Lucid Air Electric Car Test Ride: 500-Mile Range Has Arrived

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The Lucid Air prototype electric vehicle at the company’s headquarters in Newark, Calif. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg In a world full of electric vehicle buzz and startup hype, range anxiety remains a key reason why consumers hesitate to make the switch.  For those holdouts, Lucid Motors […]

The Lucid Air prototype electric vehicle at the company’s headquarters in Newark, Calif.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

In a world full of electric vehicle buzz and startup hype, range anxiety remains a key reason why consumers hesitate to make the switch. 

For those holdouts, Lucid Motors has just laid a serious hand on the table Tuesday, announcing a battery that can produce 517 miles on a single charge. That’s enough juice to get you, theoretically, from New York to Cleveland, Ohio, or from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back.

The average range for electric cars released in 2019 was around 183 miles, according to BloombergNEF, and is due to rise to around 235 miles for this year’s models. (Electric vehicles account for 2% of global vehicle sales.) Yet, without handing over a single car to a customer, Lucid has achieved an industry-leading number capable of more than 100 miles above the longest-range Tesla Model S and 300 miles more than Porsche’s best offering, the Taycan. 

Lucid Motors’ path has been long and less than straightforward. The company was founded in 2007 under the name Atieva and spent years being more focused on battery technology than pursuing development of a luxury car. It pivoted in 2016, changed its name to Lucid, and began work on what would become the Air.  

In September 2018, Lucid raised more than $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment fund, an injection of cash that helped clear a path through to production. Since then it’s been building a factory in Arizona and hiring experienced executives from the world’s leading automakers; Peter Rawlinson, Lucid’s chief executive officer, was previously chief engineer on the Model S.The 517-mile range was validated by reputable German engineering consultant FEV North America Inc. The firm tested the Air at a lab in Auburn Hills, Mich., under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, which is the benchmark buyers use to compare the range of one EV with that of another. 

relates to How Lucid’s New Electric Car Stacks Up Against Tesla and Porsche

The 517-mile range was validated by reputable German engineering consultant FEV North America Inc.

Source: Lucid Motors Inc.

But testing an electric vehicle on a laboratory dynamometer is very different from driving it on U.S. roads. In general, the real-world efficiency for an EV is around 20% lower than its rating. Rather than take Lucid or FEV’s word, I decided to test it myself.

Because this was a pre-production version of the Air, I wasn’t allowed to drive. To add insult to injury, Covid-19 safety protocols confined me to the rear seats at all times, separated from the driver by a plexiglass screen. So it was less of a “test-drive” than a “test-ride.”

To make it impartial, we also took out a Tesla Model S Long Range Plus—the first 400-mile consumer EV—and a Porsche Taycan Turbo S. Both were driven by Lucid engineers. The vehicles used in the test are both owned by Lucid Motors and used to benchmark its Air prototypes. Each is the latest model available to buy.

relates to How Lucid’s New Electric Car Stacks Up Against Tesla and Porsche

From left: Tesla, Lucid, Porsche.

Photographer: Ed Ludlow/Bloomberg

relates to How Lucid’s New Electric Car Stacks Up Against Tesla and Porsche

In general, the real-world efficiency for an EV is around 20% lower than its rating.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The objective was simple: Drive all three vehicles on a single charge, in convoy, until the batteries hit zero, and then see which went farthest. 

The Rules

At daybreak in early August, I set off from Lucid’s Newark, Calif., headquarters in the Air. We headed north past Oakland before cutting east to join Interstate 5 south, to Merced County, before doubling back.

We split the endurance race into three legs and calculated it so that the convoy would be near Lucid’s parking lot when one of the cars, based on its estimated range, would likely be down to just a few percentage points of its state-of-charge (SOC) left. Then we would run laps at Newark and the parking lot until each vehicle completely died or was unable to drive at road-safe speeds. 

We also put in place a number of controls across all three vehicles. I confirmed that all started with a fully charged battery, according to the readings on their instrument clusters. Driving in close convoy, all three drivers maintained an average speed of 70 miles an hour on the freeway, accelerating or slowing only to account for traffic or safety. Air conditioning, which was good news on an 80F day, was standardized as well.

The pre-production Lucid was ballasted with multiple 50-pound lead packs to represent its actual production weight. State of charge was recorded at each stop, as well as at the point at which any vehicle could no longer be driven. When the Porsche and Tesla came close to depleting their battery life, I jumped into the back to see what it’s like when a production EV runs out of power. For the majority of the time, the Tesla and Porsche carried only the test driver.

The Results

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