Sometimes you witness something, and the only thing you can think to describe it is “yep, they got it.” That’s the feeling I had when I saw the Lucid Air Dream Edition in person this week. “They got it.” By “it,” I mean they may have actually cracked the secret recipe for what makes a great electric vehicle (EV). While that’s very good news for EVs, it could be very bad news for Tesla.
Before I explain why, let’s be honest, Tesla is–by a scale of magnitude–the most successful EV maker. It isn’t even close.
Sure, there are traditional car makers experimenting with how to put an electric motor into what they’ve always understood a car to be. That’s how you end up with the Chevy Bolt, or Nissan Leaf, or the Porsche Taycan. In each case, those vehicles represent only one small piece of a much larger company with many other competing priorities.
Building an electric vehicle, I am sure, is difficult. That’s probably why, with few exceptions, no one has done it particularly well. Sure, there are a handful of companies trying, but most people reading this can’t name more than maybe one.
Because, for most people, EVs aren’t even on the list of what they’re thinking their next car might be. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that they’re unfamiliar, and range-anxiety is a real thing (whether it should be is another conversation altogether).
Then, of course, there’s Tesla, which is unquestionably the most successful attempt to bring the EV to the mass market to date.
Tesla sells more cars–Model 3’s–than all of the other electric car makers combined. For that matter, it sells more of them than Ford does Mustangs. And that’s just one model. No one else is competing at that scale. You’d think, then, that Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, probably sleeps pretty well at night.
Then again, that Lucid Air Dream Edition might be giving him a few bad dreams–maybe even nightmares. I know, that’s saying a lot for a company that most people didn’t even know existed. I promise you Musk knows.
Lucid Motors has been around a lot longer than you probably think, though you would be forgiven if you’ve never heard the name. Until a few years ago it was known as Atieva, but it’s been making batteries and technology for other manufacturers for more than 10 years. Its VP of engineering was a key player on the launch of the Model 3.
That’s one of the reasons it might actually be able to pull off what most other electric vehicle newcomers haven’t–beating Tesla at its own game.
But it isn’t just about the car, which, by the way, is very nice.
It’s a 1,000 hp luxury car with just over 500 miles of range. Sure, it costs $161,000, which isn’t exactly practical for most people, but it’s also just the start. Earlier this month, Lucid announced that the Lucid Air, expected in 2022, will start at $69,900, and get 400 miles of range powered by 480 hp.
That’s still an expensive car, but it matches the Tesla Model S in terms of price and edges it slightly in terms of range. Those two things–performance (mostly in terms of range) and price–are the two things that will really matter to customers who might finally consider buying an electric vehicle.
Lucid clearly has figured out the technology, which it says is more efficient and less expensive to make than anything used by other EV makers, including Tesla. And, given Lucid Motors’ history as a provider of technology to other manufacturers, it makes sense that Lucid could easily sell its motor and battery technology to other carmakers.
A company representative pointed out to me that Porsche could easily reduce both the cost and weight of the Taycan while upping its performance, just by swapping in Lucid’s rear motor for the one it currently uses. Or imagine if a company like General Motors, which makes the Chevy Bolt, started using Lucid’s modular battery system and could increase the range of that vehicle to more than 300 miles.
Suddenly, there’d be a lot more competition–and with it, pressure–facing Tesla. That became obvious when Tesla lowered the price of the long-range Model S the same day Lucid announced the pricing for the Air. Really that says everything you need to know about why you should pay attention. Elon Musk obviously is.