Air at 517 miles of EPA-estimated range.

To recap: huge power, boffo range, and speed to spare. Seems like a recipe tailor-made to attract those who wouldn’t otherwise find themselves drawn to an electric car. Someone who gets a kick out of bragging rights and showing off, even if it means forking over big dollars. As Lucid has no intention of knocking Nissan off its green people’s car pedestal, this all sounds like the automaker will instead fill a specific niche in the emissions-free ecosystem.

The automaker admits as much.

In an interview with Autoblog, Emad Dlala, a technology fellow at Lucid, weighed in on the company’s decision to launch the brand with a sedan, rather than a truck or SUV like rival Rivian.

“Even if we take a small percentage of that luxury segment, we’re going to be fine. We’re not going to see a shortage of orders,” Dlala said. “Another thing is, as a startup, you can go with the best product in terms of how desirable it is, but even if the specs are OK, you are probably not going to succeed as well as with a car with sensational specs, even if demand is not as high. That’s what we think the sedan will lead us to: much better specifications.”

The Air’s long road to readiness ends Sept. 9, when buyers can finally take a look at the production-ready product slated to arrive in driveways (via an Arizona assembly plant) in 2021.

[Images: Lucid Motors]

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11 Comments on “Upstart Lucid Banks on Big Numbers, Not Bodystyle...”


  • avatar
    TimK

    The same strategy that worked for Tesla, sell to the high bidders first and build a production base. Profitability and viability are key as they open the door to investment capital. What do you automotive engineers think of the drivetrain and planetary transmission?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Another TTAC story that puts its ignorance of the EV market on full display.

    All EVs are extremely efficient. The difference between a Model X Performance and my little Ioniq EV is only about 75% higher for my car. So while the Ioniq EV is rated for 139 MPGe, the Model X Performance still earns 79 MPGe.

    Both figures are far more efficient than any non-EV, and due to efficiencies of scale in centralized power generation, they are cleaner.

    Nissan is nearly a non-player in the EV market at the moment, so I don’t know why they earn the “green people’s car pedestal”, when the Model 3 is actually more efficient and far outsells the Leaf.

    All EV buyers enjoy the low operational costs of their cars, but their purchase decisions are driven by many things besides that. “Saving the planet” did not figure in my acquisition of two EVs since 2012.

    As for performance, you write as though this is a novel approach. Since the 2008 Roadster, Tesla’s performance is what gave EVs mainstream appeal, plus styling that doesn’t look like a science project. Lucid is smart to play this card.

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      I’m not sure if the efficiency in scale of the centralized power really applies if we are talking about fossil fuel based plants.

      I understand modern coal based plants are at about 35% thermal efficiency, while natural gas plants are at 40~45%. The latest gas-turbine combined cycle plants are around 60% efficiency. Older plants built in the 70s, on the otherhand, will be more like 27%.

      The Toyota dynamic force engine is supposed to be already at 41% thermal efficiency, and Nissan VC turbo is at 45%. With hybrids like the Toyota THS, it should be even better combined. So I’d say not any worse but not much better either. Renewable power will change all the equations, of course.

      That said, the appeal of EVs are not just environmental as you have said (same goes for hybrids), so if it works for you, all is good.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Factors sometimes forgotten:

        An internal combustion vehicle gets dirtier over time, whereas an electric vehicle gets cleaner over time. How so? On your ICE car, as time goes by, the catalytic converter gets used up, the engine starts burning oil, the EGR valve fails, etc. Meanwhile, the electric grid that powers your EV keeps getting cleaner: more fossil fuel is displaced by renewables, more dirty coal is replaced by cleaner gas, more inefficient old generators are replaced by efficient new ones. The grid has been gradually greening for many years and shows no sign of stopping. So it’s not only that your EV is cleaner now, but also that it gets cleaner still over time.

        We also have to look at the whole energy picture, well to wheel.

        For example, thermal efficiency at the point of consumption is important, but fuel doesn’t manifest at the point of consumption. It takes energy to drill for oil, transport it, refine it, transport it again, dispense it, etc. Trucking oil in tankers to countless gas stations is not very clean or efficient relative to running a big gas pipeline to a power plant, for instance.

        We also have to account for all energy consumption and losses: transmission losses in electric lines, the greater energy inputs required to build an EV in the first place, etc. So for example an EV may effectively be dirtier at first as the greater energy inputs required to build it are gradually offset by its more efficient operation. Similarly, we can reduce the impacts of building future EVs as used EV batteries are repurposed, recycled, or rebuilt.

        That’s a daunting amount of math, but luckily, smart people have already done it. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a nifty tool that shows you exactly how an EV stacks up in each of the 50 states. Live in coal country, grid-wise? A Prius might be cleanest for you. Live elsewhere? An EV is going to be cleanest.

  • avatar
    ma93108

    This is another reason ICE cars will be history before too long – “Combining permanent magnet motor, inverter, and transmission, the drive units are said to weight just 163 pounds. Output for one unit can be as high as 670 hp”. This is with a small fraction of the parts and weight for a conventional nearly 700 hp engine and transmission. Not too mention close to 100 mpg equivalent compared to 12 mpg if you are easy on a 700 hp gas engine.

  • avatar
    aja8888

    Guy’s don’t wait up at night expecting ICE cars to be gone like the dinosaurs anytime soon. EV’s are just too expensive and the batteries are the weak spot, from a safety, range and material availability standpoint. Don’t forget that probably 90% of ICE car drivers are low level wage earners with probably a wife and two kids to support. They are buying the “sedans” and small “crossovers” that the Big Guns put out by the MILLIONS. This is worldwide, BTW.

    I suspect those 90% of ICE buyers may wander into the EV market when a used one can be had for $10 -12 grand. And that may be a long while from now, given the small market share EV’s have.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Safety is a weak point of a battery?

      On the contrary, I consider battery safety to be one of an EV’s strongest advantages. When they burn – which is exceptionally rare – they give warning.

      I’ll risk a 100 kWH battery underneath me any time vs a 20-gallon gasoline bomb.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      A Honda Civic hybrid battery costs about $2000, including installation. Claims of $5000+ are inaccurate and misleading.
      The hyperbole about how expensive electric cars are to replace batteries in is right-wing nonsense.
      Next year I’m installing solar panels, and I would consider adding an electric car to the fleet. Just not paying $50 or more to fill up would fill pretty good. The quietness of an EV has to be experienced to be appreciated, and the acceleration will open your eyes.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “Combining permanent magnet motor, inverter, and transmission, the drive units are said to weight just 163 pounds.”

    This would look amazing in the engine bay of my GMT400 pickup about 6 years from now. (Let me know if you total your Lucid Air and would like to sell the drive unit.)

    [I will also be on the lookout for some next-gen batteries. Replacing the weight of the current engine and transmission with this drive unit and some nice batteries half a decade from now would make for an exceptionally clean installation (can keep my current flatbed height). Don’t need a lot of range for this vehicle, but might end up with plenty by then.]

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