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2022 Lucid Air luxury electric sedan could be the best car in the world by the middle of next year

NEWARK, California – By mid-2022, the Lucid Air luxury electric sedan could be the best car in the world.

After a day of driving the new electric vehicle and another tour of Lucid’s Silicon Valley HQ / Tech Center, I am convinced that the fast, elegant and progressive Air like the iPhone is one of those rare products that will not only be successful: It will change its industry, inspiring customers to ask for more and forcing companies to do better.

Just like the original iPhone, which inspired jokes that it can do anything but make calls, the Lucid Air didn’t roll out of the factory perfectly on day one.

I can’t dismiss the early production Lucid EV software bugs. A automaker’s number one directive is to produce vehicles that open their doors and drive on the first try, just as a phone struggling with audio calls is flawed no matter how wonderful its other capabilities are.

But five years from now, no one will remember the faulty door handles I saw in early production vehicles.

Five years from now, countless buyers are expected – and other automakers better hope they can keep up – things that the Lucid Air is doing brilliantly today.

Tireless innovation

At a time when many automakers were buying off-the-shelf components for developing electric vehicles, Lucid, a Silicon Valley-based startup, didn’t hesitate to rethink not only what an electric car can do, but also basic vehicle functions.

Some of its innovative features:

  • EPA-rated maximum range of 516 miles for a fee in the long-haul model.
  • Headlights that look around corners and shift focus without a single moving part.
  • The ability to get a 300 mile charge in 20 minutes.
  • Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 2.41 seconds for the 1,111 hp performance model, which can still travel 451 miles on one charge.
  • The most aerodynamic body of all current production vehicles: 0.20 cD or drag coefficient. Of course, lower is better.
  • Batteries and motors that weigh less but generate more power so the Air can go further and faster than the competition.

The Lucid Air makes EVs from the world’s leading automakers and Tesla, the EV industry’s 500-pound gorilla, look a bit amateurish.

“What is the value of buying everything from outside suppliers?” Asked Peter Rawlinson, Lucid CEO and Chief Technical Officer, over lunch.

“You have to develop your own EV technology. You can’t buy this technology. Nobody has ever done that before.

“Innovate and use this to increase efficiency. Every kilo saved gives you around 100 meters (more) of range. “

A dream and a plan

When Rawlinson interviewed Eric Bach – now Lucid’s vice president and chief engineer, then a rising star at Volkswagen – he asked for a sketch of the most efficient EV system Bach could imagine. The unusual approach heralded exciting new challenges, said Bach, who left the security of a career in Wolfsburg for the stormy life of a Silicon Valley startup.

“The goal was to advance the state of the art in the electric car,” said Rawlinson, who was previously Tesla VP of Engineering and vehicle engineer for the revolutionary Model S.

“This is necessary to accelerate acceptance: eliminate fear of range, then make (the vehicles) affordable.”

It is this vision that makes the Lucid Air – $ 169,000 for the 520-unit Dream Edition – more than just another technician’s toy.

Honestly, with 1,111 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and the curb presence of chauffeuring George Clooney in the Batmobile, $ 169,000 is a deal, but Rawlinson said prices will drop quickly. A rear-wheel drive, 400-mile range model called the Air Pure should be available for $ 77,400 in the second half of 2022. Still a lot of money, but thousands of people are paying more for pickups every day. All prices are without government incentives, which are currently in flux.

Lucid expects to add a second model in 2023, an SUV called Gravity. A volume price – in this context maybe $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 base price? – Model follows.

The company already has assembly and battery plants in Arizona. Expect more as the lineup and number of markets Lucid sells increase. The company expects sales in Europe in mid-2022, followed by China in 2023.

What makes the Lucid Air so special? Own development of software, power electronics, battery pack, motors, body, lighting and drive unit.

Lucid Air, finalist for Car of the Year 2022, takes the stage at the 2021 LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California in November.Lucid Air, finalist for Car of the Year 2022, takes the stage at the 2021 LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California in November.(FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images)

Driving the clear air

With all the innovation, the Lucid Air has a short learning curve. The doors lock when you walk away and – usually – unlock and wake the vehicle when you approach with a trailer.

