Peter Rawlinson and Derek Jenkins are pleased. Pleased with themselves, and pleased with the product they’ve created. Formerly known to the world as “that car Atieva’s working on,” the company’s new automobile is officially known as the Lucid Air, which, perhaps, is the least interesting thing about it. It has a Koenigsseggian 1000 horsepower and the interior space of a Mercedes-Benz S-class, boasts a claimed maximum range of 400 miles, and, most important, features hidden headlamps.
The brief for the Air was to pack hypercar power and performance into an autonomous-capable EV with S-class interior space, with exterior dimensions smaller than Tesla’s Model S. To achieve that end, Lucid enlisted former Lotus, Jaguar, and Tesla engineer Rawlinson and designer Jenkins, whose last two projects at Mazda were the 10Best-winning ND Miata and the CX-9. To accomplish their mission here, Rawlinson’s team set to work on what he terms a “sculpted” battery pack. Like the Model S, the Air carries its hefty complement of cells under the floor of the vehicle. But while Tesla’s implementation favors a straightforward flat pack, Lucid’s places the cells in such a way that makes for lower footwell heights. The 600-hp rear powerplant and the 400-horse drive unit are tightly integrated with the suspension modules, tidily packed into subframes that attach to the aluminum unibody, optimizing room in the passenger compartment and cargo areas.
Lucid claims that the 100-kWh pack, which will ship with the car at launch, offers 300 miles of range, while an optional 130-kWh version will enable 400 miles of motoring bliss between charges. The electrical system also powers a self-driving suite of technologies that consists of two long-range and four short-range radar units, three front cameras, five surround-view cameras, two long-range and two short-range lidar units, and a driver-monitoring camera.
While Franz von Holzhausen—also ex-Mazda—carried much of his visual aesthetic with him to Tesla, Jenkins seems to have thrown away any attachment he may have had to the Kodo language he worked with so effortlessly at Mazda. If the Air owes anything to anything, it resembles a modern Dodge Charger restyled by Acura. Or perhaps the Svedka robot’s four-door Camaro. Either of which sounds like a recipe for unmitigated disaster. Happily, the result is better than that. While the Air wears a fast roofline, the rear doesn’t feature an Audi A7/Tesla Model S–style hatch; it sports a traditional trunk. A black cutout in the lower doors pulls the rocker up into the portals, reducing the visual thickness of the automobile, while a full-length, electrochromically darkened roof panel dispenses with any sense of claustrophobia the relatively low roof height could impart.
If the exterior has a full-on disco party piece to complement its 29-speaker sound system, it’s those headlamps. Each one is mounted on a gimbal and packed with 487 microlenses capable of focusing the beam for optimum lighting. Hidden headlamps have returned! Rejoice, ye lovers of LeBarons, Thunderbirds, and GTOs! Unlike the headlight doors of the 1960s through 1980s, which were often prone to unsightly misalignment, the Lucid’s lights unveil themselves by rotating the individual modules outward in a really snappy display. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a great one. Rawlinson notes that the microlens lights contribute to space in the front trunk by dispensing with large reflectors, and that system uses only 30 percent of the energy a full-LED setup would.
One knock on the Model S is that, while Elon Musk insists on comparing the car to Benz’s S-class, the Tesla’s interior simply isn’t the equal of the Mercedes’. Or, for that matter, even the Mazda CX-9 Signature’s, which is a machine that punches far above its price class in finish and materials. In contrast, the Air’s innards seem straight out of a concept car. The instrument panel consists of three screens under a single piece of touch glass; the console touchscreen descends out of the dash in a properly sci-fi manner; the graphics make real use of the digital medium without overly exaggerated glowing, shaded, 3D-esque overkill; and the overall effect is one of fundamental loveliness.
