“We aim to make not only the best electric car but also the best car in the world.” This may sound somewhat boastful but the chap expressing these words has quite the curriculum vitae to back it up.
Peter Rawlinson began life in South Wales, raised and schooled in the Vale of Glamorgan, later graduating in Engineering at Imperial College, London. Jaguar employed his young talent, where he reached the heights of Principal Engineer before quitting to assist Lotus. During his stint at Hethel, Rawlinson managed to become a stonemason of note, building his own abode along with creating the Imola, the car which inspired the Elise. He decided upon a new challenge with Corus Automotive before being lured to the distant American plains by a fellow with the suitably modest ambition of changing the universe.
Initially sceptical of the new breed of electric cars, Rawlinson did his sums before agreeing to joining Elon Musk’s infant Tesla operation in 2003. Admitting that he put his life and soul into the Model S, (“the car left a mark),” where approximately 70% of that car’s patents carry Rawlinson’s signature, the good times turned sour; Rawlinson exited Tesla after ten years. Relations between the two men have not exactly been cordial since.
Approached by a previously unheard of company, Atieva, Rawlinson was offered a chance to build an electric car his way. Primitive (for the time) batteries and the massively important motor inverter needed his expertise to fulfil this start-up’s desire to take on his previous employer.
Joining with two vital conditions, Rawlinson stipulated his opening ‘best car’ gambit along with a change of company name, to that of Lucid. Expressed politely with a hint of Welsh mischievousness, the old company name did “sound like some kind of yoghurt.”
In a style similar to the Norfolk engineering ethos of adding lightness, Rawlinson’s first task was not for road but racing cars. Formula E’s first generation required two cars to complete a fifty minute race owing to battery life. Atieva, combining Rawlinson’s know-how and what was Sony’s battery cell technology brought about a direct race to road connection – the trapezium shaped box handled vital cooling, packaging and cell efficiency highly effectively, allowing for a full race distance – just.
Adding road friendly characteristics became Lucid’s raison d’être. Racing success garnered financial impetus, extensive Saudi Arabian investment which led to all important research alongside facilities to manufacture. Luckily, Rawlinson has his feet well and truly on terra firma, expressing Lucid’s intentions.
Comprising of both front and rear drive units, “our cars generate 650 horsepower with an inverter, reduction gearset and differential. Yes, the sprint time is around three seconds but we’re more after a rounded athlete’s approach, where the car can efficiently operate in all manner of environments, conditions and use. Our compelling five key areas being, software, battery pack, inverter, electric motor and transmission lead to a synergous, almost human harmonious system.”
He backs that up with his ideas on charging, preferring to measure in miles whilst having that essential coffee, rather than kilowatts. One minute for twenty miles – twenty for three hundred. That refreshing breeze carries from those Welsh valleys.
Comparing his wares to the Zuffenhausen Taycan, whose similar unit is not only 100Kgs heavier but produces less effort (500bhp) and has but one differential, to the rear. Look how the automotive press swoon over that particular mobile solar panel. But what of Lucid’s fare?
Styled rather handsomely by Design Vice Principal, Derek Jenkins on an aircraft inspired aluminium alloy and composite architecture and thankfully in saloon form, although the inevitable lane over-spilling vehicle (termed Project Gravity) will later join the line up. Containing combinations of castings, extrusions, hot quenched stamping and sand cold stamped sections, they aim for star ratings in safety.
A base Air Pure car should have an effective 400 mile range making do with just 480bhp. Smaller and narrower than both S and Taycan, the interior offers more wriggle room than an extended S-Class and soon to commence deliveries start at $70,000.
Should you require further alacrity, an Air Touring produces 620bhp with the same range. The Air Grand Touring will remove you of $131,000 for over 800bhp and five hundred miles of use whereas the tree topping Air Dream Edition has a nightmarish sounding 1080bhp and again, five hundred presumably very swiftly useable miles for an insubstantial hundred thousand dollars more than the base model.
Rawlinson wholeheartedly believes the market for a Tesla competitor is there. With twenty three American-based studios -sixteen ready, remainder anytime soon. Resembling coffee lounges in a distinctly Lucid take on Tesla style, expansion is welcome but not the prime mover. Expect to see more Lucid Lounges where money and sunshine go together to comingle.
The Casa Grande, Arizona factory is more or less complete with aims of 20,000 vehicles per year made with a $260,000M investment, courtesy of those savvy Saudi’s, eager to see an electric future once rock oil demand dries up. Rawlinson and his team, including fellow ex-Tesla and Audi manufacturing guru, Peter Hochholdinger state that they are not in for the billion dollar blast, pragmatically leaving that to others.
In fact, several key Lucid players hail from a time when Rawlinson and co had happier times in Fremont but he is quick to stress that none of Tesla’s Intellectual Property resides in any Lucid model. One would surely expect Elon’s Teslabots teleporting in and laser gunning them all should that have been the case.
Obviously, Lucid’s intent is to make a healthy profit whilst producing extremely rapid (in both senses) vehicles and again here, Rawlinson resonates as clearly as a valley school bell. As of 2018, Tesla averaged around 28%, with an S-Class at 22%; Porsche naturally outperformed them all at over 30% but with Lucid’s plan on data accrual where “the model plan of profitability is as old fashioned as the petrol engined car. The opportunities are beguiling.”
Up to press, only Lucid employees have driven their products. The American horizon will be examined ab initio but the time where a Lucid nudges out a Model S at the supermarket charging point or carves past a diminishing Musk monster cannot be far off.