2019 Lucid Air First Look: Electro-Demon
Is it vaporware? An electric 200-mph Tucker? Our crystal balls aren’t clear enough to say for sure, but right there in the Javits Center Crystal Palace concourse sat not one but two Lucid Air prototypes. One looking all auto show prepped—sleek, luxurious, and beautifully appointed—the other all full of bugs and roll cage tubing, fresh from a top-speed stability test on the 7.5-mile oval test track at Ohio’s Transportation Research Center where it reportedly hit its electronically governed top speed of 217 mph (350 km/h).
With Tesla setting 0-60-mph records, a new electric startup—particularly one staffed with several Tesla alumni—needs some other way to distinguish itself in the performance realm. Why not top speed? After all, there are places in the world where wealthy people can legally drive at extremely high speeds. Might some of them prefer to do so without trailing a plume of earth-choking CO2? Lucid Motors Inc. hopes so.
Very few technical details have been divulged yet, but it is patently clear that the only way an electric car is going to achieve that type of speed and also nip around town with alacrity is by employing multiple gear ratios. How many is unclear, but any motor sized to provide reasonable acceleration in town would centrifuge itself into a zillion pieces at the rotational speeds that would correspond with 217 mph using a direct-drive transmission found in a Tesla. Geared properly, such a car equipped with a motor and transaxle at both ends delivering a combined total of 1,000 hp might even be capable of setting some quarter-mile records.
That is indeed the setup Lucid promises for its flagship model, which it claims will also achieve an EPA range of 400 miles (none of them at 217 mph). Also announced at New York was a base price for the entry-level 400-hp 240-mile-range Air model: $60,000 ($52,500 after the federal tax credit). Deliveries from the factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, are promised in 2019, with 10,000 cars being built in the first 12 months, and production ramping up to 130,000 by 202, when the factory is fully staffed to its 2,000-person target. You can even preorder an Air right now by visiting www.lucidmotors.com/car/reserve.
Is high-speed operation naturally at odds with the concept of a green electric car? Lucid says no, pointing out that electric motor efficiency doesn’t drop off at nearly the same rate that combustion engines do when you approach the point of their peak output. And the measures taken to maximize range—aero optimization, friction minimization, etc.—all improve the car’s ability to reach a high top speed. The company claims that its Air model will achieve a combined efficiency rating that exceeds 100 mpg-e.