The interior packages are meant to evoke California locales at certain times of day, hence their odd time/place naming conventions. It’s a modern take on the West Coast romance so effectively evoked by Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s via model names such as Malibu, Bel Air, Monterey, and Catalina. While Santa Cruz 12:09 36.9514° N, 122.0257° W or Tahoe 19:01 39.0968° N, 120.0324° W could come off as pretentious and cloying, it somehow works here, bolstered by the color palettes and choices of wood, leather, and cloth. The coordinates, however, might be a case of slight overkill. We’re intensely curious to see if they’ll come up with something along the lines of 16:15 Fresno 36.7468° N, 119.7726° W or a 19:25 Coalinga 36.1397° N, 120.3601° W package. The Central Valley desires representation, after all.
We accepted a quick spin around the block surrounding Lucid’s Fremont, California, prototype shop, lounging in the rear of one of the company’s “alpha prototypes” piloted by an engineer. Since it was devoid of a finished interior, the three screens comprising the dash were simply bolted up behind the steering wheel, and the finely trimmed seats seemed entirely out of place in what resembled the world’s most high-tech 24 Hours of LeMons racer. Rawlinson regretted that the cars were at a development stage where the powertrains were cranked down to 37 percent of full power. As such, the accelerative grunt was roughly on par with what you’d expect from a 400-hp automobile. Our driver flipped the car into its self-driving mode, and the Air effortlessly tracked its way down the road and around a corner. For such an incomplete machine, it felt very much like a whole automobile. And the sense of airiness imparted by the transparent roof is absolutely sublime.
Nobody at Lucid seems to have any illusion about the toughness of the road ahead, and the Air seems the least vaporware-tastic of any new EV company launch since the Tesla Roadster bowed a decade ago. The intended customer base is now well understood, and while the first cars will be fully luxed-out 100-kWh, 300-mile machines selling for north of $100K, Rawlinson says there’s a plan to push the Air’s price down eventually into the $60,000-to-$65,000 range.
The most impressive thing about the company is the enthusiasm of the people. They don’t come off as zombified true believers. There are no excuses bandied about, no misdirection from the vehicle’s generalized badness and expense. Such was the case with the short-lived Coda, which carried an excellent-for-its-day powertrain under a steaming pile of warmed-over Mitsubishi. Lucid’s designers and engineers were absolutely thrilled with what they’d been working on and wanted to share it, down to the minutiae of gear design.
Lucid still has to break ground on its Casa Grande, Arizona, factory, develop its beta prototypes, tool up for production, and develop sales channels. They’re planning to do all that in the space of two years; the intent is for the first vehicles to reach customers’ hands in late 2018. It’s a monumental task, but these folks are no pie-in-the-sky Pollyannas. Veterans of the business, they’re wholly aware of the enormity of the task at hand, and we walked away from their event with the distinct feeling that they may well just pull it off.
After only a few turns -- in fact, after just the first turn -- it was obvious Peter Rawlinson, chief technology officer of upstart electric car maker Lucid Motors, could drive. And not just drive as in stay between the lines and not hit anything. No, this dude was picking a perfect line, holding momentum just right, dropping down to the apex and then drifting out while steadily accelerating. He was good, and not just by the all-too-low standards of car company executives. He was threading the empty streets of undeveloped Las Vegas wasteland like he was qualifying on a street circuit. So we asked him if he was a race-car driver in a former life.
Which is what he did. And as chief engineer, every once in a while he would determine that longer tests were necessary.
We would have liked to have been along for that ride.
Instead, we were along for a Las Vegas lap in the Lucid Motors Air sedan, a luxury performance electric car with a drivetrain so powerful you have to make room for four digits in the output column. It makes -- hang on to your hosiery -- 1,000 hp ... 400 for the front motor and 600 rear. No foolin’!
“And that’s an honest 1,000 hp,” he said. “We are quite sure.”
There are some electric carmakers -- he said he wouldn’t name names -- who make outrageous claims about electric car output but whose motors simply can’t deliver the horsepower they are claiming. The Lucid Air’s spec really is in the four digits. The biggest of the proprietary Li-Ion battery packs available will be 130 kWh, good for a range of 400 miles. Zero to 60 will come up in 2.5 seconds, and top speed will be 200 mph.
And the handling is pretty good, too, even at this early stage.
