Automotive progress usually happens in baby steps. Slowly, like a white oak sapling growing in a forest. But every now and then a new car jumps off the automotive forest floor like a rainbow eucalyptus, advancing like crazy while making a colorful splash. The Air sedan from startup EV-maker Lucid is just such a car, and its level of innovation and sophistication are as fresh and unexpected as multicolored tree bark.
A year or two ago, most of you and many of us might have said, “Lucid? Are they still going? I thought they were foundering like Byton, Faraday Future, Dyson, Nio…” Lucid is very much still going. It’s helmed by experts cherry-picked from various successful automakers and it’s funded sufficiently to launch this Air sedan while developing its next model, the Gravity SUV. Were we wowed by the whopping numbers Lucid has been touting recently—up to 1,111 horsepower and 1,390 lb-ft of torque in the Air Dream P edition and up to 520 miles of EPA-official range in the Dream R edition? No. Anyone can buy big numbers by installing giant motors and batteries. Rather, it’s the sophisticated way Lucid achieves them in a package that ranks highly in each of our six key criteria that captured our attention and our calipers.
The tiny, power-dense motor that generates those headline-grabbing specs does so with an innovative new stator winding consisting of 24 square copper wires “woven” into a convenient assembly requiring minimal bonding. To better manage the intense heat these wires generate under full power, Lucid moved the cooling passages down to the narrow spaces between winding channels, utilizing magnetic-field “dead zones” in the stator body. The rotor squeezes more reluctance torque out of the same amount of rare-earth magnets by optimizing their positioning.
Then, instead of multiplying the motor’s torque and then sending it through beefy differential gears, Lucid packages a small, light diff inside the rotor. Yes, this design requires two reduction gears, but placing a compact planetary unit on each side of the motor keeps things light and results in a complete drive unit with triple the power density of the leading competitors.
While the chemistry of the cylindrical batteries is conventional, the pack is designed to simplify automated assembly in a patented and award-winning injection-molded case that incorporates all the power-conducting bus bars. The cells connect to these bars via new lower-resistance ribbon connectors instead of wires, and heat gets conducted away from the ends of the cells instead of from the sides. Lucid says this results in more efficient cooling and easier installation, and it eliminates heavy, costly adhesive in the pack.
The entire electric powertrain was designed and developed in-house, including the “wunderbox” electronic controller that manages the Air’s 900-volt electrical system. It’s bi-directional, so it can provide “jump charging” to other EVs. It can manage 19.2 kW of level-2 home charging, it upconverts DC fast-charging power from 400 volts in older stations, and it can accept 300kW (or more) of the latest 800-volt “juice.” That makes the Lucid Air today’s fastest charging EV, capable of adding 300 miles in 20 minutes.
Performance Of Intended Function
Rawlinson established a daunting list of “intended functions” for the Air to fulfill: S-Class levels of ride comfort and luxury, a chassis with the nimbleness and control responsiveness of the Lotus cars he chief-engineered, and 500 miles of electric driving range. Yikes. As for matching an S-Class, that low frontal-area requirement means Lucid trails in head- and shoulder-room, with rear legroom trailing by a significant 8 inches in the models with the biggest battery. The Air slays in trunk space, however, offering 3.4 cubic feet more of it in the conventional trunk, plus a bonus 10.0-cubic-foot frunk, for 32.1 cubic feet total. The Lucid pairs Bilstein Damptronic Sky adjustable shocks like those Mercedes uses, but pairs them with coil springs (the S-Class and EQS use air springs). Most judges found the ride quality to be amply luxurious in the most comfortable “Smooth” drive mode.
“In Smooth, the Air is comfortable and quiet, if slightly floaty; in Swift it feels like a great all-rounder,” said features editor Seabaugh, adding, “in Sprint it may not shrink on you like the Taycan, but this big sedan is genuinely enjoyable to work around the track.” Guest judge Theodore concurred “Amazing in its ability to hustle around corners. In Sprint mode, electric nannies are minimized and when they intrude, they do so subtly. Brakes are powerful but feel a bit artificial.” Speaking of brakes, several judges begged for the option of little or no regenerative braking, while others felt the higher “max regen” setting could be even stronger.
It’s in Swift and Sprint modes that the Lucid Air really distinguishes itself from the Mercedes competition. This mere 800-hp version whooshes through the quarter at 130.1 mph. That’s faster than every EV except the Tesla Model S Plaid and Porsche Taycan Turbo S, and the 1,111-hp Dream P is sure to give them a run for their money.
Source : Motor Trend