Last year, The Verge published the first images of Lucid Motors’ planned $700 million electric car factory in Arizona. Now, nearly a year after breaking ground, the company announced that it has finished the first phase of construction and is on schedule to start production of its first vehicle, the luxury Lucid Air sedan, by spring 2021.
The first phase of the factory comprises 999,000 square feet of space, with the goal of eventually expanding that to a whopping 5.1 million square feet by 2028. The next phase of construction will begin in early 2021, Lucid says. Initially, the factory will have the capacity to produce 30,000 vehicles a year, with the goal of eventually getting to an annual capacity of 400,000 vehicles.
Lucid says it has already produced a “full beta prototype test fleet” and is now transitioning to the construction of “production representative” versions of the Air. The company hopes to expand the factory to begin production of its SUV, codenamed “Project Gravity,” by 2023.
Lucid Motors doesn’t own the land; instead, Pinal County bought the more than 500-acre site and will lease it to the EV startup with the goal of eventually handing it over. Pinal County raised $29.94 million through bonds to buy the land, and Lucid Motors will pay $1.8 million each year in rent, before being given the opportunity to buy the land in five years.
The Lucid Air, first revealed last September, will get up to 517 miles of range, can hit a quarter-mile in under 10 seconds, packs over 1,000 horsepower, and will have a base price of $77,400. But Lucid is prioritizing the pricier trim levels in the hopes of replicating Tesla’s strategy of selling a lot of really expensive cars to generate enough cash flow for the more affordable versions. The two most expensive versions of the Air — the $139,000 Air Grand Touring and $169,000 Air Dream Edition — are expected to go on sale in the second quarter of 2021.
Over the last decade, there’s been a lot of money pouring into the EV startup space, without many new EVs to show for it. One of the major hurdles has been factory construction. Some companies believed they needed to build big, expensive factories, a la Tesla’s Gigafactory, to impress investors and signal their intention to compete with Elon Musk. Others searched for smaller, preexisting factories to lease in the hopes of saving money on capital costs.
Like many other EV startups, Lucid Motors almost ran out of money as it pursued its plans to build the Lucid Air. It took on loans from a hedge fund and a Chinese bus company to stay afloat and ultimately received a massive $1 billion lifeline from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.