“I think you can feel this car is, straight out of the box, before we’ve done any chassis development, it’s pretty well planted and it’s got some nice ride qualities. The steering is very precise.”
He may have been biased. Nonetheless, even though we were in the passenger’s seat, the car felt like it was cornering flat, and the transition from power-off to power-on was smooth and even, no clunks anywhere in the power band. We look forward to production levels of refinement when the first cars come out in early 2019.
Now, you could be skeptical about the chances of any startup carmaker making it all the way to a production model, sure. And in fact, the very first thing we asked Rawlinson was, quote, “Do you have any money?” He didn’t flinch.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, we do.”
They have funding to continue developing the car and building the factory for the foreseeable future, and they have a solid plan to get more.
“We are embarking on our Series D funding round right now, actually. It’s a capital-intensive endeavor, a capital-intensive business model.”
And he’s not pretending the company won’t need more.
“We will need to secure additional funding to see this through. That starts right away, on Jan. 17 (with our) Series D. The timing is right because, having launched the brand, announced where the factory is (Casa Grande, Arizona) and then shown the car last December, that was a precursor to ramping up to be in the position to seek Series D funding. We’ve got enough money in the bank to see us through for a decent period of time. And we believe we’re an imminently investable proposition because we’re showing such a desirable car.”
And it’s all being done without any expectation of government help.
“Our business model does not rely upon government incentives or initiatives or support,” Rawlinson said. “We’re not dependent on ZEV credits for our business model to work.”
While one of Lucid’s backers is Jia Yueting, who is also backing Faraday Future and LeEco, Lucid has other backers and is seeking more funding on its own. So you could argue that it’s on fairly good financial ground.
More importantly, their car is fast. And comfortable. Or it will be comfortable once they put an interior in it. Ours, as we said, was what’s called an alpha prototype, which had no interior, no sound insulation, no dashboard and lots of wires hanging all over the place. But it was roomy, which is one of the main draws of the Lucid Air.
“The silhouette of the car has been directly derived from Peter’s vision of a sport luxury sedan,” said designer Derek Jenkins. “When you don’t have a six- or an eight-cylinder combustion motor up front, you really can rethink the layout. It’s an imaginative use of space.”
As you look at the car in profile, you can see the purposeful shape, especially the hump for the rear-seat headroom.
“With the typical sedan, you’re trying to make the cabin short and more coupe-like,” Jenkins said. “Ours is all about the cabin. So we’re going to elongate the cabin, make it more aircraft-like. It’s going to look low and sleek on the road, but it’s also going to suggest that it has tremendous interior space.”
Especially in the back. Ours had the bench seat that will be available in the entry-level Air, expected to sell for somewhere around $65,000. But there will also be a super-luxurious model with aircraft-like rear seats that recline 55 degrees, which no one else offers.
“It was an idea I had,” said Rawlinson. “What an aircraft for the road would be like. Audi, BMW and Mercedes make long-wheelbase versions (of their sedans). Audi has to make two versions of their A6, two of the A8. I thought, ‘Couldn’t we make a long interior with a more compact exterior? Could we do that with an electric powertrain?’ So you’ve got something compact. Something with Bugatti performance but the interior space of an S-Class Mercedes.”
Rawlinson credits the compact nature of electric motors.
“That has been challenging but so rewarding,” he said. “The platform architecture, the enabler to do all this, has been the electric powertrain. We would not have been able to do this with a gasoline powertrain. The interior space and comfort and legroom is all possible because it’s electric. That’s what’s rewriting the rules. And this is why this car is the big next step.”
ON SALE: Early 2019
BASE PRICE: $65,000
AS TESTED PRICE: Mid-$100,000s
DRIVETRAIN: Dual 3-phase asynchronous induction motors, one front, one rear; awd
OUTPUT: 1000 hp (mfg)
0-60 MPH: 2.5 seconds (mfg.)
FUEL ECONOMY: 400 miles range(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
OPTIONS: Nicer back seats
PROS: It has 1000 hp, goes 200 mph and seats four
CONS: Do you like that roofline?
Historians will probably have lots to say about Tesla Motors and its effect on America's auto industry.
