Can Lucid Compete With Tesla?

Lucid is showing signs of becoming a credible alternative to Tesla and German luxury vehicles in 2021 and beyond.

Like Tesla, it’s a scrappy startup, it’s aiming initially at a high-end all-electric sedan like Tesla did with the Model S, it’s trying to build a sales and service network in key markets as Tesla did, and, most importantly, is now constructing a factory in Arizona (see this recent Lucid video).

But that hasn’t always been the case.

When Lucid announced the Air in 2017 with a price tag of $60,000, it also boasted about plans for a factory in Arizona.

But those plans were shelved when it couldn’t secure enough funding.

That changed in late 2018 when Lucid secured over $1 billion from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. That investment was completed in April 2019.

“It’s important that we quickly build a factory and get it running for lower volume production starting in late 2020, so the smaller Phase 1 footprint gets us there,” a Lucid spokesperson told me.

“Following that, factory construction will ramp up as we require higher volumes of vehicles to reflect higher volume sales (Phase 2 and beyond),” the spokesperson added.

Volume production of the Air is expected in early 2021.

“We are targeting a production run in the low five figures in 2021,” the spokesperson said.

Lucid is building 80 beta prototypes at its Silicon Valley headquarters, which will be used for testing and validation “for key vehicle dynamics,” as well as crash testing to confirm simulations, the company said last month.

Lucid Air interior.
Lucid Air interior. CREDIT: LUCID MOTORS
Lucid Air.
Lucid Air. CREDIT: LUCID MOTORS

EV startup history is littered with failures

Some of the most notorious flops are Faraday Future, Fisker in its initial iteration, and Dyson (the vacuum cleaner maker), which pulled the plug on its electric vehicle program last year. Add Bright Automotive and Aptera to that list of EV non-starters (via CNBC), among a longer list of unrecognizable names.

So, it’s still not a given that Lucid will succeed. But the company is looking more viable every month.

The production version of the Lucid Air and the specs will be unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April.

A few of the details have already emerged. One of the more interesting is a new 900-volt system for the Lucid Air, according to Electrek.

“Tesla is a 400-volt. Porsche is introducing a 800-volt system. We are going with a over 900-volt system,” Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson told Electrek, adding that the sedan will have a range of over 400 miles.

The Lucid Air will also have autonomous capability with over-the-air software upgrades that will allow the car to transition through progressive levels of autonomy.

The Lucid Air won’t be $60,000 though. At least not initially. The first version will be priced “north of $100,000,” the Lucid spokesperson told me.

“But we are planning models below that mark a year or so after production starts,” he said.

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Correction: the story has been corrected to state that the factory is being constructed in Arizona.

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