Electric-car startup Lucid shows off first production model: can it top Tesla?

December 15, 2016

Historians will probably have lots to say about Tesla Motors and its effect on America's auto industry.

For starters, the company has chipped away at decades-old franchise laws, which prohibit automakers from selling directly to consumers. Those laws have resulted in the current model of car sales, which many people find off-putting, if not infuriating. 

Tesla also helped make electric cars desirable. Yes, there are still some people who prefer the chunky, doorstopper-y look of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV to Tesla's sleek Model S sedan, but they're a quiet bunch. Tesla vehicles inspire passion among mainstream consumers--loud, yearning passion--which is something that no other EV manufacturer had done.

Because of factors like those, Tesla has spawned plenty of competitors. The newest is a company called Lucid Air, based just down the road from Tesla HQ, in Menlo Park, California.

Now, Lucid has unveiled a prototype of its first production model, the Lucid Air.

As you can see above, the Air looks more-or-less like an ordinary sedan. It's sleek, to be sure, but thanks to its conventional silhouette and grille, you'd be hard pressed to peg this as an all-electric vehicle. 

But that's exactly what it is. In fact, Lucid says that its electric powertrain is quite advanced by 2016 standards:

"Nearly ten years of battery pack development have led to best-in-class energy density. Our battery is capable of 1,000 horsepower and enabling up to 400 miles of range. Additionally, a unique battery chemistry provides breakthrough tolerance to repeated fast-charging."

How those specs will stack up when the Lucid Aid goes on sale, though, is anyone's guess. The first models off the assembly line aren't expected to reach customers until 2019. (And if Tesla's production troubles are any guide, it could be longer.)

One thing that likely won't change, however, is the Air's inner spaciousness. Lucid says that because the Air doesn't carry a gasoline engine, it's been able to open up the cabin, creating "the interior length of a large luxury sedan in a midsize footprint".

Like Tesla, Lucid is accepting reservations for the Air. Plunk down $2,500, and you'll be able to get your hands on a regular Air sedan, but if you're prepared to shell out significantly more--$25,500, to be exact--you can receive one of 255 special-edition Air models, which "will be well optioned and include distinguishing features".

Pricing has yet to be announced for either model. 

Our take

Start-up car companies don't have great track records. Coda crashed. V-Vehicle never got off the ground. Even Faraday Future seems to be having a fair bit of trouble, and its lead investor has very, very deep pockets.

All of which suggests that for a company like Lucid to succeed, it needs more than money or even a slick prototype. It needs a charismatic evangelist to woo consumers. Elon Musk has done that for Tesla. Will Lucid have its own compelling spokesperson/pitchman?

Are you intrigued by the Lucid Air? Would you buy one? Do you think it can top Tesla? Sound off in the comments below.

For more information about Lucid and the Air sedan, be sure to check out our colleagues at Green Car Reports.

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