Lucid is aiming for five miles per kilowatt-hour, batteries that can take repeated ultra-fast charging, and packs as small as 30 kWh.
The EV world took notice when Peter Rawlinson, the chief engineer for the Tesla Model S during its development, joined Lucid Motors in 2012. After a few years in stealth mode, Lucid Motors in December 2016 unveiled the Air – its bold, 400-mile, 1,000-horsepower luxury electric sedan.
By many accounts in major media including Reuters, the Lucid Air should already be on the road. Rawlinson says the company was misquoted about the timing. Regardless, Lucid now has more than $1 billion in its coffers via an investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Moreover, Lucid is now committed to late 2020 for the market introduction of the Air.
That first $100,000-plus vehicle is just the beginning of a much bigger vision. InsideEVs sat down with Rawlinson, Lucid’s chief technology officer, yesterday to learn more.
“I’m playing a chess game here with Lucid. It's not about a single product,” he said.
While the Air will offer the option of a battery pack providing more than 400 miles of range, Rawlinson believes that EVs need to move to “a different paradigm” beyond ever-bigger batteries. He said the key is Lucid’s in-house technology expertise, including production and design of small, highly efficient motors and power electronics as well as unprecedented levels of slippery aerodynamics. “It’s not one thing,” said Rawlinson. “It’s everything.”
Five Miles Per Kilowatt-Hour
These advances could mean a jump in efficiency beyond about 3.5 to 4 miles per kilowatt-hour in today’s electric cars. “Within the next few years, Lucid is going to push that to, say, five miles per kilowatt-hour,” he told me.
Rawlinson wants to combine the higher level of efficiency with ubiquitous ultra-fast charging. It will mean using battery chemistry with tolerance against degradation incurred by repeated, regular fast charging. With that in place, Lucid can leverage its partnership with Electrify America supplying a dedicated nationwide network of 350-kW chargers. “We're going to see Electrify America putting fast charge stations on every street corner,” he said. (Every corner!)
Lucid can make a true luxury car that sells below $30,000. “That’s how we change the way that humanity mobilizes itself,” said Rawlinson.
Rawlinson said that with abundant ultra-fast charging, you wouldn’t need anywhere close to 400 miles of range on a single charge. “Why would I want more than 150-mile range because I know I can fast-charge anywhere I go?” he said. “And if I can get five miles per kilowatt hour, then I only need a 30 kilowatt-hour pack.”
Rawlinson became animated when considering the possibility of an ultra-efficient, ultra-luxury EV with a 30-kWh pack – and, critically, the price of batteries dropping to $100 per kWh (as they are expected to do). “My god, that’s $3,000 at the cell level and about $4,500 at the pack level. That’s going to be the revolution,” he said. “And that's going to be upon us in five to six years.”
Rawlinson said that’s when Lucid can make a true luxury car that sells below $30,000. “That's how we change the way that humanity mobilizes itself,” he said. “That's what drives me. It’s that long-term strategy.”
However, Rawlinson said that before Lucid can get there, the company first needs to create brand cachet with a vehicle that’s a “technological tour de force.” He added, “That's Lucid Air.”
Lucid is expected to break ground on its factory in Casa Grande, Ariz. by mid-2019. Rawlinson believes that the current EV market lacks a legitimate luxury vehicle. He praised Tesla cars as “disruptive and very innovative,” but said the interior “disappoints and is a little bit on the utilitarian side.” Rawlinson said the Lucid Air is not targeting Tesla customers but is aimed at the broad $100 billion annual market for large, luxury sedans, such as the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series.