We have driven, reported on, road-tripped, and talked about our fair share of electric and hybrid vehicles at Business Insider. These are exciting times for a technology that was born more than 100 years ago, but only started to gain steam in the last 20 years with the Toyota Prius.
That growth has spurred a whole new class of EVs from investor-funded startups. While many of these companies poach engineering and design talent from big-name automakers, the new companies themselves have never mass-produced a car before. It might be a stretch to call it an automotive renaissance, but it’s starting to look that way.
Still, one thing remains the same – it is incredibly difficult to start a car company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk probably knows this better than anyone. Tesla is the first American automaker to go public since Ford Motor Company in 1956, but it took Tesla and its stakeholders nearly two decades and many hundreds of millions of dollars to get there.
And as we have learned in the last couple years from the scandal-plagued electric-car startup, Faraday Future, the business of designing and building cars can easily lose traction if just enough things go sideways.
Nevertheless, a handful of electric-car startups in California are undeterred, and they are vying to bring the next mass-produced luxury electric vehicle to market.
Lucid Motors is one of those companies. Founded in 2007 under its former name, Atieva, the Newark, California-based company began developing its first electric vehicle in 2014.
The car, called Lucid Air, debuted in late 2016 as a 1,000-horsepower electric luxury sedan that Lucid said would rival Tesla’s highly successful Model S.
Among other investors, Lucid is also backed by Venrock – the same venture capital firm that led Apple’s Series A round in 1978.
A company spokesman told Business Insider Lucid has raised several hundred million dollars to date. The spokesman declined to give specific dollar figures. Lucid was preparing to close its Series D round fundraiser in January.
The Lucid Air will be the first vehicle out of the company’s stable when it goes into production in 2019, the company said. Lucid invited Business Insider to check out a nearly finished representation of the car at its headquarters.
Scroll down to see how it went:
The Lucid Air is almost surreal when seen outside in natural light. It’s not a complete stretch to say it looks like a road-bound spacecraft.
Everything from the windshield forward evokes a nearly seamless aesthetic. It has a quietly commanding presence.
Quiet because it’s electric, of course. The Air will be available with a battery pack that boasts about 240 miles of range on a full charges, or an optional pack that’s expected to deliver up to 400 miles of range.
Here are the headlights in case you missed them.
Let’s move in a little closer.
The car’s dimensions are deceiving. From certain angles it looks as large as your typical full-size luxury sedan, like a Mercedes S-Class. It’s actually much smaller.
Here’s a disguised Lucid Air prototype sitting between a Mercedes S-Class and a BMW 7 Series.
Same car, just inside Lucid Motors’ studio.
Lucid’s design team says the Air’s passenger cabin is larger than the Tesla Model S.
This 6-foot-2 reporter can confirm. The car is spacious.
The rear cabin is where the real show is.
Here’s what you use to adjust your seat, which can recline to give you a better view of the sky above. You’ll see that in the video in the next slide.
Check out the all-glass roof below. Business Insider was the first media outlet to ride in the Lucid Air alpha car with the full interior installed.
OK, time to hop in the driver’s seat.
Like most vehicles in this class, the Lucid Air will have autonomous-driving capabilities.
The Air’s multi-screen driver interface was engineered entirely in-house, with an eye toward seamless, intuitive connectivity.
Final impressions: This one seems different.
The Lucid Air and the company that built it seem to be playing by a different rule book from some of its counterparts in the EV startup space.
Lucid Motors has deliberately stayed out of the spotlight, even as other new electric-car companies – for better or worse – actively pursued it. And while other companies tend to traffic in buzzy social media campaigns, sometimes with little evidence of real progress, Lucid remained in stealth mode until it had a real, nearly complete representation of its product to showcase.
As Lucid’s Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson told Business Insider in a previous interview, “We believe we have the next-level electric vehicle – one that is so well-suited to this new era of luxury mobility. I believe in the product and I would rather that product do the talking.” Rawlinson was the chief engineer of the Tesla Model S and has more than three decades of experience in the industry.
Rawlinson said a portion of the money from the Series D round would go toward the company’s plan to build a factory in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Lucid will be a company to watch. Of course, it’s impossible to know whether it ends up being a viable, perhaps even profitable, automaker, but it’s clear they are serious.
“This team realises the enormity of the task,” Rawlinson said. “We’re car guys. This is the team that has done it before. We know how to do this.”
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