DUBAI: The latest challenge to conventional petrol-fueled motoring has been launched in the shape of the Lucid Air, a high-performance electric vehicle developed with the financial help of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The high-specification saloon car — which boasts fast acceleration, rapid charging capability, and extended driving range — was unveiled at a virtual ceremony at Lucid’s Californian base and will be available in the Middle East from next spring.
Peter Rawlinson, former designer at rival electric vehicle (EV) group Tesla who has overseen the launch of the Air, told Arab News that “the writing is on the wall” for traditional gasoline engines, and promised there were more innovative vehicles in the pipeline, including an SUV to appeal to Middle East markets.
“Lucid Motors is driven to make the electric car better, and by doing so, help move the entire industry forward, toward the accelerated adoption of electric vehicles,” he said.
The PIF paid more than $1 billion for a majority stake in Lucid’s shares two years ago in what was described by Rawlinson as a “strategic financial investment.” At that time, the PIF was also invested in rival Tesla, but has since sold down that interest.
“PIF is gaining exposure to long-term growth opportunities, supporting innovation and technological development and driving revenue and sectoral diversification for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the sovereign wealth fund said.
Rawlinson repeated a pledge that he would use Lucid technology and design as the foundation for an EV industry in the Kingdom. “We’d love to do that, to help Saudi Arabia with the genesis of a motor industry. We want to help the Kingdom diversify,” he said, adding that he “would not rule out” further fundraising.
The Air is aimed at the upmarket saloon sector of the motor business. It uses advanced electric engine technology to produce performance superior in many respects to similar internal combustion engines (ICE) in that segment, and miniaturized technology to offer more space and comfort.
The car can accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds and has a range of 517 miles (832 kilometers) on a single electric charge. Lucid claims it is the “fastest-charging EV in the world,” adding 20 miles of range in just a 20-minute charge on a fast-charging network, giving 300 miles of range in a 20-minute charge “in real world conditions.”
The Air will be on sale at an entry level price of around $80,000, rising to $169,000 for a limited Dream edition. Rawlinson said the price would fall as production accelerated, and in some parts of the world would be reduced by special government allowances for EV cars.
Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s vice president of design, said: “We are building the best car in the world and the numbers simply speak for themselves.”
Sales of electric cars have been rising rapidly but are still only a small single-digit percentage of the global vehicle market. Last year, they accounted for only 2.6 percent of total car sales, but this was a 40 percent rise over the previous year, according to figures from the International Energy Agency.
Some analysts believe the move to EV will prove to be unstoppable once development and vehicle costs come down and as environmental concerns grow. Some European governments have promised to phase out ICE engines altogether over the next 20 years.
Some experts have seen a surge in EV sales during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic even as sales of conventional vehicles fall because of pressure on consumer finances and a new target of “green recovery.”
Ride hailing giant Tesla said recently it would move to zero emissions for all its cars by 2040.
Rawlinson said the Air would help create a whole new market for EV luxury vehicles. “Tesla is a beautifully engineered product and a disruptive technology, and they are the leaders in electrification by a mile. But they do not do luxury,” he said.