For starters, the company has chipped away at decades-old franchise laws, which prohibit automakers from selling directly to consumers. Those laws have resulted in the current model of car sales, which many people find off-putting, if not infuriating.
Tesla also helped make electric cars desirable. Yes, there are still some people who prefer the chunky, doorstopper-y look of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV to Tesla's sleek Model S sedan, but they're a quiet bunch. Tesla vehicles inspire passion among mainstream consumers--loud, yearning passion--which is something that no other EV manufacturer had done.
Because of factors like those, Tesla has spawned plenty of competitors. The newest is a company called Lucid Air, based just down the road from Tesla HQ, in Menlo Park, California.
Now, Lucid has unveiled a prototype of its first production model, the Lucid Air.
As you can see above, the Air looks more-or-less like an ordinary sedan. It's sleek, to be sure, but thanks to its conventional silhouette and grille, you'd be hard pressed to peg this as an all-electric vehicle.
But that's exactly what it is. In fact, Lucid says that its electric powertrain is quite advanced by 2016 standards:
"Nearly ten years of battery pack development have led to best-in-class energy density. Our battery is capable of 1,000 horsepower and enabling up to 400 miles of range. Additionally, a unique battery chemistry provides breakthrough tolerance to repeated fast-charging."
How those specs will stack up when the Lucid Aid goes on sale, though, is anyone's guess. The first models off the assembly line aren't expected to reach customers until 2019. (And if Tesla's production troubles are any guide, it could be longer.)
One thing that likely won't change, however, is the Air's inner spaciousness. Lucid says that because the Air doesn't carry a gasoline engine, it's been able to open up the cabin, creating "the interior length of a large luxury sedan in a midsize footprint".
Like Tesla, Lucid is accepting reservations for the Air. Plunk down $2,500, and you'll be able to get your hands on a regular Air sedan, but if you're prepared to shell out significantly more--$25,500, to be exact--you can receive one of 255 special-edition Air models, which "will be well optioned and include distinguishing features".
Pricing has yet to be announced for either model.
Start-up car companies don't have great track records. Coda crashed. V-Vehicle never got off the ground. Even Faraday Future seems to be having a fair bit of trouble, and its lead investor has very, very deep pockets.
All of which suggests that for a company like Lucid to succeed, it needs more than money or even a slick prototype. It needs a charismatic evangelist to woo consumers. Elon Musk has done that for Tesla. Will Lucid have its own compelling spokesperson/pitchman?
Are you intrigued by the Lucid Air? Would you buy one? Do you think it can top Tesla?
Elon Musk's Alumni Strike Back
If Elon Musk were a normal, everyday guy, life on earth would be a whole lot simpler. For instance, we wouldn’t have to nervously watch rockets landing on heaving ocean barges. Or fret about being sucked across the country at 700 mph in some big Hyperloop vacuum tube. And car pundits such us would not have to explain something that wasn’t supposed to happen: the emergence of an all-new automotive brand in the beginning of the 21st century.
On the other hand, if Musk were a normal car company executive, his own life would be a lot simpler, too. Like the haughty Enzo Ferrari who famously antagonized Ferruccio Lamborghini into making his own supercar 50 years earlier, Tesla has trained an army of engineers and then inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) jettisoned many of them to where they’d inevitably coalesce into a couple of close-orbiting competitors. One, Lucid Motors—located in Menlo Park, California—recently unveiled its Air, which is technologically guided by Peter Rawlinson (the Model S’ original chief engineer) and Derek Jenkins (former chief designer at Mazda). In Gardena, California, is Faraday Future (FF), which is masterminded by Rawlinson’s Model S successor, Nick Sampson, and shaped by Richard Kim, who previously drew the cheeky BMW i3 (the car that popularized the pinched side-glass/floating-roof look that’s now de rigor in EV styling).
Until recently, both projects were cloaked in shadows. But in the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to examine, sit in (in fact, nearly fall asleep in), stew over, and even briefly ride in both the Air and the Faraday car, which internally is called the 91.
