Insider Transportation: Lucid’s electric Air could whoop Tesla Model S

The physical distancing that is the hallmark of the age of the novel coronavirus may mean automakers can’t throw glitzy parties to mark the debut of new vehicles, but that limitation (and the distinct lack of hors d’oeuvres) didn’t dampen our enthusiasm when we finally got to see the new Lucid Air EV on Wednesday evening. 

That’s because nearly a decade after the Model S made its debut, we finally have the electric car that can match the stalwart Tesla for looks and prowess — at least on paper. We already knew the Air would be packed with cool features, offer a range of more than 500 miles, and run a quarter-mile fast enough to make Vin Diesel happy. Now, we can say it’s got reclining seats reminiscent of flying in business class, that it should be available in the spring, and that you’ll pay somewhere between $80,000 and $169,000 for one.

Now, the thing: Every morning, we Business Insider editors pass around a list of trending search topics, a handy way of scoping out what’s going on in the world. Yesterday, one of those searches was “who makes lucid air.”

You see, Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson (who led Tesla’s development of the Model S) can say all he wants about delivering “more advanced technology than Tesla” and his plan to scale up manufacturing while sidestepping Elon Musk’s “production hell.” But none of it will matter at all if he can’t figure out how to woo buyers away from Tesla, away from Porsche, away from Audi and all the others, and convince them to take a bet on a brand-new kind of car. So we took a look at the marketing battle that’ll matter a lot more to Lucid’s fortunes that whatever happens at the drag strip. 

Read on below for more news from this week, including Nikola’s very big deal with General Motors, new flight plans from United and JetBlue, Airbus’ cup holder dilemma, and more. And if you haven’t yet, sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox every week.

United and JetBlue announce new routes for a pandemic age

Major airline execs have said they don’t expect demand to get back to anything near normal until a COVID-19 vaccine has been widely distributed, and that means rejiggering their schedules for a world in which travel looks very different — and is dominated by leisure flights. For United, that means more flights to Hawaii, and to Africa. For JetBlue, it’s an expansion into “secondary” markets. 

Nikola lands a deal with GM — and then gets accused of fraud

Nikola kicked off the week with a bang, announcing that General Motors is taking a $2 billion stake in the electric vehicle startup, and that it will manufacture Nikola’s electric Badger pickup truck. The move showed off a new way to get EVs to market and helped Nikola founder Trevor Milton reach a net worth of more than $5 billion. 

It all seemed like reason to throw your skepticism “out the window,” as some analysts told us, until short-selling firm Hindenburg Research put out a lengthy report calling the electric truck maker Nikola an “intricate fraud,” and accused Milton of “numerous lies.” 

Airbus redesigns its cockpit after spilled drinks caused mayhem

After spilled drinks caused a pair of midair engine shutdowns aboard its flagship A350 passenger jet, Airbus redesigned the center control panel, which sits below a console that pilots often use as a makeshift table, to be liquid-resistant — which somehow made more sense than giving pilots better (bigger) cup holders. 

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