Lucid Motors may have a “range anxiety” killer on its hands.
The Newark, California-based startup announced that its forthcoming all-electric sedan, the Lucid Air, will have an eye-popping range of 517 miles. That means that when the Air eventually goes on sale — a production version is expected to make its debut in September, but customer deliveries aren’t scheduled until early 2021 — Lucid claims it will be “the longest range electric vehicle to date.”
Currently, that title is held by the aptly named Tesla Model S Long Range, which can travel an Environmental Protection Agency-certified distance of 402 miles on a single charge. Most electric vehicles on the market today have a range that falls between 200-300 miles, while some have less than that. The upcoming crop of EVs is aiming to have a range of 300-400 miles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the next-generation Tesla Roadster, which is expected to go into production in 2021, will have a range of 620 miles. Tesla has also promised 500 miles of range for its Semi trucks, though the 18-wheeler has yet to enter production.
So it would be a pretty big feather in its cap for Lucid Motors, a startup that first revealed its prototype back in 2016, to release an EV with over 500 miles of range. Lucid Motors CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson, who led development of the Model S when he worked for Elon Musk, has said the Air will outmatch Tesla in terms of interior luxury, accelerate from zero to 60mph in 2.5 seconds, and start at more than $100,000.
The company said that the Air’s “independent range verification” was done by a company called FEV North America, an automotive powertrain and engineering company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. FEV works in the design and development of engines, and it provides testing and instrumentation to auto manufacturers. The company’s verification process “closely follows” the EPA’s standard testing procedure, Lucid says.
Electric vehicle range is typically determined independently by the EPA, as well as Europe’s Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). WLTP estimates are typically more optimistic than the EPA.
In a statement, Rawlinson called it “a landmark in the history of EV” and thanks the company’s engineering team. “I believe that our 900-volt architecture, our race proven battery packs, miniaturized motors and power electronics, integrated transmission systems, aerodynamics, chassis and thermal systems, software, and overall system efficiency has now reached a stage where it collectively sets a new standard and delivers a host of ‘world’s firsts,’” Rawlinson said.
Lucid was planning to unveil the Air at the New York International Auto Show in April, but that event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the company has been releasing tidbits of information about the all-electric sedan as it builds to a virtual unveiling event in September. It published photos of its factory under construction in Arizona and released videos of the Air being put through winter testing as well as making the 400-mile journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles on a single charge. The company also released details about its LIDAR-powered advanced driver assist system, DreamDrive.
The Verge first got to experience the Air in prototype form in 2016. Like many other EV startups, Lucid Motors almost ran out of money as it tried to bring the sedan to production, and it took on loans from a hedge fund and a Chinese bus company to stay afloat. The company ultimately received a massive $1 billion lifeline from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund just a few weeks before the Kingdom had Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed.
“Range anxiety” is often defined as a nebulous dread some customers may have that an electric vehicle may not be able to handle all the driving they want to do before running out of power. It’s often held up as a barrier to widespread EV adoption. More people would buy EVs, the reasoning goes, if they had greater confidence in the charging infrastructure or the range of the vehicle.
As such, there is a bit of an international arms race going on to see who can make an electric vehicle that can travel the farthest on a single charge. There have been a host of startups clamoring for a battery breakthrough that will improve the range of their vehicles while also extending their life spans. And all eyes are sure to be on Tesla, which is planning on hosting a “battery day” in September to outline its advances in battery tech.