Almost a year to the day after breaking ground, Lucid Motor says it has finished construction of its new EV plant in Arizona — the first phase, anyway.
The facility, based in the Phoenix suburb of Casa Grande, initially will have capacity to build about 30,000 battery-electric vehicles a year. But planned expansions at the 590-acre site could bring that up to 400,000 annually, should demand warrant, the startup announced.
Calling the rapid construction project “truly astounding,” Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson noted in a statement, “We broke ground on the 590-acre Lucid AMP-1 site in Casa Grande, Arizona, on Dec. 2, 2019, and slightly less than a year later we have completed the first purpose-built EV factory in North America.”
While there are now a number of other factories producing battery-cars, they all started out assembling conventional vehicles. That includes the main Tesla plant in Fremont, California which began life as a General Motors assembly plant. During the 1980s, it was transformed into the home of a GM-Toyota joint venture, then shuttered shortly before it was taken over by Tesla. That automaker’s first ground-up plant in the U.S. will be based in Texas and won’t begin pilot production until mid-2021.
Dubbed AMP-1, Lucid’s Arizona factory was already operating, even before Phase 1 construction was completed, photos released this week by the automaker showing workers tinkering with early pilot vehicles, apparently meant to test operations along the new assembly line.
The factory is scheduled to begin commercial operations next spring, the automaker starting out with several versions of its new Air battery-sedan. It will phase in other variants of the sedan, including a base model, through 2022.
Air will target the likes of the Tesla Model S, and carrying a price range of around $77,000 to $169,000 before options, delivery fees and tax credits. At that price, and in an SUV-centric market, Rawlinson told TheDetroitBureau.com over the summer, he doesn’t expect substantial sales volumes for the Air. It is meant to be a showcase for the brand’s capability, he explained.
According to Rawlinson, Lucid is taking a go-it-slow approach to sales, targeting less than 10,000 in its first year. So, starting out with a capacity of around 30,000 vehicles annually would fall in line with Lucid’s initial sales expectations. But it has far greater, long-term aspirations.
In September, the company not only unveiled the production version of the Air but also teased a second product line, the Lucid Gravity.
“We’re not just launching a car. We’re launching a brand,” Lucid design director Derek Jenkins said during a September 9, 2020 web event. And for that brand, he added, “We’re already working on several different projects, beyond Lucid Air, beyond Lucid Gravity.”
The Gravity, Lucid’s first SUV, will share the basic underpinnings of the Air, starting with its skateboard-like platform – dubbed LEAP — containing key drivetrain components.
The company also has suggested it will then move a bit down-market, much as Tesla has done with its Models 3 and Y. An all-electric pickup has also been hinted at.
All told, AMP-1 could expand to handle as many as 400,000 vehicles a year. It might have to handle other projects, as well.
Lucid plans to take another page out of the Tesla playbook, Rawlinson confirming in his interview plans to build stationary power systems based around his company’s battery technology. If anything, the former Tesla chief engineer said he sees plenty of other applications for Lucid’s compact and powerful driveline, notably for electric aircraft, as well as in military applications.
“In building this factory, we adhered to several important manufacturing philosophies, including the tenets of ‘Future Ready’ and ‘On Time,’ together which have allowed us to effectively manage our investment and build a brand new factory from the ground up,” said Peter Hochholdinger, another Tesla expat now serving as Lucid’s manufacturing chief.
“As we add new platforms and vehicles to our lineup, the planning that went into this facility ensures that we will always be able to keep up with growing customer demand for advanced electric vehicles,” Hochholdinger added.
Despite the speed with which the Arizona plant came together, Lucid has fallen behind its original production schedule, reflecting the challenges of raising cash for an as yet-untested start-up. The company has so far resisted the path taken by other start-ups, including Nikola and Fisker, which turned to merger with SPACs, or “blank-check companies” to quickly go public and generate investments.
Fisker, meanwhile, plans to avoid the costs and challenges of setting up its own assembly plant. Instead, it is partnering with Canadian mega-supplier Magna which will provide both the underlying platform and then assemble the Fisker Ocean SUV at its factory in Graz, Austria. That facility, known as Magna-Steyr, has become a popular resource for established automakers who use it to assemble low-volume niche vehicles. The Canadian company hopes to team up with several other EV start-ups and may set up another plant in North America for them.