Lucid Air could be the most efficient electric car
- Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance is the startup’s newest and fastest model to date.
- Lucid says it will go from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds, which will absorb all your concentration.
- Pricing is $179,000, but for slightly lower performance you can get the simple Lucid Air Grand Touring for $154,000.
The Lucid Air is surely one of the most efficient things ever made. And at the same time, one of the most exciting.
There I was, in launch mode, ready to take off on a makeshift drag strip carved into one of Silicon Valley’s few remaining empty cobblestone spaces, with no less co-pilot than Ben Collins, the original, verified Stig of Top Gear, the original Top Gear back when it was fun to watch, and I expected a thrill.
How much thrill?
You have to rearrange every brain cell in your head to fully grasp the level of acceleration that something like this Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance is capable of. Your brain is sitting up there in your noggin thinking, “Oh yeah, I can handle that, I got a Camaro…” But then the lucid Air says to it, “Hold my beer…”
And the next thing you know everything of those brain cells suddenly aren’t so cocky anymore because they’re all flattened against the back of your skull, just like all of your internal organs are flattened against the back of your rib cage while your face makes one of those expressions flattened astronauts rode this rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base during the height of the Cold War, when scientists were trying to figure out what would happen if they took bar talk seriously and threw a guy on a rocket sled.
Officially, the figure for 0-60 mph is 2.6 seconds, which admittedly isn’t quite as fast as Tesla’s 1.9, but anywhere under three seconds blends in with the physics and the screams and you really can’t tell the difference unless you’re Don The Snake Prudhomme or Big Daddy Don Garlits or someone like that.
It could go even faster.
“Ten percent slip is optimal at launch, but we’d lose 60 to 80 miles of range if we got it ready for launch,” said chassis engineer David Lickfold.
The Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance must excel in everything of its categories, so you’ll have to accept 2.6 seconds at 60. Which is even faster than mere humans can really manage. The only thing faster than this I’ve ever driven is the Rimac Nevera, which didn’t quite twice power, and a Tesla Model S, which has 1020 ponies listed. Yes, the power: the Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance produces 1050 hp. Just spin this figure into what’s left of your head after that launch blast. Not so long ago, big, muscular sports cars were celebrated for their horsepower measured in the hundreds. Now, much like everything else, now there is a new world order.
“It’s the Wild West of possibilities in electric vehicles,” said Leon Vinokourov, pilot of the Lucid prototype. “You have Tesla and Lucid and Faraday Future and Nio and they come and go and one is above then the other and it’s driven by this passion that we all have, ‘Hey we can do it, let’s try -the!”
And so they tried it and now we see the results of those trials. Tesla may be on top with a claimed 0-60 of 1.99 seconds, although you have to pre-condition the battery for half an hour before you can achieve that (“Hey, Mac, wait a second while I pre-condition my battery, so I’ll blow your stinky doors!”). The Lucid also does a bit of pre-conditioning, but it does that as soon as you switch it to “Sprint” mode, the fastest of the three ride modes after Smooth and Swift. So you don’t have to keep the chatterbox waiting in the other lane while your car prepares to start, you just launch.
The Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance is equipped with adaptive Bilstein dampers, passive anti-roll bars and passive steel springs to harness all that power when you arrive on a twisty mountain road. And that’s where we went next, me, The Stig and several other like-minded colleagues, all driving Lucids Air. And despite the car’s high curb weight (which was never disclosed, come to think of it), the car felt pretty good around the corners, reducing body roll to almost imperceptible levels thanks to those Bilstein adaptive dampers, and following quickly and flat through all those big curves lurking just west of the Silicon Valley sprawl.
We took them on Skyline Drive, among other great roads, and really got to wring out those Bilstein Damptronic Sky shocks, with their two separate solenoid-controlled ports per damper. I put it in Sprint for the best parts of the road, because I thought it would be the fastest.
“Swift is the sweet spot,” Lickfold said later. “It’s two-thirds of the way to Sprint. This allows the car to breathe on hilly roads like Skyline.
And Lickfold and his team know Skyline.
“We did a lot more adjustment loops than I’ve ever done before,” he said, where one loop only served one adjustment. “Five of us would drive it and then we’d all come back to the store and talk.”
The result is safe, predictable heavy speed mah.
Efficiency extends far beyond the chassis and suspension. The transmission and the battery are certainly among the most efficient things ever designed. Each Lucid Air gets two electric motors, one powering the front wheels, the other the rears. But these are not motors, they are “integrated power units”. They combine a permanent magnet electric motor, inverter, integrated transmission and the cutest little differential you’ve ever seen in what can only be described as a miracle of package efficiency. Officially, it’s a “state-of-the-art 900V+ electric drive unit that weighs just 163 pounds and is small enough to fit in a standard airline rolling bag,” according to the CEO. Peter Rawlinson. The units are 45% lighter and up to 59% more powerful than their nearest competitor, Rawlinson told us during a previous visit.
The battery is made up of a varying number of 21700 cells (43% more efficient than older 18650 cells) all mounted on their ends in trays under the floor. The number of trays not only determines your range, but also how much foot space you have in the back seat. You can get up to 516 miles of EPA range from a Lucid Air, or 4.6 miles per kWh. The Grand Touring Performance we talked about has an EPA range of 446 miles. For 516 miles, you can get the Grand Touring without the Performance suffix, but it has “only” 819 hp and hits 60 in 3.0 seconds. Grand Touring Performance stickers $179,000, Grand Touring $154,000. This efficiency and performance doesn’t come cheap.
The Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan cost around $50,000 less.
Gaps? The roofline encroaches on the entry and exit of rear passengers. The glass canopy roof that appears to extend all the way to the rear, features oddly placed visors and reading lights that look like they’ve been glued on, like Groucho Marx’s eyebrows, and the amount of sun blocking is fixed. , not variable like on some competitors, and felt like not enough for my pasty skin. Design is subjective and compromises have been made in the name of efficiency rather than beauty, perhaps; it depends if you think it’s beautiful. Find out how this rear roof pillar joins the rest of the body.
And then there is manufacturing. So far they have won between 500 and 1000; no one would say definitively and Lucid execs claimed they couldn’t talk due to a “period of quiet” or whatever. This could have been a convenient way to answer questions about a slower-than-expected start to production.
Better to get production right and send safe and finished products to customers than to throw at all costs and let buyers fix the problem.
“We don’t think our customers should be beta testers,” said Mike Bell, senior vice president of digital at Lucid, in a veiled jab at the 800-pound gorilla through Silicon Valley.
And that is perhaps the most reassuring comment of all.
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