CHICAGO: Lucid Motors, the Californian electric vehicle (EV) carmaker part-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is scouting out locations for retail sales outlets in the Kingdom, CEO Peter Rawlinson told Arab News.
The cutting-edge manufacturer of high-end EVs broke ground on a manufacturing center in Arizona last year and is due to start full production on its first vehicles in spring 2021.
Although many compare Lucid to Tesla, Rawlinson called Lucid the first EV to compete with traditional luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW and Porsche. Lucid is on track, he said, to provide more affordable models that will offer higher mileage and nearly double the voltage capacity offered by Tesla.
Rawlinson said the $1 billion investment by the Kingdom’s PIF was “vital” in allowing the company to move forward with its larger vision to manufacture an affordable, efficient and sustainable transportation that will eventually replace gasoline-based vehicles.
“We are reciprocating, and we are going to do something amazing with PIF in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia, and that will be very much in line with Vision 2030 to really reduce their economy’s dependence upon fossil fuels,” Rawlinson said.
“I think sunshine will last future generations longer than oil. And if they can leverage that sunshine with the energy-storage solutions that Lucid Technologies can provide, linked to our cars and our automotive technology, we are going to do something huge in the Kingdom, and hopefully, we are going to make an announcement regarding those plans very soon.”
PIF announced its investment in Lucid Motors in September 2018. “By investing in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market, 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 fund said in a statement at the time.
The carmaker has also partnered with the fund to train young Saudis and give them exposure to the innovative vehicles the company is developing. “PIF strongly believes in actively engaging with youth to develop our Kingdom’s sustainable future. Since 2019, our internship partnership with Lucid Motors has trained the future innovators of our economy,” PIF said in a tweet on Sept. 2.
In terms of the carmaker’s immediate partnership with the Kingdom, the CEO said his teams are scrutinizing possible locations in Saudi Arabia to open retail outlets — what Lucid calls “Studios” — for their luxury EVs.
“We are already looking,” he said. “My retail team just returned from a scouting trip in the Kingdom, and that is very much on the road there. Hopefully, we can get a retail outlet there right at the tail end of 2021, probably early 2022.”
Rawlinson said a major priority is to address the public’s concerns over affordability and “range anxiety,” noting that Lucid’s vehicles offer as much as 517 miles on a charge. He said Lucid will bring down costs through efficiencies and technology improvements focused, in part, on improving the battery performance and reducing battery size.
“The key is to achieve range through efficiency. That means how far I can go for a given amount of energy. It’s like miles per gallon for a gasoline car. And the best metric for measuring that is miles per kilowatt-hour,” he explained.
“We are able to get over four-and-one-half miles per kilowatt-hour, and that is extraordinary. That is a measure of our technology. We are achieving our over 500-mile range through our tech and not just through the size of our battery pack, and that is a big difference.”
He envisions a time when costs could drop as low as $25,000 a vehicle and the availability of EV charging stations could resemble the gasoline station construction boom that followed the launch of the first gasoline-powered vehicles at the turn of the 20th century. The current Lucid Air models range between $69,900 and $161,500.
Rawlinson said that Tesla, where he worked previously, has done an “amazing job” in focusing the market’s attention to EVs as the future for personal and business transportation.
“They are in the pre-eminent position here. What has surprised me and disappointed me is the reluctance of traditional car companies and the rest of the industry to rise to this challenge to take the baton and to proceed,” Rawlinson said, emphasizing that Lucid is not competing with Tesla. “I don’t actually think we are directly competing with Tesla, although a lot of the media likes to portray it that way. There is an inevitability about that.
“Right now, Tesla is running six years ahead of the competition. And it befalls Lucid to take up this challenge. That’s one of the reasons we are here, that’s why I am doing what I am doing.”