Lucid Exec Shares More Of Startup’s Strategy in Luxury EV Market

Lucid Motors revealed more of its strategy as the all-electric “Air” luxury sedan is set to start production next year.

This was divulged by Lucid’s chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson who met with a writer for investor newsletter The Motley Fool at the startup company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. Rawlinson, who’d served as chief engineer years ago for the Tesla Model S, shed more light on the company’s financial structure, future battery packs, automated driving, and whether Lucid will be putting out a “Tesla killer.”

Rawlinson will play a key role in developing the Air, which will start with a $60,000 version with a single motor that can go 240 miles on a charge; and a high-end variation, the Launch Edition, that will sell for $165,000. That one will be able to go 400 miles on a charge, and will be powered by two AC induction motors capable of producing 1,000 horsepower.

He also served as an inventor on many of Tesla’s patents for the Model S. Tesla had open-sourced its patents, committing to avoid lawsuits against other companies using its technology “in good faith.” While quite familiar with the competitor’s EV technology, Rawlinson said it won’t be used by Lucid. The startup is looking to build an even better EV technology on its own; and it would be too risky to build a new vehicle based on Tesla’s intellectual property if there is still a lot of uncertainty about its usage and implementation, he said.

To get the first Air out to its owner, the company is working to move forward on its $700 million factory in Arizona. To find that funding, the company is working on a Series D financing round. Once that funding is secured, ground will be broke on the Arizona plant, he said.

That $700 million won’t be spent all at once. The first of three phases is expected to cost about $240 million. Production will take off in 2019 with capacity for building 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles per year. The third phase is scheduled to be completed about 2022, with an annual production capacity up to 130,000 vehicles.

To meet the long driving range promised in the Lucid Air, the company has partnered with Samsung SDI to jointly develop battery cells. They’re working to make sure the battery doesn’t degrade faster than it should. It’s also meant to be chargeable by international standards, with CCS winning out over CHAdeMO for fast charging, according to Rawlinson, who thinks it will win out in the future.

“I think that we will see a maturity and proliferation of [the CCS] charging network by then,” he said.

The company is taking its commitment seriously to roll out an autonomous version of its electric luxury cars. Lucid is using both long- and short-range versions of sensors including wide-angle cameras, short and long range radar, and LIDAR sensors. The automaker will be testing peripheral LIDAR sensors embedded in the sides of the vehicle; and with software that bring all the sensor data together.

Rawlinson said Lucid’s cars will have all three technical aspects to make autonomous driving work: the hardware with sensors integrated into the car, software, and the ability to collect and accrue “big data” from the EV’s performance.

Automated driving is not however one of the startup automaker’s top priorities. The company is clear about the series of challenges it takes to successfully bring a new car to market, so investing of autonomous driving software isn’t a top priority at this time, he said.

SEE ALSO:  2019 Lucid Air Launch Edition To Cost $165,000

The company executive doesn’t see Lucid building a “Tesla killer.” Tesla will be among its competitors, but the main rivals will be German automakers who’ve dominated the luxury segments for years.

“What we’ve tried to do is create the next generation of car,” Rawlinson said.

One business model that Lucid will borrow from Tesla is direct sales and service by operating its own network of stores and service centers.

“We plan to create a network of stores and a service network. Now, that will have to grow organically as sales grow. Before launch, we’re planning our first store, probably in the Bay Area. And we’ll grow that network in a synchronous manner with sales. And yes, that will be challenging to start with, of course,” he said.

The Motley Fool


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