Part 2: Lucid Motors Engineering Details
Lucid AIR – Defining Future Luxury Part 1 on AlphaLuxe described the Lucid Vision, Strategy, and Brand.
Now, we delve a little deeper into their engineering and luxury technology…
The Lucid Air is constructed with a high ratio of 5000/6000/7000 grade aluminum; higher than the Model S. A major structural difference is that Lucid engineered the Air for the IIHS ‘small overlap frontal crash test’ in mind, which is intended to improve frontal crash protection.
The Tesla Model S was never engineered for that. So while the Model S exceeded older safety ratings, it has not achieved the highest ratings for the new standards. The Air was designed for the ‘small overlap frontal crash test’ from the outset, and will have exceptional crash and safety performance.
While aluminum has weight saving benefits, it is pricier in terms of repair costs. Lucid plans to engineer vulnerable components for ease of replacement, as well as start off with a direct-to-consumer service support structure, to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.
Lucid Motors Chief Technical Officer, Peter Rawlinson, is confident that their approach to engineering is with such quality and integrity that the Air will be the most reliable electric vehicle in the market.
The Engineering Beneath
Peter Rawlinson spent a lot of time discussing the details that make this a better car. “There are 1,001 details where we’ve got better technology. I believe we’ve got better drivetrain technology, our battery technology is more advanced, our motor technology, our inverter power electronics is considerably ahead of where Tesla is today. But the big differentiator is the package and the layout of the car – by re-imagining the car and the layout using the miniaturization of the powertrain as a tool like no one else has done,” Rawlinson said.
Lucid started out at a battery development company back in 2007, under the name Atieva, before they started developing a plan for a production vehicle. Considering their background, it’s no surprise the Air’s battery provides best-in-class energy density, repeated fast charging, and up to 400 miles of range. Hooked up to twin motors in the front and the rear, the Lucid packs an incredible 1,000 horsepower.
It also has a physical structure that allows for the interior foot room that Tesla’s flat battery doesn’t. Yes, there’s some cost for that but Peter believes that the space it allows is a differentiator that multiplies and provides a tangible value for the premium consumer.
The suspension is contained on sub-frames, which have an engineered mounting system to the chassis that also takes advantage of directional compliance. The Air’s directional mounts improve the ratio of isolation-to-steer effect over conventional mounts and offer less noise and smoother ride with great stability.
Peter also uses an inverted air spring suspension, which isn’t seen in any production passenger cars today, along with active damping. Inverting the suspensions dampers and spring units will provide a significant reduction in unsprung weight, which translates to a much smoother ride and potentially better grip.
They really do have many details where they’re going that extra mile for a better experience. Added together, they should really elevate the experience of being in this vehicle, whether as a driver or passenger. The Lucid Air name seems quite apropos; in addition to the open air feel it provides, it should also feel like it’s riding on air.
It’s not just cutting edge in the powertrain, either. The drive assist components of the Lucid Air captures an incredible amount of information. Inboard data monitoring systems on the vehicle help assess and identify potential issues. Using this data, the Air is capable of running a “shadow mode,” a mode that mimics autonomous driving, in some fashion.
Shadow Mode pretends it’s driving autonomously while the driver is on the road, comparing the decisions that the software would have made against what the driver has actually made, then determines the consequence of all those actions.
Peter’s view is that true autonomy is going to take many years to develop. In the meantime, Lucid will capture and accrue that data so as to enable their software partners to produce the best technology they can.
How Lucid views potential luxury EV competitors
Lucid sees their main target for market share as the German-dominated luxury segment; a list that includes Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, followed by Porsche and Jaguar.
We’ve already discussed Tesla from a branding perspective, and how it fits into Lucid’s plan. The fledgling automaker doesn’t believe that Tesla is going specifically after the luxury market, and the execution of their vehicles so far shows that.
For a car like the Porsche Mission E, based on what was observed in their current show car, Derek Jenkins believes that Porsche is going for more of a sports car with 4 seats, which will be more compact than Tesla. The Porsche Mission E looks to be a very sporty car, and they’re not going for as much of that comfort or luxury experience.
As for other current luxury automakers, they can certainly move into EVs, but the constraint to the brand heritage will limit how much freedom they will have in development.
Lucid knows they won’t win over everyone, and they’re not trying to. They’re also not trying to be a Tesla “killer” by any means. They think there is plenty of room to co-exist in a shared space.
One of the challenges they will have is just in getting that traditional luxury consumer to shed that focus on tradition and look at luxury a little differently than they’ve been used to – the big car which in their minds equates to more space and more power and smoother ride. It’s a trend that has happened in electronics, with phones, sound systems, etc. Where once, size dominated, compact eventually became the benchmark.
So once the consumer is there, and see/touch/feel/experience it, they’ll understand how the Lucid interior is incredibly different from what they’ve been used to in an automobile of that size.
The Lucid Air is reminiscent of an executive lounge or private jet feel, but in an agile, athletic form. And that’s what Lucid refers to as an intelligent compact vehicle, defining what VP of Design, Derek Jenkins, calls the “future luxury standard”.
VIDEO Lucid AIR Hits 235 mph
The Standard Lucid Air starts at $52,500
Standard Lucid AIR Features
•400 horsepower (rear-wheel drive)
•Autonomous driving hardware
•LED multi-lens array headlights
•Four screens, with interactive-touch surfaces on three
•5-seat configuration with a rear bench seat
•10 advanced airbags
•Over-the-air software updates
Lucid AIR Launch Edition cars will be the first 255 cars off of the production line. These cars will be very well optioned as standard and will be priced over $100,000.
Launch Edition Additional Features
•0–60 mph in 2.5 seconds
•Autonomous driving hardware
•21-inch Lucid-design wheels
•Upgraded audio system
Some features, such as the rear executive seats, cannot yet be confirmed for early production. Launch Edition cars will also have unique colors and badging, signifying their special nature.
I did uncover one secret question, although I was not privy to the answer. I inquired about the 255 vehicles for initial production because it was an odd number. I was told that there is significance of that number, but to be revealed later.
Perhaps something to do with the 2.5 second 0-60?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Jeany Zhao joins us as Contributing Editor. She is an automotive enthusiast from youth, spending time whizzing around local California tracks in her Cayman S and carving up canyons in her free time.
She has worked in pit reporting for the IMSA racing series since 2013, and thoroughly enjoys being around the intensity of race crews, taking in the sweet scent of racing fuel in the air, and seeing the joy of victory and heartbreak of defeat in pit road.
Her corporate background is Research & Technology, and she owns businesses in the automotive industry. She resides in Santa Monica, CA with her Siberian Husky.