Add another start-up to the list of dreamers trying to become the next Tesla.
With Tesla having recently briefly surpassed General Motors and Ford as the most valuable automaker in the US, it looks easier than ever to spring up from nothing to compete with the world’s leading automakers for a share of the electric-vehicle pie.
But moonshots are tough for a reason.
That’s why a Silicon Valley start-up called Lucid Motors went to the New York Auto Show in April to proudly display its sleek luxury electric sedan, dubbed the Lucid Air, and showcase another test vehicle designed to demonstrate its engineering prowess.
Lucid Motors, whose leaders include former Tesla Model S engineer Peter Rawlinson, generated buzz among industry watchers after announcing in 2016 that it would construct a US$700 million (NZ$984m) plant in Arizona beginning in the second quarter of 2017. Arizona even pledged to kick in some economic development incentives to make it happen.
But as with all new automotive companies, including Tesla in its early days, a heavy dose of scepticism is appropriate.
Secretive Chinese-backed electric vehicle start-up Faraday Future, for example, has made big claims about its plans for an ultra-luxury electric car, but its path to industry domination remains full of obstacles. Developing a vehicle from scratch takes more than US$1 billion, by most industry estimates, and that doesn’t even solve manufacturing and sales challenges.
Is Lucid different?
The company told journalists that its Lucid Air would have “up to” 640 kilometres of battery range and 1000 horsepower, which would make it one of the most powerful street-legal vehicles in the world. The base model would offer 400 horsepower and battery range of 390km, or about the same range as GM’s new Chevrolet Bolt.
Lucid now says it will start manufacturing in the first half of 2019 with plans to assemble 10,000 vehicles within its first 12 months in operation and 130,000 units annually by 2022.
The company said its investors include American investment firm Venrock, Japan-based Mitsui and China-based Tsing Capital.
Lucid spokeswoman Amanda Hundt said the company had raised three rounds of funding worth “hundreds of millions” and is currently seeking a fourth round of financing.
She said the company would sell directly to consumers – a strategy similar to Tesla’s.
“We will start by opening retail stores and build up to a steady rollout plan throughout 2018 and beyond,” she said in an email. “We will begin opening service centres as we start nearing production.”