Here’s my one-sentence summery of each: Think of the Lucid as the Model S 2.0 and the Faraday as the Model X that might have been had there been an intervention with Elon before he got all fixated on falcon-wing doors and bioweapon air filtration systems. It’s like Lucid and FF held a clandestine meeting a couple years ago at an all-night diner in Bakersfield. With the neon light flickering outside, they set down their cups of burned coffee on the Formica table and checked that nobody was listening. “OK, you go after the sedan, and we’ll go after the crossover. Deal? Deal.” Then they shook hands and headed back to Menlo Park and Gardena to get to work.
Visiting both companies is like entering Tesla refugee camps (300 employees at Lucid and a total of 1,400 at Faraday, worldwide). At one point I was sitting in the back seat of the Air and commented that it’s good to see cupholders back here. How dumb that the original Model S didn’t have any? An engineer crouching at the open door confessed that it was his bad. “You’re the guy?” I asked and turned to him with in an accusatory grin. He shook his head. “Elon overruled me,” he said. During our FF tour, I walked past Faraday Future’s battery-tech display and noted that the cylindrical 21700-type cells inside are stacked sideways in the modules. (They call them strings.) The engineer nodded. “Yes, different from what we did at Tesla.” This happens at every turn. Elon made us do this; at Tesla we did that. On and on.
X-ray past each car’s very divergent exteriors, and you’d see strikingly similar architectures. It’s as if each company laid a sheet of velum over the Tesla’s blueprints, traced its basics, then started their independent brainstorming. Both the Air and the 91 are stake-poled by Tesla’s dual-motor and battery landmarks, with their lithium-ion packs under the floor, bookended by powered axles. Lucid quotes about 1,000 combined hp (FF, 1050) with the majority of their horses stabled in their sterns; the Lucid distributes 600 hp aft (400 in front) with the FF at roughly the same ratio. Both companies speak of their Tesla-like frunk’s up front and ultra-long ranges (378 miles from the 91’s 130-kW-hr pack; Lucid’s base 100-kW-hr battery is expected to reach 300 miles, and its larger battery should equal Faraday’s claims). And there’s Ludicrous acceleration rates, too—estimated at 2.5 seconds to 60 mph for the Air (matching Tesla’s quickest Model S P100D) and 2.39 for the Faraday, marking it as potentially the quickest car in the world (though by an amount I wouldn’t exactly call meaningful).
The dual-motor Model S was everybody’s first taste of neck-snapping acceleration in the EV era. It was like going from P51 Mustangs to carrier-launched jets. I remember doing acceleration runs many years ago in a Ferrari F50—a historically fast car, yes? Halfway down the quarter, I was actually urging it along because it seemed, well, kind of slow to me.
I’d never say that rail-gunning down a dragstrip in a high-power dual-motor Tesla. When its Insane mode first appeared, Carlos Lago and I rushed out to sample it. With me mindlessly staring out the passenger-side window (i.e., me in Normal mode), Carlos suddenly tramped its pedal from a stop. My neck actually cracked, I winced, and I gave him my dagger-eyes look. The drivers who demonstrated the thrust of the Lucid and Faraday were well aware that surprise-throttle stomps can physically hurt you. Both told me to place my head against the headrest. Both cars discharged that same familiar Tesla gunshot thrust, though the Lucid was deliberately dialed down a bit because it was still under development.
From here, though, the Lucid and FF begin their technological divergence. The Faraday’s battery—an underfloor monolith (à la Tesla) is a series of easily expandable, side-by-side, stackable modules (depending on wheelbase length, or in FF lingo, its VPA, Variable Platform Architecture). When I noticed that the nose-mounted charge port’s cover looked unfamiliar, the Faraday engineer hesitantly explained they were creating their own receptacle besides the SAE CCS, CHADdeMO, and elegant Tesla designs. I’m hesitant to point out the implication of another charging infrastructure here. FF claims an empty-battery charging rate of 500 mph and half of a full charge in 4.5 hours from their included 240-volt home charger.
