Lucid Air has taken over most of the automotive blogs today with its debut at the New York International Auto Show. Two models were on display: the Lucid Air luxury electric sedan and the Alpha Speed Car, a test vehicle that has just completed its first high-speed stability test at 217 m.p.h.
To be used to evaluate maximum performance limits, the Alpha Speed Car initially assessed vehicle stability and powertrain thermal management. The test, software-limited to 217 m.p.h. (350km/h), allowed the team to correlate computer simulation models with real-world performance. Now engineers will use the assembled data to refine thermal and aerodynamic computer simulations and to make further performance improvements. More Alpha Speed Car testing will take place later this year at higher speeds, as the Lucid Air expects to compete with vehicles that achieve high-speed cruising.
How do the Lucid Air and the Tesla Model S compare?
With former Tesla Model S chief engineer, Peter Rawlinson as Lucid Motors’ CTO and other former Model S engineers like Eric Bach on the Lucid Motors payroll, comparisons between the two companies are inevitable. Let’s examine each company’s premium car as a way to understand how the emergence of the Lucid Air may affect the Tesla brand as well as the all-electric luxury sedan marketplace. And we’ll assign a winner to each category for a little fun. Let’s go!
In 2012, Tesla launched Model S, the world’s first premium electric sedan. Built as an all-electric vehicle, the Model S provides seating for up to seven passengers with more than 64 cubic feet of storage and four doors. It also achieves the dual purpose of providing the acceleration of a sports car: 0 to 60 mph in about five seconds, according to company statements. Depending on how it is configured, the Tesla Model S has anywhere from 382 to 691 horsepower.
First unveiled in December 2016, the Lucid Air is also an all-electric sedan. Offering what Lucid Motors in a press release calls “a full-size interior space in a mid-size exterior footprint,” it has 1,000 horsepower. (The base Lucid Air will feature a 400-horsepower motor.) Deliveries will begin in 2019.
The Winner: Tesla— it’s got the premium car panache, the spaciousness one expects of a luxury sedan, and the gravitas of both speed and reliability.
Teslas are produced at a factory in Fremont, California. It has provided thousands of jobs to the area and is capable of producing 2,000 cars per week. Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) delivered just over 25,000 vehicles in Q1, 2017, of which approximately 13,450 were the Model S.
The Lucid Air will be manufactured in Casa Grande, Arizona starting in 2019. The Lucid (NASDAQ: LCDX) factory is expected to build 10,000 vehicles in its first 12 months, according to the company. By 2022, the company projects that the factory will have 2,000 full-time employees, with plans to manufacture up to 130,000 vehicles annually.
The Winner: Tesla — As we know, projections are grounded in fragile variables and factors beyond individual human control. The Fremont factory is a sure thing, a proven production facility with vehicles coming off the assembly line every day. Will Lucid Motors someday achieve similar or even better results? Perhaps. But 2019 and 2022 are a long way off in our immediate gratification society, and many influences may affect Lucid’s production by then.
The 2017 Tesla Model S-75 base model, as of April 17, will cost $74,500, including delivery and fees.
The company reveals that the Lucid Air is priced from $52,500 after federal tax credits.
The Winner: Lucid — With a +/- $20,000 differential, the Lucid Air may be able to capture luxury sedan buyers who needed a bit more convincing that an electric vehicle is a viable mode of transportation. Having a bit more green in one’s pocket can be quite persuasive.
Driving assistance technology:
The Tesla Model S comes with Autopilot capabilities designed to make “highway driving not only safer but stress free,” according to company materials. The Model S has “the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver.” Its active technologies include collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, which have begun rolling out through over-the-air updates.
The premium Lucid Air will be autonomous-ready, according to company press materials. Rawlinson revealed to Autoblog that the Lucid Air will be equipped with hardware for Level 4/5 autonomy through a sensor suite of cameras, short- and long-range radar, and lidar. Lucid is partnering with Mobileye, another Tesla discard, for its autonomous system. An over-the-air download will provide the necessary software for autonomous driving at the appropriate time.
The Winner: It’s a draw. With so many regulatory and ethical dilemmas around autonomous driving, the auto industry may find, by necessity, that it will need to move in driver assist technology directions not currently under consideration. Time will tell on this one.
The flat battery pack of the Tesla Model S is integrated into the chassis. It sits below the occupant cabin, lending the car a low center of gravity that invites what the company says is “outstanding road holding and handling.” It holds approximately 265 miles per charge.
A larger battery, capable of storing large quantities of energy, can release energy at a greater rate, according to Lucid press materials. During an interview conducted by Autoblog, Rawlinson explained that the Lucid Air battery pack has standard capacity of 100-kWh, with the option of a 130-kWh pack that offers a driving range of 400 miles. Rawlinson related show the battery is engineered to be able to tolerate repeated fast-charging and to help extend its lifespan. The battery is placed in otherwise unused spaces in the car to maximize usable volume. It has approximately 400 miles of range.
The Winner: Lucid— but only because of its capacity for more range. So many consumers express range anxiety as they consider an EV purchase. That makes the 135 miles of extra range very appealing. But Tesla’s battery storage design infuses a dimension of safety that may trump the extra range of the Lucid. Is range really preferable to safety? Hhmm. And that brings us to…
The Tesla Model S was named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year and achieved a 5-star safety rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In preparation for production, Lucid Air Alpha prototypes continually underwent what the company referred to as a “rigorous development program.” Lucid has designated one of these test prototypes as a high-performance test vehicle and has installed a roll-cage for safety purposes.
The Winner: Tesla — As in all those Formula One wind tunnel tests, there’s nothing like having the data from actual drivers. The Tesla Model S has a huge amount of data derived from drivers who have had to maneuver unexpected weather, road conditions, and traffic incidents. Someday the Lucid Air may prove to be safe and reliable. But real world safety performance has to win out right now.
The Tesla Model S can be viewed at any number of retail showrooms around the world.
If you’d like to see the Lucid Air for yourself, it will be on display in the Crystal Palace during the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center, April 14-23, 2017.
The Winner: Only you can decide which vehicle is the sweetest on the eyes. But check one out and determine for yourself which all-electric vehicle in this comparison, the Tesla Model S or the Lucid Air, would win your side-by-side comparison.