Is this Tesla’s first real rival?
Rivalry is a good thing. And the field of electric cars does not have enough.
There is a delicious start between Tesla and the new Lucid, and it has already manifested in spurts.
In September 2020, weeks after Lucid revealed preliminary range numbers of up to 517 miles for a higher version of its Air, Tesla began accepting orders for a 520 mile version of the Model S Plaid, a version that might never have existed outside. of a product card. It was then canceled.
Then a month later, in October, Lucid revealed a starting price of $ 77,400 for the base version of the AIr, called Pure. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced later the same day that the company would reduce the price of its Model S by more than $ 5,500, effective the same night.
Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson, who coordinated the technology behind the Model S on the way to production ten years ago, notes that Tesla is the only other company with a holistic approach to efficient electric vehicles today. .
As part of a wide and varied interview with Green Car Reports Late last month, right after Lucid’s factory in Casa Grande, Ariz., went live, Rawlinson explained that this is one of the main differentiators that differentiates Tesla and Lucid from the rest. While most other automakers just make electric vehicles, count Lucid among a much smaller group where technology is driving the product.
“Maybe we … maybe we’ll push Tesla a little bit,” he said with a cheerful look. “I think that would be great”
Rawlinson also has a comprehensive plan that leads to much more than niche electric luxury sedans weighing well over two tonnes, no matter how efficient they are.
“What I will be proud of is if I can use this technology and its efficiency to cut costs so that the man in the street can afford an electric car,” he said. “Tesla is doing it, and hats off to Tesla for doing it; but right now it’s a one horse race, it’s fucking ridiculous.
Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson – Arizona Plant Commissioning
Efficiency is the most relevant metric related to electric vehicles and their success, and it defines the prowess of an electric vehicle company, according to Rawlinson, who, in a speech at the plant last month, with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, focused on how Lucid had accomplished over 4.6 miles per kilowatt hour in a production model, far more than the Tesla Model S, and was only surpassed by the base Model 3 Standard Range Plus, which Tesla said is 5.1 miles / kwh in its latest impact report.
On the road to affordability
Away from the stunning Air sedan, which debuts in the $ 169,000 Dream Edition form, Rawlinson sees a mass market, $ 25,000 EV with an EPA range of 150 miles from a 25kWh battery as some something its business plan could potentially lead to at the end of the decade, if the charging infrastructure is robust and more people can charge overnight. (Push back here: who wanted this when it was called Leaf?)
“Six miles per kilowatt-hour, 150-mile range, in a 25-kilowatt-hour pack,” he summed up decisively. An EV of $ 25,000 is something Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced last year, for 2023 on a notoriously optimistic timeline, so perhaps such projects could be future rivals.
Taking a step back on why the Air flagship is the first, Rawlinson is ready with a rebuttal: “I hear all those screams for ‘Well that’s another rich man’s car’, but the pragmatist in me knew we had to do it first. ”
Lucid Air in production – Casa Grande, Arizona
The cost of industrializing a product is almost inversely proportional to the cost of the product, he explained. So, for example, it would cost several times as much to create an affordable mass car.
“If my passion is that the world needs a $ 25,000 electric vehicle, I can’t do it because I would have to go and get $ 15 billion, not $ 1.5 billion, to industrialize it.” , said Rawlinson.
At 520 miles, Air defines the brand
“And then there’s another reason, which is that the first product defines the brand, so you want to go from a high-end technological tour de force. How did the iPhone succeed, how did Dyson succeed, how did Lexus succeed with the LS400? “
Lucid Efficiency – Lucid Motors Investor Presentation Filed with the SEC, July 2021
It goes back to why Rawlinson is apparently so obsessed with efficiency and the technology that enables it, as it enables a complete business model. Lucid Group will likely be made up of three components: vehicles, energy storage, and technology. Although the technology allows the first two, Lucid has not shied away from the idea that it has developed its core systems with the potential to crossover with other industries.
“What motivates me is that the efficiency can be reversed, and we can use it as a positive,” added the CEO, bringing the conversation to the Air electric car, which will be delivered later this month. here, then ramping up. to include the Air Pure inlet after about a year. If the Lucid Air Pure covers its estimated 408-mile range with just around 88kwh, or about 13kwh less than the closest competitor, Rawlinson jokes, clearly pointing to Tesla, then that means carving out bigger margins sooner.
