The unconventional strategy used by Lucid is quickly defeating Tesla.
Peter Rawlinson resigned from his position as lead engineer for the Tesla Model S in 2012, after having held that position since 2008. He sat on the sidelines and watched as his invention launched an entire sector of the economy. But in 2019, Rawlinson was promoted to the position of chief executive officer of Lucid Motors, and ever since then, the company has only become stronger.
In fact, Lucid is already posing a challenge to Tesla’s position as the technology leader in the EV game, and because of the novel strategy they use, they may soon be able to undercut Tesla’s pricing. However, how? And does Tesla have any cause for concern?
Let’s begin by taking a look at what Lucid is doing at this very moment. In the third quarter of 2022, Lucid announced that they had made 1,400 cars and had preorders for them worth $199.5 million. Keep in mind that Tesla has only started delivering vehicles since October 2021, so this is still a long way off from the enormous numbers that the company has achieved.
As a consequence of this, this indicates an increase in lightspeed that is unparalleled even by Tesla. So why are individuals in such a hurry to purchase their vehicles? Because they completely dominate their rivals in every aspect.
Consider going with the Lucid Air Sapphire.
This interior configuration of the Air is just incredible. Because it has 1,200 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 1.89 seconds, it is both more powerful and quicker than the well-known Model S (with its 1,020 horsepower and 0–60 mph time of 1.9 seconds). However, the Model S Plaid has a maximum charging capacity of just 250 kW and can only go 390 miles on a single charge.
This benchmark is easily surpassed by the Sapphire, which has an incredible range of 520 miles and a maximum charging rate of 300 kW, which enables it to acquire a charge equivalent to 300 miles in only 20 minutes. Now, the Plaid is much more affordable than the Sapphire, coming in at $129,990 as opposed to the Sapphire’s price of $249,000, which is comparable to that of a supercar. On the other hand, the build quality of the Air is far higher than that of the Model S.
In addition, the Plaid seems to have much worse handling compared to the Sapphire, which has been characterized as having a “Lotus-like” quality. In any case, Sapphire has now supplanted Plaid as the holder of the title of “Best EV.”
But Lucid is known for more than simply making vehicles with exorbitant price tags. Think of it as a clean breeze. Despite having 480 horsepower, a 0–60 mph speed of 4 seconds, and a range of 410 miles, this trim level is just $87,400 more expensive than the base model.
That is a significant discount compared to the Tesla Model S Long Range, which has a similar size and costs $104,990. The Model S Long Range has a range of 405 miles, 534 horsepower, a 0–60 time of 3.8 seconds, and a charging speed of 250 kW. However, the charging speed is significantly slower than that of the Air. When compared to the Tesla, the quality of the Air is simply on another level.
Fans of quick electric vehicles and buyers with sound judgment have purchased a significant number of Airs, which is not surprising given these facts. How, therefore, has Lucid been able to achieve such a high level of performance at such an affordable cost? However, in contrast to every other manufacturer available, they have taken the opposite approach.
There is a competition going on right now to develop the most advanced electric vehicle battery. Companies like Volkswagen are putting billions of dollars into new battery companies in order to get battery packs that charge quickly, are light, and are affordable. This line of thinking makes sense since the battery is the main thing that limits the range of most electric cars.
It slows the rate at which the battery can be charged, limits the amount of mileage that can be traveled on a single charge, and is the primary contributor to the high price of the batteries. However, Lucid employs LG Chem 21700 batteries, which are the same cells that Tesla has been using in its Model S, Model X, and Model 3 since 2017! So how exactly has Lucid been successful where Tesla has failed?
They’ve really optimized everything else, haven’t they? The Lucid has a one-of-a-kind permanent magnet motor that is not only very powerful but also very efficient and light. They have put the batteries into a design that operates at 900 volts, which is far higher than Tesla’s 375 volts. Because of this, the battery is able to charge more quickly, there are fewer losses in the drive train, and the thermal load on the cooling systems is decreased, all of which contribute to an improvement in range. But even though Lucid’s battery technology is a bit old, the rest of the vehicle is very close to being perfect.
However, the supply chain for 21700 is already developed and able to keep up with Lucid’s demand, which enables the company to expand quite rapidly. In addition, the price of these cells will continue to decrease as the number of enterprises that employ 21700s decreases. Although the change isn’t huge, it’s enough to be noticeable.
After Lucid has been scaled, they will be able to take this wonderful technology and fit it into a cheaper package, similar to what Tesla achieved with the Model 3 and Model Y. If we use the Air Pure as a point of reference, we can see that such a vehicle has the potential to be a very powerful contender for the Model 3. And just so you remember, this is being done with an older-model battery!
There are several batteries on the horizon with ridiculously high performance that will also be substantially cheaper, such as CATL’s sodium-ion cells (for more information, go here), or BYD’s Blade Battery (read more here). Although the energy density of these batteries is lower in comparison to that of the 21700 batteries that Lucid is using at the moment, it is possible that this will not be an issue for Lucid.
If Tesla were to transition to these batteries, they wouldn’t be able to pack enough cells into the battery compartment to get the same level of driving range as they do with their current setup. But since Lucid is so much more efficient, even in a much more compact car, it could still be able to acquire a range of more than 300 miles from one of these batteries. Therefore, Lucid is one of the few manufacturers that are able to use these ridiculously cheap cells and, as a result, can sell vehicles at prices that are far lower than those offered by Tesla.
I really like how Lucid approaches the creation of electric vehicles. First of all, you can tell that the individual who was responsible for the design of the Model S was the one who worked on it since it has the same emphasis on increasing efficiency rather than having a better battery pack, just as the Model S did all those years ago.
In all honesty, what Rawlinson is doing is just the same as what he has done before. However, this indicates that Lucid is going to have the same kind of technical edge that Tesla has had over the course of the last ten years since it will take the competitors several years to equal their level of productivity. In that amount of time, Lucid will most certainly get some next-generation batteries, which will put them in a different league.
Again, this is what Tesla did to earn its technology edge; the only difference is that Lucid is doing it better and faster than Musk did. Therefore, if there was ever a firm that was deserving of the name “Tesla Killer,” it would have to be Lucid.