With every new electric sedan, the term “Model S killer” is used over and over again, to no avail. With the arrival of the Lucid Air, rapprochement with its competitor is also inevitable. What if, in the end, she was the real Tesla Model S killer?
The electric car segment is seething. As countless emission-free SUVs emerge, some manufacturers are following the Tesla Model S’s path by offering premium sedans in the same segment. So the Audi e-Tron GT, the upcoming Mercedes EQE, the Porsche Taycan, the BYD Han EV, or even the Faraday Future and Fisker have too often been compared to serial killers capable of kneeling the Model S, the reference to shoot down.
While the Taycan is the only one to achieve its ambitions, albeit with a serious autonomy deficit compared to a Tesla Model S, the Lucid Air is now entering the fight. Like the others, she bulges her chest and places Elon Musk’s sedan in her sights.
The story of two men with clenched fists
A face to face after all natural in Silicon Valley between Lucid Motors and Tesla. Because beyond their geographical proximity around the San Francisco Bay, the history of these two entities is particularly linked. And for good reason, since Peter Rawlinson, at the head of Lucid Motors, is none other than the former chief engineer of the Tesla Model S. Almost ten years ago, he participated very closely in the development of the car that is today a benchmark. An investor in electrical technology and passionate about engineering, he believes he has the attributes needed to face Elon Musk. But also, we allow ourselves to doubt some first-line information to develop our own electric car.
Half-heartedly, Peter Rawlinson also prides himself on being surrounded by a team of engineers recruited by him. The vast majority come from Palo Alto as relayed by our colleagues at Echo magazine: “The most important thing in my job is to choose the best scientists, then to create the best technology. If I’ve done my job right, I could be the dumbest guy in the room because I’ll have all these smart guys to do the job, ”laughs Lucid’s boss. Because for the latter, technology is essential to secure the best place in the segment: “Why Tesla succeeded ten years ago while others failed? Because Tesla had the technology ”.
Battery and autonomy: advantage of the Lucid Air
At the center of the Lucid Air specifications, the technology provided by the new sedan impresses. Newark’s electric is powered by a lithium-ion battery supplied by Samsung SDI. Rather compact in view of its capacity of 113 kWh for its two top-of-the-range (smaller capacities will be offered on entry-level), it operates under a 924V system, the highest currently recorded on the market. The latter powers two electric motors producing a total of 1,095 hp in the Dream Edition version or 811 hp in the Grand Touring configuration.
For its part, the Tesla Model S begins to show the weight of the years. It still relies on a 100 kWh battery which immediately seems smaller, as well as a proven technology but far behind the Lucid Air. It cannot therefore compete in terms of autonomy. The Tesla Model S Long Range Plus, which promises the longest range ever recorded by a Model S, announces a value of 402 miles according to the American EPA cycle, or 646.8 km. The Lucid Air impresses with an advertised range of 517 miles (Grand Touring version with 19-inch rims), or 832 km. Which, the theoretical rule of three, shows an average consumption of 15.46 kWh / 100 km for the Model S and 13.58 kWh / 100 km for the Air. A record in terms of the size of the sedan and its weight, always kept at the discretion of the manufacturer but that we imagine elephantine. The Lucid Air puts the Model S on the ropes in this regard.
Recharge: the argument of the Supercharger network
With such technology, the most recent of these electric sedans puts forward an insane charging power so as not to wait at the fast charging station. In this case, the Lucid Air can peak at 300 kW, allowing it to gain 32.18 km of range per minute, or 482.7 km in 20 minutes. The Tesla Model S aroused does not stand the comparison by promising to regain 262.27 km in 15 minutes.
But Tesla’s sedan is highlighting its secret boot, known as the Supercharger. A network of fast charging stations that we no longer present, which is a benchmark in the field and plays a major part in the success of the American brand. Also, it does not have to be ashamed since it can touch the 250 kW maximum power in the United States. It should be remembered, however, that the European Model S (610 km of range in Long Range version) are still limited to 142 kW of power.
At Lucid Motors, we want to reassure customers by indicating that the Electrify America network currently has a fleet of 350 stations capable of delivering this power. In Europe, and in particular in France, the Ionity network will undoubtedly expand more and more terminals capable of recording the same level of performance by the time of the arrival of Air on the Old Continent. This will not prevent it from being confronted with the often questionable reliability of the operator’s installations and its regrettable price of 0.79 € / minute.
At home, the Model S promises an onboard charger of 11 kW, while the Lucid Air embeds a 19.2 kW installation. It also takes advantage of the Connected Home Charging Station wall terminal, which ensures maximum power but also allows you to take advantage of the Wonderbox. Under this name hides a two-way V2G charging device, which among other things allows energy to be returned to the home, to a power grid or to another electric vehicle. This system would already be planned by Tesla but is still not operational.
Performance: the power of the Air crushes the Model S
The Tesla Model S has surfed the theme for a long time by shining on the drag tracks of its native country, by raising the straps to a few established thermal references. Although she has gradually given up on this game, she is still attached to the Performance version, which updates regularly. Lately, the sedan has gained Cheetah Stance mode (power climbs to nearly 834 hp) promising it to catapult the 0-100 km / h in 2.41 seconds and the 400-meter standing start in 10.4 seconds (at 205 , 15 km / h). It wasn’t until the Porsche Taycan Turbo S that it was relegated to second place, though by a very short lead.
