Lucid Air May Be the Most Efficient Electric Car

  • Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance is the latest and quickest model to come from the startup yet.
  • Lucid says it’ll get from 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, which will absorb all your concentration.
  • Prices are $179,000, but for slightly less performance you can get the mere 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 thrilling.

    How thrilling?

    There I was, in launch mode, ready to blast off down an improvised drag strip carved out of one of the few remaining empty paved spaces in Silicon Valley, with no less a co-pilot than Ben Collins, the original and verified Stig from Top Gear, the original Top Gear back when it was fun to watch, and man was I expecting a thrill.

    How much of a thrill?

    You have to rearrange all the brain cells in your head to fully grasp the level of acceleration of which something like this Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance is capable. Your brain is sitting up there in your noggin thinking, “Oh yeah, I can handle this, I once had a Camaro…” But then the Lucid Air says to it, “Hold mah beer…”

    And the next thing you know all of those brain cells are suddenly not so cocky anymore because they’re all smooshed up at the back of your skull, just as all your internal organs are smooshed flat against the back of your rib cage while your face is doing one of those flattened expressions the astronauts got on that rocket sled out at Edwards Air Force Base during the height of the Cold War when scientists were trying to figure out what would happen if they actually took bar talk seriously and launched a guy on a rocket sled.

    Officially the figure for 0-60 mph is 2.6 seconds which, granted, isn’t as quick as the Tesla’s 1.9-whatever, but anywhere under three seconds kind of all blends into physics and screaming and you really can’t tell the difference unless you’re Don The Snake Prudhomme or Big Daddy Don Garlits or someone like that.

    The Grand Touring Performance is just as good on a curvy road as on a drag strip.

    JAMES LIPMAN

    It could go even faster.

    “Ten percent slip is the optimal at launch but we’d lose 60 to 80 miles of range if we just set it up for launch,” said chassis engineer David Lickfold.

    The Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance has to excel in all of its categories, so you’ll have to accept 2.6 seconds to 60. Which is still quicker than mere humans can really handle. The only thing quicker than this that I’ve ever driven was the Rimac Nevera, which has not quite twice the horsepower, and a Tesla Model S, which has 1020 listed ponies. Yes, horsepower: the Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance produces 1050 hp. Just swirl that figure around in what’s left of your head after that launch blast. It wasn’t that long ago that great sports and muscle cars were feted for having horsepower measured in the hundreds. Now, well like everything else, now there is a new world order.

    “It’s the Wild West of possibilities in the EV sphere,” said Lucid prototype driver Leon Vinokurov. “You’ve got Tesla and Lucid and (other startups)and they come and go and one’s on top then the other and it’s driven by this passion we all have, ‘Hey, we can do this, let’s try it!”

    And so they did try it and now we’re seeing the results of those trials. Tesla may be on top with a claimed 0-60 of 1.99 seconds, though you have to pre-condition the battery for a half hour before you can achieve that (“Hey, Mac, just hang on a second while I pre-condition my battery, then I’ll blow yer stinkin’ doors off!”). The Lucid does a little pre-conditioning, too, but it does that as soon as you switch it to “Sprint” mode, the fastest of the three drive modes after Smooth and Swift. So you don’t have to get the trash talker in the other lane to wait while your car gets ready to launch, you just launch.

    You can see a bit of the front suspension here, along with the motor.

    JAMES LIPMAN

    The Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance comes equipped with Bilstein adaptive dampers, passive antiroll bars and passive steel springs to harness all that power when you get to 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 hefty curb weight (which was never disclosed, come to think of it), the car felt fairly well fine in curves, reducing body roll to almost imperceptible levels through those Bilstein adaptive dampers, and tracking fast and flat through all those great curves that lurk just west of Silicon Valley’s sprawl.

    We took them over Skyline Drive, among other great roads, and really got to wring out those Bilstein Damptronic Sky shocks, with their two separate solenoid-controlled orifices per shock. I put it into Sprint during the best parts of the road, because I thought that would be the fastest.

    “Swift is the sweet spot,” said Lickfold later. “It’s two-thirds of the way to Sprint. It lets the car breathe over undulating roads like Skyline.”

    And Lickfold and team know Skyline.

    “We did far more tuning loops than I’ve ever done before,” he said, where a loop would be for just one adjustment. “Five of us would drive it then we’d all come back to the shop and talk.”

    The result is a safely predictable heavy speed mah.

    The efficiencies extend well beyond the chassis and suspension. The drivetrain and battery are surely among the most efficient things ever made, too. Each Lucid Air gets two electric motors, one powering the front wheels, the other the rears. But they’re not motors, they’re “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 packaging efficiency. Officially it’s a “state of the art, 900V+ electric drive unit that weighs just 163 lbs and is small enough to fit inside a standard airline carry-on roller bag,” according to CEO Peter Rawlinson. The units are 45 percent lighter and up to 59 percent more powerful than their closest competitor, Rawlinson explained to us during an earlier visit.

    One battery module. There are several, depending on what you want your Lucid to do.

    Lucid

    The battery is made up of varying numbers of 21700 cells (43% more efficient than the old 18650 cells) all riding on their ends in trays under the floor. The number of trays determines not just your range but how much foot room you have in the rear seat. You can get as much as 516 miles of EPA range from a Lucid Air, or 4.6 miles per kWh. The Grand Touring Performance we’ve been talking 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 gets to 60 in 3.0 seconds. The Grand Touring Performance stickers at $179,000, the Grand Touring at $154,000. This much efficiency and performance ain’t cheap.

    The Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan are about 50 grand less.

    Shortcomings? The roofline intrudes on ingress/egress for the rear-seat passengers. The glass canopy roof that seems to stretch all the way back to the rear end, features weirdly placed visors and reading lamps that look like they were glued on, like Groucho Marx eyebrows, and the amount of sun blockage is fixed, not variable as on some competitors, and felt like not enough for my pasty skin. Design is subjective and compromises were made in the name of efficiency over beauty, maybe; depends on whether you think it’s beautiful. Check out how that rear roof pillar joins the rest of the body.

    And then there’s production. So far, they’ve made somewhere between 500 and 1000; no one would say definitively and Lucid execs claimed they couldn’t talk because of some “quiet period” or other. Might have just been a convenient way to get around answering questions about a slower-than-expected start of production.

    Better to get production right and send out safe and finished products to customers than launch at any cost and let the buyers sort it out.

    “We don’t think our customers should be beta testers,” said Mike Bell, senior VP of digital at Lucid, in a veiled swipe at the 800-pound gorilla across Silicon Valley.

    And that may be the most reassuring comment of all.

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