For a car with LED headlights with 9,000 microlenses so they can adjust direction with no moving parts, the controls on the Air are refreshingly familiar. There’s no start button, but levers on the steering wheel select gears and control washing / wiping in a completely intuitive way.

The control of temperature and fan as well as audio volume and tuning are just as easy and are controlled via switches, buttons or rollers.

The Air’s center console-mounted touchscreen offers a number of customizations, including drive mode, brake regeneration, brake hold, and probably far more than I’ve experienced on my 175 mile drive, but nothing affected the things most drivers want to do frequently or while the air is in motion.

Several of the world’s top-selling automakers could learn a lot from Lucid’s interface expertise.

The dynamics of the Air are also straightforward. The steering is direct and offers good feedback. The 50/50 weight distribution front / rear and the electronically controlled all-wheel drive ensure predictable, stable driving behavior on winding mountain roads and during straight acceleration.

The output is immediate and immense. It’s hard to imagine that a Lucid driver would want more without activating the full 1,111 hp of the performance model.

The mechanical independent wheel suspension cushions bumps well and prevents crouching and diving under heavy braking.

I spent most of my ride on the highest level of regenerative braking. It effectively provided one-pedal braking; the rain alone brought the car to a stop under almost all conditions, i barely touched the brake pedal.

‘Small outside; inside big ‘

The interior is surprisingly spacious, given the Air’s low roofline and length of 195.9 inches – just 1.3 inches longer than a Toyota Camry TRD. This is thanks to a design that takes full advantage of EV chassis technology. The front overhang is short – no bulky engine or gearbox required. The same applies to the rear, where one of the compact Lucid electric motors is placed over the side of the battery pack. All of this means more space for the passenger compartment.

“We designed the car from the inside out,” said Rawlinson. “It has more legroom than a Mercedes S-Class with a long wheelbase, but it is shorter than a Tesla Model S. I wanted the interior of a luxury car, but a short overall length so that it was fun to drive.”

The exterior design also takes advantage of the electric vehicle’s unique mechanical layout. Short front and rear overhangs combine with a long roof line to create a profile that is reminiscent of the unusual proportions of French luxury cars such as the classic Citroen DS and the less fondly remembered Renault Avantime.

High-quality materials are used in the interior, including open-pored wooden elements and perforated leather upholstery. A fabric that covers a large part of the interior is made from a sustainably sourced mix of alpaca wool and recycled pop bottles. The first Dream Edition has a continuous glass roof that is reminiscent of an airplane roof. Its shading – and a perfectly placed sun visor – kept me from squinting my eyes or getting too warm.

Synthetic suede wraps the pillar and the little roof is not glass.

In progress

A couple of glitches – all probably software-driven – occurred when I and three other North American Car of the Year judges spent driving a number of Air Dream Editions.

Rear automatic braking brought the cars I was driving to a halt a couple of times due to phantom obstacles. The Alexa-supported speech recognition is not yet ready for use. Two journalists were locked out of their test car when a key fob was broken.

Not a crisis when you’ve got the CEO’s personal mechanic on the speed dial, but enough to seriously improve a normal driver’s day – or even one dropping $ 169,000 on a new set of wheels. The company’s engineers say over-the-air updates will fix them shortly.

But people are buying the cars today. I can’t ignore these early manufacturing flaws, but they shouldn’t dazzle anyone for the brilliance of Lucid Air and everything the company has already accomplished. It’s an extraordinary car, possibly a historic one.

The Lucid Air’s short-term shortcomings will keep it from getting my vote for the North American Car of the Year 2022, but the future looks bright in the longer term. In the unlikely event that I get to vote on the car of the 21st century in 80 years, I’ll be surprised if it’s not in the race.

Two EV charging stations at Cinemark West Plano and XD in Plano.The 2021 Ford F-150.

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