While waiting for a true Performance version with three engines, it is the Air Dream Edition which occupies the top of the basket with its 1,094 hp. Between the walls of the dragstrip, she stood out with a 400 meters D.A in 9.91 seconds, at a speed of 232.34 km / h. Lucid Motors announces an elusive 0-60 mph in under 2.5 seconds, but the Air appears to exhibit a much beefier power curve than the Model S, which loses steam as it approaches 200 km / h. Also, the latter peaks at 250 km / h while the Lucid hits 270 km / h. Note that at almost equal power, the 811 hp Grand Touring slashes 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds (0-100 km in approximately 3.2 seconds) and passes the 400-meter mark in 10.8 seconds at 214 km / h.
We can bet that these are just simple figures representative of a technical sheet, of relative interest to a large majority of drivers of this type of sedan. With turns, let us indicate on the other hand that the last stopwatches show a time of 1’41”67 for the Lucid Air on the Laguna Seca track (with a prototype in 2018) and 1’36”555 for the Tesla Model. S on the same circuit, with a prototype of the Plaid version. More recently, however, the Air Performance would have taken the lead with a time of 1.33 ”00. To be continued.
Style and roominess: top of the range at Lucid
Lucid Motors has chosen to cultivate a brand image quite different from that of Tesla. Elegance and refinement are put aside from Newark, when Tesla always surfs a high-tech and uncluttered image faithful to certain references of computers or telephones. In both cases, the cars look like concept cars, but the Tesla Model S, apart from everyone’s taste, is simpler in its lines and knows how to hide its wrinkles. La Air sometimes relies on cosmetic complications by mixing materials and curves. However, aerodynamic laws override these few stylistic considerations. The Lucid Air admits a Cx of 0.21 against 0.23 for the Model S. A difference which is of capital importance on an electric car.
The same goes for the interior. The Model S frees up space and its vibe is still alive despite its eight years of age. The Air prefers to look like a real limousine, in a techno-chic atmosphere of the latest jewels of automobile production. At the game of who has the biggest device, the Lucid presents before the driver’s eyes, hold your breath, a 34-inch 5K curved screen separated into three parts. It is supported by a second touchscreen that opens access to the vehicle’s controls and can be retracted to free up storage space. The set can also be controlled by voice with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. The Model S features a 17-inch tablet with a 1920 × 1200 resolution and a smaller instrument cluster. Enough to give a shot of old to this trailer of the car of the future.
The miniaturization of the mechanical elements (including the 73 kg electric motor that fits in a suitcase) required by the Lucid Air specifications allowed the interior to be shaped according to the Space Concept house architecture. The manufacturer announces the largest space on board in the category. But the Lucid Air will stand out later with the arrival of the two rear seats that can be reclined up to 45 degrees, which have nothing to envy of a First Class aeronautic, even if it means sacrificing cargo volume.
On this point, the sedan announces in its conventional configuration a total cargo volume of 658 liters, including 202 liters in the front frunk. The Model S offers here only 59.5 liters but makes up for it with its trunk to climb to a value of 804 liters (1,642 liters with the seats folded). Also, the cutout of the trunk of the Lucid Air does not seem the most ergonomic to fill the trunk with double floor. And since it’s more than golf bags in life, the Model S feels more practical on a daily basis.
Verdict: Lucid Air wins, but you still have to go to checkout
On a strictly theoretical level and based on the information communicated by the two manufacturers, the Lucid Air brings a serious wind of innovation in the segment, with a rigorous high-end presentation, one of the best (if not the best) electrical technologies and an original technical sheet. With more engine power, a flash recharge and a pantagruelic autonomy, it crushes the Tesla Model S and proudly carries its qualifier of Tesla killer vigorously employed by the specialized press of which we are part.
But it will still have to prove itself in the real world and on the road, especially in terms of reliability and finish, which have not always been the strengths of the new entities, of which Tesla is (still) a part. Also, its technological endowment and its DreamDrive autonomous driving device operating with a LiDAR will have to rub shoulders with the particularly successful Tesla Autopilot system.
Let’s also temper our point: the Lucid Air appears as the Tesla Model S has just blown out its eight candles, usually retirement age for an automobile. The technological advantage of Air is therefore quite legitimate. But comparisons with the Model S, which are the raison d’être of this article, are enough to highlight Tesla’s lead in the electric segment. Especially since the Palo Alto sedan offers its full potential at a price of $ 74,990 in the Long Range Plus trim and $ 94,990 in the Performance trim. For its part, the Lucid Air Dream Edition claims $ 169,000 (the total price of the two aforementioned Tesla!) And $ 139,000 in the Grand Touring version. We will therefore have to wait for the Touring version (629 hp and 653 km of autonomy) in 2021 at a price of $ 95,000 or the entry-level Air at $ 80,000, whose technical sheet has not yet been specified. The Tesla Model S can therefore sleep soundly. However, we must believe that to shine as much as Tesla on paper, we must push the technological potentiometers very far, at the risk of overinflating the selling price. The advantage: the Lucid Air will undoubtedly become the benchmark for the next superlative electric sedans, like the Mercedes EQS for example.
(Editor’s note: due to the absence of European prices, which must include local VAT, import costs and other taxes or fees, we have chosen to carry out a price comparison on the basis of the American prices displayed on respective sites).