The dashboard of a Lucid Air prototype electric vehicle.
Lucid Motors is a privately held electric-vehicle startup run by a former
vice president. The company’s flagship product boasts some impressive specs, and Lucid management is quick to point out there is more to an EV than much-written-about batteries. The technology surrounding the battery matters just as much, and it might determine the ultimate winners and losers in the burgeoning field.
There are battles ahead. Tesla (ticker: TSLA) is already the world’s most-valuable car company, and sees an industry producing up to 30 million electric vehicles in a decade. A handful of startups want a piece of that growth—including Lucid.
Traditional auto makers such as
(GM) don’t plan to cede the industry to the new upstarts, either, and are planning to introduce dozens of EV models in coming years. Telsa, meanwhile, will deliver roughly 500,000 vehicles in 2020.
The multitrillion-dollar car business is going through a significant transformation—enabled by falling battery costs. The landscape is likely to look very different in 10 years than it does today. And not all of the current crop of startups will be winners.
“What I see is a bunch of SPACs with no technology,” Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said in an interview.
SPAC is short for special purpose acquisition company. Merging with a SPAC has become a popular way for a private company to raise capital and become a publicly traded entity. Alternative-fuel-truck startup
(NKLA) took that path. So have EV companies including Fisker, Canoo and Lordstown Motor. The latter three mergers are pending. Rawlinson said his company wasn’t pressed for cash, but looks at all options.
Rawlinson, who engineered the Model S during his time at Tesla, isn’t calling out any one player. But he notes that anyone can buy batteries from the likes of
(051910.Korea). “How far can we go per unit of energy is as important as the battery itself.” The battery, electric motor, power inverter, transmission and software all need to work together.
Lucid’s first product, the Air, gets 512 miles on a single charge, which is 4.5 miles per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity, Rawlinson said. A higher-end Tesla Model S can get about 4 miles per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity.
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Some of the difference might be attributable to battery chemistry. Companies can pay additional money for more-advanced battery cathodes. The details of Lucid’s battery agreement weren’t discussed. But Rawlinson said his company honed its battery-integration technology by supplying the all-electric racing circuit Formula E, sponsored by
In addition to having battery technology, Rawlinson thinks it is critically important to manufacture vehicles in-house. He said outsourced manufacturing won’t work. Lucid put up its own plant in Arizona in less than nine months—he didn’t disclose the cost—and said cars are rolling off the line now.
Lucid is starting with a low-volume, high-price version of the Air. “It is so much more difficult make a new VW Golf than new Rolls,” he said. “Rolls is small volume, hand built. The Golf needs a huge factory with billions of dollars of automation.”
The higher-end version of the Air, which can sell for about $170,000, is set to be delivered to customers in 2021. More-affordable versions are slated for 2022.
“There is lots of hype in the industry. The proof is in the pudding,” Rawlinson said about EVs, including his own. “People won’t believe us till (the Air) is out there.”
Tesla is the one out there now. It is the world’s largest EV producer, with global market share of 20% to 30%. The stock is up 425% year to date, far better than comparable returns of the
Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Write to Al Root at firstname.lastname@example.org