And then what starts out as sort of a “purist game of engineering” as he put it, momentarily mocking nerd, starts to look like a smart company as production ramps up and Lucid, selling bigger. number and using less cells to do so, has more flexibility to lower the price. As CEO and CTO of Lucid, Rawlinson wears both hats well.
Finding our way to affordable and mass-produced products
As the Air launches, Lucid is working on its seven-passenger Gravity SUV, slated for 2023 and made possible by the company’s Phase 2 expansion, to a capacity of 53,000 vehicles compared to the current 34,000. And then the third step, possibly as early as 2025 according to a presentation to investors earlier this year, will be to apply the company’s technological approach to a Tesla Model 3 / Model Y-type vehicle – with an extension of the plant extending it to a planned annual capacity of 365,000 units.
Lucid Project Gravity – clip from Air debut music video
In total, Lucid aims to manufacture around three million Air and Gravity models over the next decade, with its product family by 2030 potentially including a pickup and coupe.
Rawlinson said he’s used to a question about competition and how there can be a market for that number of EVs. “And I always say there is no market for electric vehicles, only cars, and the market penetration for electric vehicles is tiny. So I will look for the remaining 97%. Why would I go after the 3%? I think this is the most ridiculous construction.
To hit the EV of $ 25,000, Rawlinson believes the industry is a bit too focused on batteries and not enough on other aspects such as efficiency and charging, which is part of why it has devoted its resources to development. to a full propulsion and charge suite, but not to the batteries.
Lucid propulsion – Lucid Motors investor presentation filed with the SEC, July 2021
“The point is, we need to mass industrialize cells to bring down the price of cells, we need a more mature charging infrastructure, we need to push like crazy on efficiency,” he said. . “And then we think about the car of the future with less range – and then that’s the inflection point to get to a $ 25,000 car, that’s what I want to do.”
How far is this project? “If Lucid were to do it, I think it’s about eight years away,” he said, remaining particularly elusive. While he quickly added that he could make a car in about three years that could reach six miles per kwh, perhaps a clue for the Model 3 / Y rival. “What I don’t know is when we cut the cells down to $ 80 per kilowatt hour … and what I don’t know is the human psyche, about the fast-charging infrastructure and to how palatable this is going to be. “
Autonomy is not everything, says the company with the most autonomy
Which gets right to the point: The CEO of the electric car with the longest range evaluated by the EPA is not convinced that range is ultimately what matters.
“I think the electric car of the future will have less range, paradoxically,” he reiterated. “And the future antidote to anxiety for the range will be a more mature and built infrastructure. Why am I not having gasoline anxiety? Because I know there is a gas station on every corner.
Lucid Air Dream Edition
Rawlinson suggested that over time, Lucid’s efficiency advantage might overcome some areas considered to be Tesla’s insurmountable strengths, such as charging. Lucid, instead of building a DC fast charging network like Tesla did a decade ago, has teamed up with VW’s Electrify America.
Vs. Tesla, the advantage of the second
“I see it as a second player advantage. Because Tesla must have put it there; they were in the foreground; they were the vanguard. Now they did it at 400 volts because that was Model S voltage. And it’s extremely capital intensive.
“It was the right solution for the Model S; it was probably not the right solution for the Supercharger network, ”said Rawlinson.
Tesla Supercharger V3 Station – Las Vegas Strip
Better to invest in technology and manufacturing, he argues. “I passionately believe that we have to be vertically integrated to manufacture internally; I don’t believe in the light asset manufacturing model that some startups subscribe to, ”he said, referring to plans some have to purchase key propulsion technologies from contract manufacturing vendors and vehicles. . “Going lightly with charging infrastructure, but capital-intensive, entirely focused on manufacturing: it’s the combination.
“Let me tell you that the electric vehicles of the future will be ultra-high voltage,” said Rawlinson who from the pure physics of using a 924V system in air versus 400V in air. Tesla called it an “inherent advantage”.
Is this the start of a healthy rivalry? Like Ford and Chevy and their arms race for payloads and towing, an arms race for efficiency between two American automakers might just be what we need.