Lucid Motors is seeking to set ‘new standards’ for sustainable transportation. Having recently announced the upcoming Lucid Air sedan can achieve an estimated range of 517 miles (832km) under US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing, the California-based startup might just be able to go the distance.
Additional reports indicate that the luxury electric-vehicle (EV) maker is nearing completion of its factory in Arizona. The company also confirmed it has plans for the next generation of EVs that could follow its all-electric sedan.
Setting a benchmark
The Lucid Air set a benchmark EPA range of 517 miles with FEV North America, in Michigan. As an independent service provider of vehicle and powertrain development, FEV applied the EPA’s multicycle test procedure. The carmaker said that ‘the results confirm that the Lucid Air is the longest-range electric vehicle to date.’
The EPA’s range assessment focuses on long-distance cruising, given the US’s long highways. Meanwhile, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) used in Europe, emphasises a start-stop driving style, which is more common on the continent.
‘I am delighted that the Lucid Air has been independently verified by FEV to achieve an estimated EPA range of 517 miles, and that this landmark in the history of EV development has been achieved entirely through Lucid’s in-house technology,’ said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid Motors.
‘I believe that our 900-volt architecture, our race-proven battery packs, miniaturised motors and power electronics, integrated transmission systems, aerodynamics, chassis and thermal systems, software, and overall system efficiency has now reached a stage where it collectively sets a new standard and delivers a host of ‘world’s firsts,’ he said.
Producing some of the longest-range EVs on the market, Tesla recently announced its Model S Long Range Plus achieved an EPA range of 402 miles. This equals a 20% range increase when compared to a Model S 100D from 2019, with the same battery pack design. While the Lucid Air can travel 100 miles further, Tesla claims its upcoming Roadster will boast a range of 620 miles. However, it now looks like the Roadster is unlikely to go on sale before 2022 as Tesla’s focus remains on the Model Y, the Cybertruck, and the Gigafactory in Berlin.
The earlier ‘alpha’ prototype of the Lucid Air originally sported a range of 400 miles. The carmaker explained it was able to gain another 100 miles through proprietary technology and careful engineering.
The drivetrain was built in-house with Lucid miniaturising and integrating the Air’s motors, transmission and inverter. This was then paired with a 900-volt architecture to achieve compactness and efficiency. Lucid said battery packs were the result of ‘10 years of experience and over 20 million miles of real-world testing.’
Atieva, Lucid’s technology division, also played a big part given that it supplies battery packs to the Formula E racing series. The battery system, therefore, provides increased safety, performance, and energy density in a form sculpted around the cabin.
‘Range and efficiency are widely recognised as the most relevant proof points by which EV technical prowess is measured,’ said Rawlinson. ‘A few years ago, we revealed our alpha prototypes of the Lucid Air and promised over 400 miles range; a reflection of our technology at that time. In the intervening period, we have achieved a series of technological breakthroughs, culminating in an unsurpassed degree of energy efficiency.’
‘I am therefore pleased that we have consequently achieved an estimated EPA 517 miles of range today whilst also significantly reducing our battery pack’s capacity, thereby reducing vehicle weight and cost, and improving interior space. Such exceptional efficiency, achieved through in-house technology, is undeniably a measure of a true EV tech company,’ he concluded.
While customer deliveries are not scheduled until early 2021, the Lucid Air’s online reveal event on 9 September is fast approaching. Here, information about the vehicle’s final interior and exterior design will be announced as well as product specifications, available configurations and pricing.
Nearly finished factory
After breaking ground in early December 2019, construction has nearly finished on Lucid’s factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, with plans to install a pilot production line there later this month. It is here the startup will begin manufacturing ‘Beta 2’ models that will closely resemble the production models that will reach customers next spring, according to Green Car Reports (GCR).
Rawlinson told GCR that it is the first purpose-built EV factory in North America, built in record time. It will have taken eight months from there being no factory at all, to an operational one with cars coming off the production line.
In an email to Autovista Group, a Lucid spokesperson explained that this has been achieved by focusing on the initial phase of construction, which would allow the startup to meet a more modest manufacturing capacity in its first year of production.
‘We felt a greenfield factory was appropriate for Lucid so we could ensure production efficiencies at every stage of the company’s growth,’ the spokesperson wrote. ‘For the first phase, we’re constructing an 820,000 sq. ft. facility that will include manufacturing, assembly, storage and central utility, and employ around 750 workers.’
‘Production capacity for phase one is approximately 34,000 units per year. For phase two and beyond, the company will expand construction as higher sales volumes dictate, with the land in Casa Grande allowing for production growth of up to 400,000 units per year,’ they added.
Rawlinson also confirmed with GCR that Lucid plans to produce an SUV, which shares the Air’s platform as well as its production line. Currently, the hope is to get this model into production by early 2023. He explained that the drive behind this move was creating economies of scale that will help grow the business.
GCR hinted that once this has been achieved, the advanced technologies featured in the Lucid Air could make its way into a more affordable vehicle. When asked about the potential for a more affordable vehicle, the spokesperson told Autovista Group ‘we are exploring all options for a full line up of Lucid vehicles, including vehicles that start below $100,000 (roughly €83,000).’ However, they stated ‘no additional information can be shared at this time.’
Large and established automotive companies find themselves needing to convert factories, redesign model lines and even call in specialist help to work out the fine details of EV production. Technology companies like Lucid and Tesla, on the other hand, benefit from having their roots firmly planted in EV soil. But entering the market in the first place can be hugely expensive, meaning the startups lean towards luxury models. This makes establishing economies of scale essential so they can work their way back down the cost tree, expanding their market share with more affordable EVs.