NEWARK, Calif .– By mid-2022, the Lucid Air electric luxury sedan could be the best car in the world.
After a day of driving with the new electric vehicle and another visit to Lucid’s head office / tech center in Silicon Valley, I’m confident that the Fast, Sleek, and Advanced Air is, like the iPhone, one of these rare products that will not only succeed: it will change its industry, making customers demand more, forcing companies to do better.
Much like the original iPhone, which inspired jokes that it could do anything but make a phone call, the Lucid Air didn’t quite come out of the factory on day one.
I cannot ignore the software issues from the first production of Lucid EV. The first directive of an automaker is to produce vehicles that open their doors and start the first time, just like a phone that struggles with audio calls is faulty, no matter how wonderful its other capabilities are.
But five years from now, no one will remember the faulty door handles I encountered in early production vehicles.
Five years from now, countless buyers will expect – and other automakers hope they have better matched – the things Lucid Air does brilliantly today.
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In an era when many automakers were buying out-of-the-box components to develop electric vehicles, Lucid, a Silicon Valley-based startup, didn’t hesitate to rethink not only what an electric car can do, but basic automotive functions.
Some of its innovative functions:
- Maximum EPA rated range of 516 miles on one charge in the long range model.
- Headlights that look around the corners and change focus without a single moving part.
- The ability to get a 300 mile charge in 20 minutes.
- Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 2.41 seconds for the 1,111-horsepower performance model, which can still go 451 miles on one charge.
- The most aerodynamic body of any current production vehicle: 0.20 cD, or coefficient of drag. Lower is better, of course.
- Batteries and motors that weigh less but produce more power so the Air can go further and faster than the competition.
Lucid Air makes electric vehicles for the world’s major automakers and Tesla, the 500-pound gorilla of the electric vehicle industry, seems a bit of a hobbyist.
“Where’s the value if you buy everything” from outside vendors, asked Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid, over lunch.
“You have to develop your own EV technology. You cannot buy this technology. No one has ever done it before.
“Innovate and use them to increase your efficiency. Each kilo saved gives you a range of about 100 meters (more).
A dream and a project
When Rawlinson interviewed Eric Bach – now Lucid vice president and chief engineer, then rising star at Volkswagen – he asked for a sketch of the most efficient EV system Bach could imagine. The unusual approach portended exciting new challenges, said Bach, who left the safety of a career in Wolfsburg, Germany, for the tumultuous life of a Silicon Valley startup.
“The goal was to advance the state of the art of the electric car,” said Rawlinson, who had previously served as Tesla’s vice president of engineering and automotive engineer for the revolutionary Model S.
“It’s necessary to accelerate adoption: erase the anxiety related to autonomy, then make (vehicles) affordable.”
It’s this vision that makes the Lucid Air – $ 169,000 for the 520-unit Dream Edition – more than just a technological sibling toy.
Frankly, with 1,111 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and the curbside presence arriving in the Batmobile with George Clooney as a driver, $ 169,000 is a steal, but Rawlinson said prices would drop quickly. A rear-wheel drive / 400-mile model called the Air Pure is expected to be available for $ 77,400 in the second half of 2022. Still some serious money, but thousands of people are paying more for pickup trucks every day. All prices exclude government incentives, which are currently changing.
Lucid plans to add a second model, an SUV called Gravity, in 2023. A volume price – in that context, maybe a base price of $ 40,000 to $ 50,000? – the model will follow.
The company already has assembly and battery plants in Arizona. Expect more as the model lineup and number of markets Lucid sells to grows. The company expects European sales in mid-2022, followed by China in 2023.
What makes the Lucid Air so special?
Internal development of:
- Power electronics
- Drive unit
Driving lucid air
Despite all of its innovations, the Lucid Air has a short learning curve. The doors lock when you walk away and typically unlock and wake the vehicle when you approach with a remote control.
For a car with LED headlights with 9,000 microlenses so they can adjust direction without moving parts, the Air’s driver controls are pleasantly familiar. There is no start button, but the joysticks on the steering wheel select speeds and control washing / wiping in a perfectly intuitive way.
Temperature and fan control, as well as volume and audio adjustment are just as simple, handled by toggles, buttons or rollers.
