I’m on record as being a fan of the California electric vehicle startup Lucid Motors and its forthcoming first production model, the Air. I rode in the engineering prototype at CES earlier this year, and enjoyed the alpha prototype’s fully reclining back seat during the New York Auto Show a few months later. But we still have a long wait until the first model comes out in 2019, so Lucid will need to go that extra yard to keep us interested. That’s probably what motivated them to release a video of the Air driving at a speed that borders on offensive.
Back in March, Peter Rawlinson, Lucid’s chief technology officer, told me the Air recently hit 160 mph on the test track, and that he expected to get that up to 200 mph fairly soon. They achieved that feat in April, hitting 217 mph — a milestone that soon became moot after removing the vehicle’s speed-limiting software and taking it for a breezy summer drive at 235 mph earlier this month.
How does this compare to the Tesla Model S P100D, which has already earned the reputation as the quickest EV on the market with an impressive 0–60 mph sprint in 2.9 seconds? Hard to say, since there doesn’t seem to be much information out there about Tesla’s top speed without its speed-limiting software that keeps it to 155 mph. In fact, most luxury automakers limit their high-performing models to the same speed, thanks to a “gentleman’s agreement” between Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW a number of years ago to reduce the number of fatalities on the Autobahn.
Lucid’s engineering prototype has an insane, 1,000-horsepower engine, but the first production model will have a slightly more modest 400 horsepower. It will cost $60,000 and have 240 miles of electric-powered range. Lucid also expects to sell more expensive 315- and 400-mile range versions.
Are electric car makers insecure?
Lucid goes into a lot of the planning that went into its speed test in its blog post, which includes this boastful promise: “While it may be the top speed achievable on that day, with those conditions, and at this stage of development for the Alpha Speed Car, it is not the final production top speed for the Lucid Air.”
There is an obsession among electric car manufacturers with horsepower and how many seconds it takes to achieve the fabled 0–60 mph. (Jalopnik had a good piece on this recently.) Tesla, Faraday Future, and Lucid Motors are all guilty of engaging in this rather pointless contest. My theory is that it speaks to an insecurity among EV makers about whether their cars can stand up to the muscle cars and Ford F150s that have squatted in the frontal cortex of the American car buyer for decades. They worry whether their EVs are too quiet, too sustainable, and too (ugh) green to appeal to these consumers. This leads to an over-emphasis on performance, which is fine, but I seriously wonder how important this is to most potential buyers.
That said, for evidence that there’s an audience for electric cars being driven really, really fast, look no further than the Formula E racing series, which is coming to Brooklyn this weekend. And who’s supplying the battery packs for seasons 5 and 6? Why, none other than Lucid Motors. The company is promising that Lucid’s battery will last twice as long as the current battery, and run for the entirety of the Formula E race.