This is the Air, a new high-end EV made by a company called Lucid Motors. Apart from being supremely luxurious, as the company claims, it’s also got more than 1,000hp and its batteries are rated to deliver some 830 kilometres of range between charges.
Those numbers, even in 2020, are something that makes us take pause. The car overall is also quite beautiful, making the Tesla Model S look positively ancient if one happens to be parked next to it. Inside, the Air has been engineered to give passengers an unequalled limousine-like experience that blends contemporary aesthetics and materials with futuristic controls and ergonomic concepts.
This is the first electric vehicle in a long time that genuinely seems like it deserves to have its engineering and design innovations taken seriously. It’s hope for the future that the automotive industry; embracing the (boring) democratising aspects of electric vehicles while still pushing the envelope.
That sleek shape is key to achieving a maximum electric range, of course, to which the Air is well equipped with a drag coefficient of just 0.21. That, and the fact that a huge 110kWh battery (sourced from Samsung SDI) can be specified doesn’t hurt either, all of which rests on Lucid’s own Electric Advanced Platform (LEAP).
At the very top of the range, the Lucid Air Dream Edition comes with all the tech goodies that Lucid can think to stuff in there, but it also boasts two electric motors for all-wheel drive and that bonkers 1,080hp power figure, able to shoot it from rest to 100km/h in 2.5 seconds. Top speed for customer versions have not been finalised but the car has been confirmed to reach 378km/h during testing. It's a rocketship, basically.
Each variant of the Air will also support DC fast charging through a CCS port, allowing roughly 480km of range to be replenished after plugging in for just 20 minutes - I could live with that. Along the car’s body there are also 32 sensors that help it paint a digital picture of its surroundings for both fully-autonomous and semi-autonomous driving functions, comprising of LIDAR, RADAR, ultrasonic, proximity, and camera data feeds.
To play into its strengths as a silent but also surreally rapid luxury cruiser, each Air aptly comes with air suspension as standard and features regenerative valve technology and proprietary calibration work to ensure class-leading ride quality.
Inside, the car is made to let as much natural ambience into the cabin. A lot of sunlight is great, if only in theory. In spite of its low slung silhouette, this is a very ‘Air-y’ environment thanks to clever packaging, a roof that’s mostly glass (sunburns incoming), and the floor-mounted battery array. Up front, the dashboard experience is dominated by the curved 34-inch 5K display that continuously links the digital instrument cluster with infotainment, but there’s also a retractable secondary screen that manages vehicle and HVAC controls.
Lucid Motors is far from a household name and one that you might not have heard about until this past sentence. However, the first-ever car to emerge from this fledging Californian EV startup is poised to be a something of a giant-killer.
Naturally, that’s assuming we all agree to label Tesla as this proverbial Giant, a company that’s had been a roller coaster of high profile investments, lawsuits, as well as having been comically overvalued and undervalued in its relatively brief history. What’s undeniable is their status as the most impactful EV company to date, and one that’s primarily responsible for renewed consumer interest in the category.
Lucid isn’t jealous of that, or at least hides that side of it well. The Newark-based firm was initially set up to develop high-end battery tech before any ambitions of becoming an automaker themselves started to form. With its founding in 2007 under the Atieva name, this makes Lucid just 4 years younger than their closest rival.
It’s been a long journey to their first production car, and since 2016 the Air has been gestating in prototype form, patiently being perfected for its eventual launch. It’s also clear that Lucid Motors doesn’t want the Air to be a typical Silicon Valley first-generation vaporware. In its first swing, it’s aiming to outdo the Tesla Model S as well as more established luxury saloon cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
The car itself is already mighty impressive, which we've covered, but it’s important to observe just how antithetical Lucid’s approach is to Tesla’s. By all indications, the Air seen here is ‘fully baked’ and meticulously crafted - not merely a show piece to drum up more investment/pre-order money.
The company has also gone through significant pains to secure the foundations for a successful mass production rollout via a sprawling US$700 million factory and research centre in Casa Grande, Arizona with a projected full capacity to produce up to 380,000 cars with 2,000 employees within.
Condensing the pure potential of the Lucid Air requires a somewhat tenuous analogy. It’s like the iPhone of electric vehicles in terms of how potentially disruptive it could be. That historic Apple product wasn’t far from the first smartphone, much like the Air isn’t the first EV of this type, but it is one that presents itself as a highly polished and thought-out product, which is a rarer occurrence than you might think.
It’s not just Tesla who should be worried here, it’s Mercedes-Benz with their EQ cars, Audi’s e-tron, BMW i, and Jaguar's...well, just the I-PACE for now. Lucid Motors have so far made all the right moves, having been very strategic and calculating up until now, where we are on the cusp of the Air reaching full production. And this is just the start of their road map.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.