The Lucid Air (pictured above) disregards the FF’s simple, stacking modules for a highly sculpted, complexly shaped, and more three-dimensional battery that’s double-layered beneath the center console, entirely removed from the rear passenger’s footwell. When I asked whether it contained 18650 or the larger 21700 cells (used by Faraday and upcoming Tesla Model 3), the engineer was coy. I’m not sure they’ve decided yet. However, both cars are sourcing their cells from LG Chem.
But this unusual battery shape gets to the crust of how both cars architecturally splinter from the Model S and X. Each is utterly obsessed with maximizing interior space, and they aggressively remold their guts to that end. The Lucid moves portions of its battery from where people are to where they’re not. It has fanatically compacted its front and rear drivetrains (including a new type of tiny planetary-gear differential). The Faraday’s rear motor is actually two motors, back to back, with their own halfshafts. There are two reasons for this.
One of those reasons is to shrink their diameters. How come? To afford more rear seat-back angle for the optional reclining zero-gravity couches that lay you at a (literally yawning) angle. It was not only comfortable but also very familiar, as I’d sat in the Lucid’s virtually identical 55-degree-reclineable seat solution two weeks earlier. When I climbed out of the FF, Sampson asked if I’d like my Ubers to have seats like those.
But more important, when will these cars be fully autonomous? Everybody’s thinking the same thing here. Getting in and out of the FF will be a cinch, too, as both its front and rear doors (suicide-type) are powered and have proximity sensors and the smarts to lower their frameless windows in tight spots to lessen your wriggling.
Part of the Faraday’s vast rear legroom simply owes to its long wheelbase and crossover profile. Fitting people into the Lucid’s sedan silhouette isn’t as easy, hence those battery cutouts for the rear seats and no aft overhead roof cross member). Countering the long FF’s incumbent turning circle challenges is active rear-wheel toe control with a total range of about 7 degrees. In a demonstration, the FF revolved in a smaller space than a Model X.
The second reason is that at high speeds, the double punch of active rear toe with the torque vectoring from those two rear motors should make for stupendous handling opportunities. I got an inkling from my brisk lateral jolts through a lane change while hanging on for dear life.
Styling. Jenkins and Kim are two completely different designers whose jobs are less about logic and more about taste. But even here, threads of common think appear. For instance, both are expecting to jettison side mirrors for cameras (FF hedging its bet with a removable mirror atop a camera stalk). And both designers describe their cars as stacked layers; Jenkins speaks of the Air’s cabin floating above a lower fuselage, and Kim points out the FF’s three bands: the greenhouse (about experience and electronic interface), the middle (about comfort and security of the interior), and the bottom (about the electric drivetrain). Both cars also share unusual twin shark-fin antenna enclosures, though each claims different reasoning. The Lucid wants twin separate GPS antennas for heading analysis, and the FF is simply burdened with lots of data to communicate. Both the Lucid and FF have improbably short hoods—the antithesis of the old visual cue that a long hood signals more performance.
Visually, the FF is playfully active. Waves of flowing shapes intertwine and sometimes arrest your eyes’ movement. The best is the freestanding vertical ears offset from the D-pillars that help warp the wind behind the car. Neither car has elegantly solved the problem of lidar placement, though. For now, the FF places it on a rising periscope that ascends from the hood, and the Lucid rather optimistically hides them under the bumpers where they are not likely to wind up.
The Lucid Air will likely be more polarizing, mainly because it’s speaking with a mixed vocabulary of automotive and sophisticated consumer electronics design languages. Up close, the headlights—a major feature of automotive expression—are collapsed to two strings of three-quarter-inch-tall cubes encasing a total of 9,740 insectlike micro-lenses. And even these are so recessed that they’re invisible until you step back several feet. The Air is a car of subtle shapes and quietly crossing lines at gentle angles. At its introduction, I walked around it several times and then settled into to the rear seat to think. Remember our controversial Apple Car story? I think if Apple had followed through, it might have looked like this. In that sense, the Air really anticipates the future of automotive design as cars morph into rolling computers. (When I returned to Orange County Airport that night and walked to my car, I passed several Model S’s that seemed almost adolescent by comparison.)