The Air’s central stack-mounted touchscreen offers a range of tweaks, including ride mode, brake regeneration level, brake hold, and probably a lot more than I’ve experienced while riding. my 175 mile ride, but none affected the things most drivers will want to do frequently, or while the Air is in motion.
Many of the world’s best-selling automakers could learn a lot from Lucid’s interface expertise.
Air dynamics are just as simple. Management is direct and provides good feedback. The car’s 50/50 front / rear weight distribution and electronically controlled all-wheel drive provide predictable and stable handling on winding mountain roads and under straight-line acceleration.
The delivery of power is immediate and immense. It’s hard to imagine a circumstance in which a Lucid driver will want more, even without activating the full 1,111 hp of the performance model.
The mechanical independent suspension absorbs bumps well and avoids squatting and diving under heavy braking acceleration.
I spent most of my ride using the highest level of regenerative braking. It did provide one-pedal braking; regeneration alone brought the car to a standstill in almost all conditions, I barely touched the brake pedal.
“Little outside; big inside ‘
The interior is surprisingly spacious, considering the Air’s low roofline and 195.9-inch length, which is only 1.3 inches longer than a Toyota Camry TRD. This is thanks to a design that takes full advantage of the engineering of EV chassis. The front overhang is short – no need for a bulky engine and transmission. The same goes for the back, where one of Lucid’s compact electric motors is lying on its side above the battery. All of this equates to more interior space.
“We designed the car from the inside out,” Rawlinson said. “It has more legroom than a Mercedes S-Class with a long wheelbase, but it’s shorter than a Tesla Model S. I wanted the interior space of a luxury car, but a small overall length. so that driving is pleasant.
The exterior design also takes advantage of the electric vehicle’s unique mechanical layout. Short front and rear overhangs combine with a long roofline for a profile reminiscent of the unusual proportions of French luxury cars like the classic Citroën DS, and the lesser-known Renault Avantime.
The interior uses high-quality materials including open-pore wood trim and perforated leather upholstery. A fabric covering much of the interior is a blend of alpaca wool and recycled soft drink bottles. The initial Dream Edition has a full-length glass roof reminiscent of an airplane canopy. Its shading – and a perfectly placed sun visor – kept me from squinting or getting too hot.
Synthetic suede wraps around the pillar and this small roof is not glass.
A work in progress
A few glitches – all probably software related – arose the day I and three other North American Car of the Year jurors spent driving a pair of Air Dream Editions.
Automatic rear braking stopped cars that I have driven repeatedly due to phantom obstacles. Voice recognition based on Alexa is not yet operational. Two journalists were kicked out of their test car when a key fob malfunctioned.
Not a crisis if you’ve got the CEO’s personal mechanic on the speed dial, but enough to put a serious brake on a regular driver’s day, or even one who can lose $ 169,000 on a new set of wheels. Engineers at the company said live updates will sort them out shortly.
But people are buying the cars today. I can’t ignore these production issues at first, but they shouldn’t blind anyone to the brilliance of Lucid Air and everything the company has already accomplished. It is an extraordinary car, potentially historic.
Lucid Air’s short-term shortcomings will prevent it from getting my vote for North American Car of the Year 2022, but the future looks bright in the longer term. In the unlikely event that I am here in 80 years to vote for the car of the 21st century, I would be surprised if it is not in the running.
2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition at a glance
On sale now
Four-door luxury sedan with all-wheel drive
Two electric motors
900 volt electrical architecture
Drums: 118 kWh lithium-ion
EPA Rating: Range up to 526 miles on one load (with 21 “wheels)
Loading time: 300 miles in 20 minutes with a 300 kW DC charger; 13 hours for a full charge at 240v
Estimated annual fuel cost: $ 600 for the performance model; $ 550 for a long range.
To be able to: 1,111 horsepower in the performance model; 933 for the long range model; 1,025 lb-ft of torque for both
Wheelbase: 116.5 inch
Length: 195.9 inch
Width: 76.3 inch
Height: 55.5 inch
Unloaded weight : 5,236 pounds (21 “wheels)
Weight distribution: 50/50