It was certainly not a surprise that after our week in western Florida and the car reflections that came to me on the beach, New York would be vastly different. Still, I had to laugh to myself directly after landing, realizing I had just complimented our American friends on their civilized way of driving and was now about to die in a taxi from Newark airport, driven by a constantly honking maniac in a way only a maniac can drive a car. Let’s call it a return to reality… There’s no doubt Florida is more laid back than NY not only driving-wise but that said, it was great to see NYC back to its old, pre-Covid form!
We spent most of our days walking around Manhattan, and it was in the nowadays very pleasant Meatpacking District that we came upon the new Lucid showroom. We went in and talked to the very friendly Johan from Lucid, whom I guess I shouldn’t refer to as a sales guy since some strange American regulation makes a difference between shops and showrooms and prevents personnel in the latter from disclosing prices of cars shown. Having said that, Johan knew all there was to know about the Lucid Air, setting him apart from a number of other car showrooms and even shops around the world. We thus had a great discussion which brought me back to what I wrote last week about the greater freedom in EV design potentially replacing 700 hp V8 engines as the differentiator going forward. Lucid is not what I was thinking of when doing so, but I would claim the Air is a step in the right direction, and no doubt a very impressive one!
Lucid Motors was started in 2007 in California under the name Atieva as a 20-employee battery company. Today’s CEO Peter Rawlinson joined the company as CTO in 2013, having before that worked as lead engineer for the Model S at Tesla, and before that for Jaguar and Lotus but also for the legendary Porsche tuner Ruf. Rawlinson’s vision was to build the best EV in the world and thereby the first real luxury car in the segment. Before listing Lucid on Nasdaq through a SPAC deal in 2021, the company notably secured financing from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, and its good capitalization no doubt has helped the company bridge the various supply delays it together with other car makers have had in the last year. As I write this, Johan told me they have delivered about 3.000 cars and are ramping up production. Being mostly US-focused so far, plans for Europe have been delayed, but Lucid will launch in a number of European countries in the coming months, including Germany (where there is already a showroom in Munich), Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands..
So what is the Air? The slightly philosophical answer to that is that it’s the kind of car that can only come out of a company that hasn’t built cars along certain routines and principles for a number of decades, and also not from a company with a larger-than-life man at the top who by principle insists on fitting something like falcon doors to a car, even if it delays it by two years and then still doesn’t work when it reaches the market (I know I’m incredible subtle here so just to clarify, I’m referring to the Tesla Model X). The Air takes a new approach and shows a new way of thinking, not only in how it looks but also in the thinking that has gone into it. Rawlinson claims the only principle that steered the team in the development was to build the best EV in the world and having everyone committed to that goal, letting all the underlying pieces contributing to the single goal.
Size-wise the Air is comparable to a Mercedes E-class on the outside, but with an interior space on S-class level. It looks good but I would not call it beautiful. It is however definitely different, especially over the passenger space between the A- and C-pillars. The Cw-wind resistance factor at 0.21 is of course excellent, and the front booth / frunk space is huge at 280 litres, apparently the biggest in the industry. It may look like a hatchback but the rear booth is conventional, being very deep but also quite low, in a Citroën CX-kind of way. That’s a shame since it makes it difficult for those of us with needs for dog cages or other bulkier stuff, and at least from the outside, it looks like the decision not to go for a hatchback design was not because they couldn’t but rather because they didn’t want to.
The real revelation however comes when you step in to the car and are met with an interior that is far beyond anything in any other EV (very much including cars like the Merc EQS). Under the glass roof that reaches over the full passenger space, Lucid has built an interior mixing leather with textile and wood. It looks and feels very much like the premium car it aspires to be, and does so all the way through and not like for example the mentioned EQS where the lower half of the interior is mostly cheap plastic. It’s a clean, nice design, with all the different screens you have nicely integrated. The glass roof gives a very airy (…) feel, and the leg space in the rear is larger than in most limos, with as only drawback that you can’t fit your feet under the front seats. By the way, the rear seats are in a different color than the front, a neat little design trick I think we’ll see more of. I wasn’t able to test he functionality of all this but the screens interact nicely with each other, and there’s also quite a few functions that can be operated over physical buttons.
The Air comes in different equipment versions and also with one or two engines, which is one part of the Lucid magic. At less than 100 kgs and fitting into an airplane carry-on suitcase, not only are these engines smaller and lighter than anything on the market, they are also more powerful. One engine produces 670 hp (meaning that the top version “Dream” has 1300 hp…) and is thereby more than 100 hp stronger than a Taycan engine which is twice as heavy. The battery pack is the second part of the “secret sauce”. Lucid uses cells from LG but develops the pack internally and has managed notably to reduce resistance and thereby power loss through heat. This gives the Air around a 500-mile range, and Johan was very relaxed about this actually being for real even in less-than-ideal conditions. If true, it means that Lucid would set a new range standard. Peter Rawlinson however prefers to talk about charging speed, believing it to be more important than range as it ultimately makes cars with less max range acceptable. And less range means lighter, cheaper, and hereby also sportier cars (remember Rawlinson used to work at Lotus?) Anyway, in Europe Lucid uses the same CCS-system as the German manufacturers and the car can in ideal conditions charge at up to 300 kW, meaning 300 miles in 20 minutes. Prices for dual engine cars will probably start around EUR 150′ which would make it more expensive than a Model S Plaid, but cheaper than a Mercedes EQS.
I really wish Lucid well, not only because they’ve put together a good car but also because it feels like the next step in the evolution of EV’s, and the first EV I’ve ever really wanted to put in my garage. Of course you need to drive a car before giving any kind of final verdict, but I’m kind of relaxed about it since on one hand tests confirm that it drives well, even very well compared to other EV’s (and that assessment came from none less than Evo!). And on the other, as discussed a bit last week, beyond pushing the pedal to the metal an reaching 100 km/h in 2-3 seconds a few times, which is no doubt a big thrill, neither Lucid nor any other EV will ever bring the excitement through the driving experience. They need to do so differently, and the Lucid air is a good step in that direction!