The Lucid Air Dream Range edition becomes the first retail battery-electric vehicle to deliver more than 500 miles per charge, the EPA today confirmed, giving the startup automaker a significant marketing boost as it takes aim at Tesla — as well as traditional automotive brands like Cadillac, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
The precise range varies according to model, and tire size also has an impact, according to EPA. But two versions of the new Lucid battery sedan will yield range estimated at more than 500 miles, or about 25% more than the Tesla Model S Long Range which is itself rated at 412 miles per charge.
“I’m delighted that our Lucid Air Dream Edition Range has been officially accredited with a range of 520 miles by the EPA, a number I believe to be a new record for any EV,” said Peter Rawlinson, the automaker’s CEO and chief technology officer, in a statement. “Crucially, this landmark has been achieved by Lucid’s world-leading in-house EV technology, not by simply installing an oversize battery pack.”
That’s not to say the battery pack is small. At 118 kilowatt-hours (although it uses only 113 kWh of the pack), its currently the biggest offered by any automaker, though it soon will be surpassed by several battery-electric vehicles now in the works. The Rivian R1S SUV and R1T pickup, for example, will offer optional packs as large as 180 kWh.
Battery efficiency is the key
But beyond breaking the 500-mile barrier, Lucid officials suggest, the real significance is how efficient the Air sedan is. Today’s BEVs are typically yielding anywhere from 2.5 to around 4 miles per kilowatt-hour. Lucid pushes that to 4.6 miles, also an industry record.
Getting there starts with a wind-slick body design that boasts among the lowest levels of drag of any automobile the EPA has tested.
Then there’s the Air’s driveline. As the chief engineer on the Tesla Model S program before joining Lucid, Rawlinson knew what his toughest competitor was using. He targeted several key steps to eke out even more range, starting with small, lightweight motors of its own design.
The company focuses on the latest in power electronics, using silicon carbide MOSFETS, rather than the conventional silicon-based power convertors in most of today’s battery-electric vehicles. Lucid’s system also operates at more than 900 volts while most others run at just 400.
Other brands are moving in that direction, Porsche’s Taycan actually the first BEV on the market to use an 800-volt electrical architecture – with General Motors, Audi and the Hyundai Motor Group expected to follow. GM’s chief EV strategist Tim Grewe last month told TheDetroitBureau.com that the automaker is studying silicon carbide technology but may not make the switch until late in the decade.
The payoff could be significant, Lucid expected to aggressive promote the EPA certification in marketing and PR campaigns.
“This raises the bar,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Guidehouse Insight. “Everyone will be chasing after this.”
Lucid plans to offer a range of Air models, with prices running from around $77,000 to more than $161,000. The EPA initially rated three versions, including the two initial “Dream” editions.
The Air Dream Range model will deliver an estimated 520 miles per charge; however, that dips to 481 when switching from 19- to 21-inch tires. The Dream Performance edition gets between 451 and 471 miles range, depending upon tires. But it bumps up to 1,111 horsepower from the Range model’s 933 hp.
They are expected to go into production late this year. In 2022, Lucid will follow with the Air Grand Touring edition. It will make a relatively modest 800 hp — about 20% more than the Tesla Model S Long Range — but it will yield 469 or 516 miles per charge, depending upon whether it’s equipped with 19- or 21-inch tires.
As with all BEVs, the caveat is that “mileage will vary,” often by quite a bit.
“If you actually use all that horsepower, you’re not going to get near that range,” said analyst Abuelsamid. EPA testing typically does little to push a vehicle’s performance limit. So, “real world range could be 50 to 60 miles less,” depending upon how aggressive the driver is.
Cold weather also has a major impact since BEVs rely on electric heaters drawing down their battery packs. Gas-powered models normally rely on waste engine heat to warm the cabin. According to studies by both AAA and Consumer Reports, BEV range typically drops about 40% when the temperature gets down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nonetheless, Lucid “has done a lot to eke every mile out of the energy they have onboard,” said Abuelsamid. And with a battery pack that could get a motorist from Los Angeles to San Francisco with power to spare, the nascent EV maker has thrown down the gauntlet for the rest of the emerging BEV market.