The Lucid Air, an all-electric saloon due in 2019, will mix sports car handling with the comfort of a luxury saloon, its marketing manager has claimed.
David Salguero told Autocar that development of the Air, a car that is claimed to have a 400-mile range, is being led by former Lotus, Jaguar and Tesla engineering boss Peter Rawlinson, who is Lucid’s chief technical officer.
Salguero said Rawlinson’s experience will ensure the California-based company’s first model delivers as a driver’s car that is able to take on offerings from established marques such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Using a twin-motor four-wheel-drive powertrain with up to 1000bhp in its most potent form, the Air will be considerably more powerful than its conventional rivals. Its creators believe the low-set placement of its batteries will also help the car steer at least as effectively as those rivals.
“The Air has been designed with enough flexibility to be future-proof,” Salguero told Autocar during an exclusive interview. “It’s the kind of car that lovers of driving will like to drive. Rawlinson is the best man for the job – he knows how to make a beautiful-handling car.”
Lucid isn’t aiming the Air directly at the Tesla Model S but rather a wider window of luxury performance saloons, including models such as the BMW 750Li. Salguero said this long-wheelbase BMW – which is 150mm longer than a regular 7 Series – was actually the Air’s benchmark for cabin space but that the car’s overall dimensions would be smaller.
“By miniaturising the EV powertrain, we can make [the Air] small on the outside but big on the inside,” he said. “It will have a large, comfortable, spacious interior, comparable [in size] to the S-Class long-wheelbase, while being about the same size as an E-Class.”
The Air reached 235mph during testing in July and is claimed to be capable of accelerating from 0-60mph in 2.5sec in top-spec form. An entry-level model that uses one motor will also be produced, offering 400bhp and a 240-mile range, enabling prices for the Air to start from $60,000 (about £45,000).
“Performance is just one piece of what the car is about,” added Salguero. “Speed and acceleration are byproducts of the [top-spec] car’s 400-mile range.”
Salguero explained that Lucid’s experience in batteries – including working with McLaren and on the next-generation Formula E battery packs that’ll enable cars to run for twice as long – is furthering the brand’s technology and knowledge.
Lucid has also teamed up with Samsung SDI to speed up development of the batteries, as well as former Tesla partner Mobileye, a specialist in autonomous vehicle technology, to give the Air full autonomous capability from the first day of production - although it will launch with Level 2 and be upgraded as software advances via over-the-air updates. The hardware will use a suite of hardware made up of cameras, radar and lidar sensors.
In a company statement earlier this year, Lucid said: “These technologies will enable a full Advanced Driver Assistance System suite at launch and then enable a logical and safe transition to autonomous driving functionality through over-the-air software updates."
Salguero said that, as things stand today, the car is 95% complete, with investors “absolutely taking us seriously” as the Air reaches its final stages of development. Production will soon start at Lucid’s Arizona factory, which is scheduled to start producing Airs for customers from 2019, when 10,000 models will be made. Eventually, Lucid intends to up production to 60,000 units annually. The factory will be capable, should demand reach it, to produce up to 130,000 units per year.
Lucid intends to bring the Air to Europe, including the UK, but Salguero said “no announcements have been made” as to when that’ll be. Long term, the company intends to produce more luxury models, but Salguero said Lucid “wants to make sure the brand is established and well understood before we do anything else”.