Lucid, one of the few electric car makers that looks like it’ll actually produce an electric car, announced this morning that it expects to get a range of 517 miles when the EPA certifies the range of its luxury car later this year.
That is way more range than any competitor, even Tesla. Back in 2017 when we got a ride around Las Vegas in an early build of the Air, Lucid was claiming a range goal of 400 miles, which was a lot for 2017. But even by 2020 standards 517 eclipses all the competition. How did Lucid do it?
“Efficiency,” said company CEO Peter Rawlinson. “The really important thing here is we haven’t done it with a humungous battery.”
Rawlinson said any carmaker could get big range figures just by adding an absurdly huge battery pack. The Lucid Air will have “less than 130 kWh” of battery, Rawlinson said. He is not saying the exact size for “competitive reasons,” but says that 130 kWh was the battery size they thought they’d need to make the 400 miles of range they thought they’d get back in 2017.
Those “efficiencies” are present in all facets of the Air. The car operates on a 900-volt system, for instance, which lessens losses to heat, for one thing; the car makes just a fifth of the heat losses it was making three years ago. With fewer heat losses, the openings on the body for cooling are also reduced, which helps contribute to the Air’s also-remarkable 0.21 coefficient of drag.
Rawlinson is an engineer at heart and so lapses into technical speak easily. Hold on for a paragraph or two of that and pay attention here:
“And the other thing we’ve done is we’ve linked that (900-volt system) with our inverter which controls the motor drivers,” he said. “We’ve gone to a silicon carbide MOSFET type inverter (Metal Oxide Silicon Field Effect Transistor), we dispensed with the old IGBT (insulated-gate bipolar transistor). So when you last saw the car (in 2017), it was at 400 volts with IGBTs. Now we’ve got over 900 volts with silicon carbide MOSFETs technology. And it’s a world of difference in terms of neural efficiency in a combination. So it’s a much more, much more efficient system.”
“We’re actually making the battery pack smaller, and it’s a considerably smaller package to get the 517-mile range and that’s why I’m thrilled now. And also, by doing it with efficiency, not with a humongous batttery, it also paves the way for us to make another version of it, which is maybe just about 380 miles range, but with a mixture of the proportionately smaller battery pack, which will be lighter and more cost effective, and we can carry those savings on to the customer.”
They can also sell or license that technology to other EV makers, which Rawlinson says he plans to do at some point.
One thing of which Rawlinson is particularly proud is that the technology — from the motors to the inverters to the batteries — were all developed in-house by Lucid, not bought off the shelf as many other EV makers are doing.
“It’s unbelievable that Porsche, even the mighty Porsche, buys its powertrain. It’s not its own in-house tech. It’s unbelievable, the man in the street is just oblivious to this. And the leader, the big beast of EVs, is Tesla and it does it all in-house. And so we’re taking it to another level, I believe. I know that we have more than 15% better efficiency (than Tesla) with our own in-house technology-complete system. Now, with just our own team, we’re really pushing the envelope in every aspect of this.”
There’s a lot going on at Lucid and Rawlinson is excited to tell the world about it.
The first cars will come with Lucid’s DreamDrive advanced driver-assistance system, “a unique combination of a sensor suite that includes Lidar and a driver-monitoring system, all of which will come standard on the launch Dream Edition (due in spring 2021). There’s a lot in that system, including; 32 sensors, 14 cameras, five radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors and one Lidar. Those cars will offer Level 3 autonomy, Lucid says.
Lucid further says its DreamDrive will “leverage HD mapping and a first-of-its-kind Ethernet Ring as part of its electric architecture to ensure full redundancy on key functions, with over-the-air updates on all systems including ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) over the life of the car. With DreamDrive, Lucid has focused its efforts to a system that contributes to a driver’s overall comfort, safety, and control of the vehicle.”
The company had also announced its first 20 North American dealers, from Silicon Valley and L.A. to New York and Miami. Cars will be sold direct-to-consumer, like Tesla.
Lucid is about done building its new factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, where about 1,200 employees work now developing the Air. About 160 employees were hired in the last few months alone with the goal of adding another 700 by year’s end.
Lucid’s next vehicle will be an SUV, Rawlinson said. It will cost less than the Air, but will still be over $100,000. After that, Rawlinson sees the ability to further shrink the efficiencies and make an electric car the size of a VW Golf that will sell for less than $25,000 — and be profitable for the manufacturer. He says Lucid can do that by increasing the Air’s 4 miles per kWh to 5 miles per kWh.
But it’s the E word to which Rawlinson always returns.
“It’s the efficiency. It’s the compactness of the design for mass production. It’s those three things: efficiency, compactness and designed for mass production. Those are the things that I’m really focused on, efficiency to get the incredible range without a humongous battery pack. That gives us that flexibility for moves on the chessboard in the future to create a more modest, more real, real world range. Most people think 350 miles range is pretty damn good. They’re not gonna use much more than that on an average day. So with that you have a smaller battery pack and use that technology for more affordable cars. That’s the vision.”
Next up: Witness the Lucid Air’s online unveiling Sept. 9. Air production begins by the end of the year. Cars should be in showrooms in spring. See you then!