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Former Tesla Model S chief engineer takes over at EV startup Lucid Motors

Former Tesla Model S chief engineer takes over at EV startup Lucid Motors


Now backed by Saudi Arabia, the California company’s first car is due at the end of 2020

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Peter Rawlinson, the chief engineer of Tesla’s Model S sedan, has taken over as CEO of EV startup Lucid Motors, the company announced Tuesday. Rawlinson joined Lucid Motors from Tesla in 2013 as the chief technology officer, and he will retain that role going forward, the company says.

Rawlinson replaces Sam Weng, who will retire, according to Lucid Motors. Weng co-founded the company back in 2007 as “Atieva,” with a focus on developing battery systems for electric cars. The company decided to change its name and focus on making an all-electric car in 2016, though it still develops some battery technology under the Atieva brand.

Lucid Motors’ previous CEO, co-founder Sam Weng, will retire

Rawlinson’s ascendance to CEO has been in the works for months, according to three former employees, who were granted anonymity due to nondisclosure agreements with the company. The former Tesla executive was going to become CEO “one way or another,” one said, following the September 2018 announcement that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was investing more than $1 billion into the automaker.

(That announcement came one month before the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Rawlinson attended the “Davos in the Desert” event in late October, despite a number of other Western executives bowing out.)

Lucid Motors’ first car, the Air, is a luxury all-electric sedan that the company promises will offer around 400 miles of range, abundant acceleration (0–60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds), and 1,000 horsepower. Rawlinson recently said that the first units Lucid Motors produces will cost over $100,000. The company plans to make around 50 Lucid Airs by the end of 2020, according to an internal document viewed by The Verge. A fleet of test cars will be built later this year, according to Rawlinson.

The carmaker also plans to eventually release cheaper versions with more modest specs, and is also developing an electric SUV, as The Verge first reported in February.

The Lucid Air was supposed to go into production in 2018. Lucid Motors ran into trouble lining up funding required to build its planned $700 million factory in Arizona, though, and spent much of 2017 and 2018 languishing until Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund came along. To help with the cash crunch, Lucid Motors entered into two separate agreements in 2017 where it used its intellectual property as collateral for loans, as The Verge originally reported last summer. The company now plans to break ground in Arizona in the next few months.

In the meantime, Rawlinson recently told The Verge that the company was able to make “very significant advancements in [Lucid Motors’] technology” during that fallow period, including “real breakthroughs” on the Lucid Air’s electric motor.