Not sure what Lucid Motors is? You’re not alone. Until a few weeks ago, it was called Atieva. Although the full details about who owns it are murky, it appears its principal investor is Jia Yueting, the mercurial Chinese billionaire who is also deeply involved in Faraday Future and China’s LeEco. After years of secrecy, Lucid/Atieva brought a prototype of what it says will be its first car to the Los Angeles auto show last week. The car is a luxury four door sedan aimed squarely at the Tesla Model S.
That is no coincidence. Lucid’s chief technology officer is Peter Rawlinson. In a prior life, Rawlinson was an integral part of the team involved in designing and building the Model S. He left Tesla Motors abruptly just before the Model S went into production. In a recent interview with Fortune’s Katie Fehrenbacher, he refused to discuss his departure from Tesla but it seems clear the Lucid sedan — which may be called Atvus — will be Rawlinson’s revenge on Elon Musk.
Previously, Atieva released videos of a Mercedes work van named Edna stomping on a Ferrari and a Model S in drag races. Edna is said to be fitted with the electric drivetrain that will power Lucid vehicles. According to reports, the car will have an 87 kWh battery, 900 horsepower, 0-60 times under 3.0 seconds, and a range of 300 miles. Rawlinson says the car will resemble what an “executive jet would feel like on four wheels.” Oh, goody. The world desperately needs another electric road rocket for the well heeled.
Fortune got a look at the prototype car inside Lucid’s research and development garage, which is conveniently located in Fremont, California within shouting distance of the Tesla factory. Fortune reports the car, which is scheduled to go on sale in 2018, “has an ultra-spacious backseat cabin, unusual new headlight technology inspired by insect eyes, a sweeping glass windshield and roof, and a futuristic front face.”
The Lucid team says the vehicle is meant to rethink the occupant experience. Rawlinson and his designers and engineers have condensed and spread out the key elements of the electric car tech — the battery pack, the motor, the transmission, and the power electronics — into sections around the front and the back of the car in a unique new way. It’s “the miniaturization of power technology,” much in the same way that computing has rapidly shrunk in size, that has allowed such an innovation to occur, Rawlinson says.
The result is an almost shocking amount of passenger space in the rear seat area. Derek Jenkins — formerly head of design at Mazda — says the car is about as long on the outside as a mid size car like the Audi A7 but has as much room on the inside as a full size car with a long wheelbase. In the photo above, Lucid posed its car parked between a BMW 7 Series and a Mercedes S Class to demonstrate the dramatic difference in size. It’s “no longer necessary to choose between classes,” says Jenkins. “We’re repackaging the car like never before.”
While all that may be so, the question remains, where will the car be built? Lucid has no factory. If it plans to start selling cars in 2 years, shouldn’t it at least have a manufacturing facility? And will the company survive the financial turmoil of its principal backer? Work on the Faraday Future factory in Nevada has come to a grinding halt due to missed payments to the general contractor. The new Lucid sedan may indeed by an innovative car featuring brilliant engineering, but if it never gets built, so what?
Here’s a thought. People who drop piles of cash on a luxury car like to ride around in a big, imposing vehicle that intimidates pedestrians and other lesser vehicles. The prototype looks like a Matchbox car compared to the BMW and the Mercedes. Will people really pay up for small? “We’ll see,” said the Zen Master.
Source: Fortune Photo credit: Lucid Motors