A Breath of Fresh Lucid Air
One of the most exciting things about the shift to electric vehicles has been the number of new entrants into the marketplace. Alongside car brands we know and love that have introduced new and innovative products, completely new electric-focused brands have also sprung up over the last few years.
Tesla is the most famous of these brands, certainly in the U.S., but they are not the only ones that have entered the EV landscape. Dozens of brands have sprung up overseas, particularly in China, some more credible and relevant than others. Here in the United States, one of the most interesting, and seemingly legitimate, new players is Lucid, based in Newark, California.
It’s actually wrong to call Lucid a new player, established in 2007, it’s not exactly a startup. Its CEO is Tesla’s former head of engineering, and its vice president is the former design chief for Mazda’s north American operations. Its manufacturing facility, located in Casa Grande, Arizona, commenced production in September 2021, and currently has the capacity to produce about 30,000 vehicles per year, with the ability to expand to more than ten times that.
Lucid’s roots are in energy storage, which potentially explains some of the incredible range estimates for its cars; careful engineering and amazing aerodynamics form the other parts of the story.
Lucid's First of Many Electric Cars
The Lucid Air, a large four-door luxury sedan, is the first product from the brand, but won’t be its last; other, less expensive vehicles including a premium SUV, are in the future product plan. The first customer deliveries began in October 2021.
It makes sense for Lucid to launch with a big, expensive sedan for a few reasons. A low, sleek profile presents a smaller frontal area for improved range, which is a top consideration for EV buyers. A large body enables packaging a large (up to 112-kWh) battery. And high-end positioning, in the initial stages of the company’s history, helps pay for the huge investment in technology.
Reservations for the launch version of the Air, called the Dream Edition, are now closed. Going forward, three distinctive models will be available; Pure, Touring, and Grand Touring.
The three models share a common body style, with a low-slung body and a swooping “canopy” over the passenger cabin, and huge front and rear trunks. Inside the giant five-seat cabin, all three have Lucid’s 34-inch glass cockpit instrument panel and a large infotainment touchscreen interface on the console. Alexa voice control is standard, as is the ability to receive updates over the air.
Did Someone Say 516 miles of Range?
The Air lineup starts with the Pure model, which comes with an 88-kWh battery and a power output of 480 hp. With rear-wheel drive, its EPA-rated range is 406 miles, which already eclipses many equivalently-sized and -priced sedans. The base price of $77,400 includes the DreamDrive advanced driver-assistance package, which has 32 sensors and 14 cameras, providing active cruise control and many active-safety functions including surround view monitor, blind spot display, cross traffic protection, automatic emergency braking, and even autonomous parking assist. Inside, the Pure features an “pure alternate” interior, with interesting hard-wearing fabric instead of leather.
Moving up a notch, the $95,000 Touring model features 620 horsepower and all-wheel drive, with the same 406-mile range rating. DreamDrive Pro is standard, and includes additional computing and sensor hardware for new features to be delivered via over-the-air (OTA) software updates. This means that you don’t get any additional functionality, but are prepared for semi-autonomous functions to be added to the vehicle down the road.
DreamDrive Pro also includes the first automotive installation of LIDAR in North America. This solid-state sensor delivers high-resolution data with an ultra-wide field of view, helping the vehicle detect what a human driver cannot, and act as an invisible co-pilot to increase safety. Inside, you can choose the techno-fabric interior or leather; outside, there’s a 20-inch wheel choice, though the 19-inch Pure wheel (also available) will deliver longer range.
The calling card of the top level Grand Touring Air is its range, which according to the EPA is 516 miles, which is quite remarkable given that its 112-kWh battery isn’t that much bigger than competitors. With a staggering 800 horsepower and all-wheel drive, it is set to deliver searing straight-line performance. Wheels grow to 21 inches, though you can still choose smaller wheels for better range.
Setting High Expectations
While we haven’t driven a Lucid Air yet, initial press reports suggest it is very fast and very engaging to drive, and the execution of the interior is top-notch. Designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle, with no legacy interface to speak of, all of its technology is designed to work seamlessly together, from the driver assistance systems to the voice commands and the giant touchscreens.
The Air’s 900-volt electrical architecture enables charging of up to 300 kWh, making it one of the fastest-charging vehicles available today (Hyundai and Kia offer 350 kWh on a couple of their models), and three years of Electrify America charging is included for free.
On-paper, then, the Air sounds like a sensational car. If it lives up to the promise of all of its specs, it will put the luxury-car world on notice, especially as it’s just the first of many electric models to come from Lucid.