If Apple has sympathy with the Lucid’s taut industrial design, the Faraday would appeal Cupertino’s emphasis on a lush digital ecosystem. We weren’t able to actually try any of its features, but their demos tasted Apple-like in their advanced blending of people and processing power. Remember how you’d smile when Steve Jobs explained a neat new feature?
As I walked up to the car, a video camera in the pillar recognized me and displayed, “Hello, Kim,” unlocked the door (there’s no key), and set the environment to exactly to my taste. Cameras inside the cabin analyze your mood and can auto-prompt an ambiance change; tap the smart glass panoramic roof (polymer dispersed liquid crystal), and it adjusts tinting. The view from the side and rearview cameras are blended into a single image, which replaces the rearview mirror. With a Faraday Future ID (FFID), your individual tastes can be transferred throughout the ecosystem of FF’s parent company, LeEco. And within restricted private parking lots, the 91 can drop you off and go find a spot by itself. (Its complement of sensors includes lidar, 10 cameras, 13 radars, and 12 ultrasonic sensors.)
There’s visual communication, too. When in use as a ride-hailing vehicle, individual colors will appear on the same pillars directing passengers to their door. Those shark-fin antennas (claimed to offer near broadband data rates by combining services) will change color, signaling to other drivers that they can use your car as a moving Wi-Fi hot spot. And most obviously, illuminated grids of FF’s cross-hatch graphics are streaked across the car’s front bumper, along its rocker panels, and between the taillights. They symbolically communicate patterns to other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians to show that the car is aware of them, intends a lane change, or is in autonomous mode. (Like the Lucid, it welcomes you as you approach, too; the Air’s exterior lighting playfully greets you, plus broad sweeps of side lighting help you to better see curbs at night.)
This week during CES, Musk is holding forth with guests at the Gigafactory, a colossal reminder that creating a car company sometimes takes a leader who sees the rocks below the cliff of failure and doesn’t blink. Faraday Future is evidently treading near that edge. But for now, at tonight’s CES unveiling, it’s finally the car’s turn to communicate directly to you—not through rumors—what the rest of Musk’s alumni have been working so hard to create. How do you think it compares to the Lucid Air?
Lucid Motors, formerly known as Atieva Motors, finally unveiled their new car, the Air, in all its maybe-it’ll-look-like-that-in-production glory. It looks good, though.
Founded as Atieva in 2007 and staffed by several former Tesla folks, Lucid—like another hyped-up and Chinese-backed electric startup, Faraday Future—aims to take on the establishment with Silicon Valley design and a factory in the Southwest, in this case Arizona. Production is said to begin in 2018.
We’re still waiting on official production-spec pics, but the first ones have spilled out on Twitter already. The company is said to use the biggest battery pack (130kWh) this side of an electric locomotive, giving the Air a claimed range of 400 miles.
The name Lucid Air sounds sort of like an airline owned by someone really into meditation. That’s an improvement over the old name, Atieva Atvus, which sounds like a yogurt that helps you poop.
The Lucid Air has two electric motors, one in front, unitized with the HVAC an suspension up front, and one at the rear, integrated with the final drive. Lucid says the motors make a combined 1000 HP. I’m not really sure how that math works, either.
Tweets from the event seem to show Lucid is sticking with their performance claims:
Oh, really, Lucid? I’m sure it will. I’m also sure it’ll dispense soft-serve ice cream from a nozzle on the dash, and the seat cushions will pleasure your underbits via a simple thought-command.
Maybe I’m being too cynical. Maybe it will perform like that. After all, their van-based test vehicle, Edna, hauled some pretty significant ass:
It’s a striking-looking car, regardless of how it moves. There’s a hint of modern Citroën about the design, and I like the subtle two-tone effect with the roof. The face of the car is a narrow blade of chrome and light, and gives the car a clean, modern look. It’s notably free of gratuitous fake vents or creases and folds in the bodywork, and the overall package is sleek and elegant.
Looks-wise, I think it’s a match for the Model S. Now we just have to see if it actually gets built.