Preview: Luxurious Lucid Air Electric Sedan Boasts 500-Mile Range

Jeff S. Bartlett
·8 min read

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Silicon Valley-based Lucid Motors unveiled its first planned production model—called the Lucid Air—last month during an online presentation. It has since announced a lower-priced, $77,400 version with 480 horsepower.

Years in the making, Lucid has started prototype production of the electric Air at its Arizona factory, with the first models projected to reach customers in spring 2021.

Priced in the ultra-luxury segment that is home to the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and Tesla Model S, the Lucid Air electric sedan will compete based on power, range, and opulence.

The new automaker announced plans that follow what has become a trend for start-up electric car companies: Launch with a premium, high-dollar sedan, follow with an SUV, and then roll out more affordable models. For now, the elite Air takes aim at the $100,000 club, where established players are competing for slices of a small sales pie.

Lucid Motors enters the fray with a platform, battery, motor, and electronics that were designed in-house, all with an emphasis on compact design. This strategy has enabled some packaging efficiencies, and company officials say that these core technologies were developed to enable cost-effective mass production.

The Lucid Air will be offered in multiple versions, spanning a wide price range. Manufacturing is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and will be initially focused on producing the flagship Dream Edition. Lucid says the $169,000 dual-motor model will have up to 1,080 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Lucid will offer the Air in white, black, and gold paint, and with a panoramic roof. The company says Lucid Air will be followed by the $139,000 Grand Touring (mid 2021), $95,000 Touring (late 2021), and $80,000 Air (2022). All versions will be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

The company has opened up its video game-inspired online configurator, and it will have 20 retail stores in 2021. Reservations are being taken for $1,000.

The online event also offered a peek at what is expected to be the next model: an SUV, currently dubbed Project Gravity. Details were not released, but it is easy to imagine that the core specs and features from the Air would transfer over.

Officials also referenced seeking partners to license their batteries and technology.

Here's what we know so far about the Lucid Air.

CR’s Take

Lucid Motors is about to enter the electric car market full of promise. At this stage, it is reminiscent of Tesla when it prepared to launch the Model S—poised to be an innovative disruptor. Starting a car company that can survive is an extremely difficult feat. But again, Tesla has demonstrated that it can be done with the right product, breakthrough engineering, and rapid expansion.

It is easy to admire the technology and concepts presented for the Lucid Air, particularly on the safety front and also considering its advanced on-board electric system. We are cautiously optimistic about the car, but the company’s long-term prospects will be determined by buyers’ willingness to spend big money on products from an unproven company and the more affordable models to come.

Outside

The smooth exterior serves as a key contributor to the Air’s efficiency. Lucid claims it has a 0.21 coefficient of drag, which would make it the world’s most aerodynamic luxury car. That is a super-low number, and it edges out the recently unveiled 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which claims a 0.22 coefficient of drag. Those numbers may not mean much to the casual car shopper; it is a calculation based on wind tunnel testing that shows both cars slip through the air far easier than almost any other production car on the planet, even besting the Toyota Prius, a hybrid known to define efficiency.

Chasing that distinction, and the benefits in range and reduced wind noise that come with it, has led to the Lucid Air looking a bit less exciting than the price tag might have one expect. To achieve that goal, every surface, both top and bottom, has to be smoothed to direct airflow and minimize wind resistance. Easy examples can be seen in the accompanying photos, with the retracting door handles and windshield that flows right into the roof. The company claims the car will have over a 500-mile range in the real world—which would be quite impressive.

The front and rear styling is dominated by wide horizontal lighting. (The company claims this is the largest taillight ever used on a production car.) The body is further differentiated by a contrasting roof, akin to what has been seen on some SUVs in recent years. These elements will make the Lucid Air visually stand out from its direct competitors.

Inside

The cabin has two distinct areas: Lucid representatives said that the front is trimmed to feel sporty with darker hues, while the back seat is brighter and more relaxing. Both spaces feature high-end trim elements, with a special emphasis on textures.

There is a massive, curved 34-inch floating display ahead of the driver, and a large center console display that retracts to open up storage space. Beyond the touch screens, native Alexa integration enables voice control for entertainment, navigation, and home controls.

The back seat will be a three-across bench configuration at launch, with reclining executive seats for two available in the future.

Dimensions have not been shared yet, but digital cutaway images show how the compact mechanicals help maximize space. This includes enabling the largest front trunk on the market, according to Lucid.

The car looks like a hatchback, but it features an odd trunk lid that opens almost like a small hatch to what appears to be a cavernous space.

What Drives It

The Lucid Air is powered by two electric motors in the first versions built, with a single- and three-motor versions expected to follow. The Dream Edition is said to produce up to 1,080 horsepower. All that power enables the car to rocket 0-60 mph in just 2.5 seconds and cross the quarter-mile in under 10 seconds, according to Lucid. Those motors are energized with a 113-kWh, lithium-ion battery pack. The company says it has achieved 517 miles of range, based on the EPA methodology.

A base Air is available with 480-horsepower and a 406-mile range.

The company credits the large range figures to lessons learned over 20 million real-world development miles and from supplying batteries through its subsidiary Atieva to the Formula E electric-car racing series since 2018.

The Lucid Air relies on a 900-volt electric architecture, enabling the car to charge quickly, taking on 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes, using DC fast chargers. For contrast, the most common Tesla V2 superchargers can restore 50 percent of the battery capacity in 30 minutes for the Long Range versions of the Model 3, S, and X—about 160–200 miles in a half hour.

The 19.2-kW onboard charger is said to be compatible with most public charging, including the growing 350-kW, Level 3 fast-charging network. The car will come with three years of free, unlimited charging with the Electrify America 350-kW network.

The Lucid Air will come with a mobile charging cord that can be used in any wall outlet. The company will offer its own bi-directional home charging station that can charge the car at off-peak times, and it can use the car to provide temporary power to the house during a power outage. (The company is also developing home and business battery-based energy storage solutions.)

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

The platform for the Lucid advanced driver assist systems is called DreamDrive. It incorporates an array of familiar-sounding safety features, but beneath the tech is a sophisticated setup that goes well beyond the norm. It uses an Ethernet-based communication, with built-in redundancies, and a sensor suite that includes LIDAR—an advanced laser-based radar system often considered too expensive for passenger cars. (LIDAR is often used on prototype self-driving cars to “see” the world in higher detail than other sensors would allow.) This is among the 32 total sensors for ADAS features, along with camera, radar, and ultrasonic.

The company is working on limited autonomous driving capabilities. As with with Tesla vehicles, the Lucid Air will be able to receive over-the-air updates and gain new sophistication and features over time, adding to its capabilities.

The core safety features include automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning and display, and cross-traffic alert. Driver monitoring will be on the lookout for distracted or drowsy driving.

Assists include traffic sign recognition, warning if stop-and-go traffic has resumed movement, and full-speed highway assist that combines adaptive cruise control and lane centering systems to provide limited autonomous driving. There are also various parking features to help when the trip has ended.