Ever since Lucid Motors unveiled their first production vehicle, the Air, earlier this year, there have been a lot of comparisons being drawn between them and Tesla. There are a lot of similarities between the top EV-selling manufacturer currently and the new company on the block. Both are going to focus on the production of electric vehicles, both are based out of California and both are trying to build tech companies rather than automobile companies. But there are quite a few differences in their approach and perspective.
What Makes Lucid Motors A Real Tesla Competitor? A Peek Into Lucid’s Thought Process
One of the most interesting things to be noted is that the CEO and CTO of Lucid Motors, Peter Rawlinson, was the Chief Engineer of the Tesla Model S back in 2009. This kind of detail makes this competition a little personal. Let’s take a look into why Tesla should look up when someone mentions Lucid Motors.
Lucid Motors: The Backstory
Lucid Motors started as a battery manufacturer in 2007 under the name of Atieva. In 2016, the company was rebranded and renamed as Lucid Motors. At the time, they announced their goals of manufacturing an all-electric high-performance luxury vehicle. They were expected to start production in 2017, and after overcoming a lot of obstacles, they finally unveiled their first vehicle this year.
The company has received over $1 billion in funding. They are currently constructing a 380,000-unit per year production facility in Casa Grande, Arizona.
What Makes Lucid Motors Special?
The efficiency and overall specs that Lucid has announced for the Air have amazed everyone. The battery pack has a capacity of 113 kWh with a battery architecture of 900 volts. Their drive unit, which consists of the electric motor, inverter, transmission and differential, weighs just 74 kg. The power output of this drive unit is a staggering 670 horsepower, and that gives the powertrain a very good power-to-weight ratio.
What makes companies like Tesla and Lucid different is their perspective. They have realized that electrification is going to be a technological race, and are planning accordingly. However, Lucid has understood that even in a technological race, their first car has to be technically competent with the market.
So let’s take a look at the different factors that makes the Lucid Air an exciting prospect.
Battery Pack Efficiency
Efficiency is the holy grail for electric vehicles, and Lucid is no exception. Their battery design is based on achieving more miles using the same battery capacity. Their main focus is on getting more miles per kWh. The Lucid Air gets 4.6 miles per kWh, and in comparison, the 2020 Tesla Model S Long Range gets 4 miles per kWh.
Despite using standard Li-ion cells, Lucid manages to get high efficiency due to its advanced cooling system. In addition to that, the battery pack is designed in such a way that the internal pack impedance is very low. And you can expect a former battery manufacturer to know how to deliver on the efficiency front. In fact, Lucid was the battery supplier for all the cars that were part of the 2018 Formula E season. And this battery design is similar to that. The cooling systems and compact design have been adopted from the Formula E design.
According to Peter Rawlinson, the ultimate test of a battery pack is fast charging. And the 900-volt system allows the vehicle to be charged for 20 miles per minute. The multifunctional two-way charger, the Wunderbox, also has vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-grid capabilities. So your fully-charged Lucid vehicle can actually act as a battery backup.
Electric Motor and Drive Unit
The entire powertrain of the Lucid Air is so compact, that it can fit inside an airplane flight bag. The integrated drive unit, which consists of an electric motor, inverter, transmission, and differential, weighs just 74 kg. And despite that, it is capable of delivering 670 horsepower. And there can be one, two, or three such drive units according to the specific variant. The single motor option is in the rear-wheel-drive variant, while the all-wheel-drive version has two motors. And just for performance purposes, you can have a Tri-motor variant as well. This Tri-motor has already put up a 9.24-second quarter-mile timing. That is a hypercar level of performance.
This kind of performance has been possible mainly due to the motor cooling system. Lucid uses a permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM), which can get heated a lot. There is a phenomenon called cogging torque which can affect the efficiency of a PMSM, but Lucid has been able to greatly reduce its effect, and achieve high efficiency.
Design and Aesthetics
Peter Rawlinson has made it clear that Lucid is not competing with Tesla currently. In fact, the German luxury car brands like Mercedes are on their radar. The Lucid Air is expected to compete with Mercedes S Class in terms of luxury.
According to Derek Jenkins, VP of Design (also a former Tesla employee), the aesthetical revolution in the electric vehicle industry is still yet to come. But after analyzing the design of the Air, one can easily tell that Lucid has built it around electrification. There is no long hood because the compact drive unit does not require a lot of space. With shorter lengths of the front and rear parts, the cabin space increases greatly.
The glass canopy along the roof stretches from the windshield up to the centerline of the car. A small frontal area and efficient vortex air intake mean that aerodynamic efficiency increases, with a drag coefficient of just 0.21. The interior also has a lot of screens showing the driver a lot of data. The entire cockpit has been designed from the point-of-view of improving the driving experience.
This kind of space distribution means that the Lucid Air exists as a mid-sized sedan, with a full-sized car interior, SUV levels of storage, and hypercar levels of performance.
What Lies In Tne Future?
With this kind of a start, one would expect Lucid to have a concrete plan for the future. And they do. The efficient systems that make the Lucid Air special are going to be their hallmark. This kind of high efficiency will drive production costs down, and that will help them make electric vehicles more affordable. Lucid is also aiming to break into the $25,000 electric vehicle segment, alongside Tesla and Volkswagen.
There has been a lot of competition between Tesla and Lucid in terms of performance. What people do not understand, however, is that this kind of a battle does not just increase the sales. It also helps companies make modifications to their cars and test them on tracks. And the results obtained from the on-track performance is then adopted into the production versions. Thus, they are able to bring better products to the markets.
All this is helping to raise the level of quality in the electric vehicle industry, and give some tough competition to the combustion vehicles. And in the process, it might just help Peter Rawlinson build a $400 billion company.