US-based electric car maker Lucid Motors will produce vehicles in Saudi Arabia by 2024, as the battle for dominance in the fledgling sector ramps up in the Middle East.
The announcement of a factory being built in the Kingdom was made on Tuesday, with Saud Al-Askar, deputy governor of the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation, telling Al-Arabiya TV the paperwork on the deal was being finalised.
The move comes after Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund poured $1 billion into the company in April 2019 - giving it a 67 per cent stake in the firm.
Yet even with the funding, Lucid will be in a tough position to match the success of high-profile electric vehicle (EV) rival Tesla.
Lucid Motors’ flagship Lucid Air model, priced at over $70,000, is due to launch early next year but has received only 11,000 orders to date.
That’s about half as many Teslas have been sold every month in the US alone this year, and just under 388,000 cars in total were sold in Saudi Arabia in 2020.
Next year, the Lucid has a production target of just 20,000 cars.
Peter Rawlinson, chief executive officer of Lucid Motors, recognises that the firm has some way to go in challenging Tesla, and said: “Tesla is in its pre-ascent position because it recognised that electrification is a technology race."
Lucid hopes to win the EV race on efficiency, with the firm claiming its vehicles will be 40 percent more efficient than any other electric car, travelling 17 percent further for the same size battery pack as the Tesla Model S long range.
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Designed to achieve more range, its battery enables 4.6 miles of travel per kilowatt hour of power, meaning a Lucid car has a range of more than 500 miles on a single charge, compared to about 400 miles for the Tesla Model S.
But despite recent drops in battery prices, electric vehicles still cost more than their internal combustion counterparts. Pre-tax, batteries account for 25 percent to 35 percent of a vehicle's retail price.
Sue Magnusson, director of CMF design at Lucid Motors says that the company also hopes to stand out from its rivals due to its design philosophy.
“The use of sustainably sourced materials is an integral part of Lucid’s design philosophy. At every step, we must ask suppliers where the raw goods come from, how they’re harvested, how the factories are run and how they address the safety of their workers.
“Many manufacturers hold a standard that everything must be about quality and craftsmanship. Although an important part of what we do each day, we must also believe that reaching the highest standards in these areas without considering the impact of the processes and materials we use isn’t nearly enough.
“Across the entire electric car realm, sustainability should be a mission, not a phase,” she wrote in a column for Arab News in August that talked about the sustainably sourced leather, wood, polyester, and wool used in the Lucid Air’s interior.
Two other more expensive Lucid versions have also been announced, costing over $169,000. The Dream Edition Performance is designed for speed and acceleration, while the Dream Edition Range, is designed to maximise range.
Production was limited to 500 of these cars, which quickly sold out earlier this year.
Manufacturing them here in the Kingdom would be a significant win for the economy, employment, and the Vision 2030.
PIF already has a six-month internship program commencing in January that Saudi graduates can apply for, involving working at Lucid Motors’ US offices in California, Newark, and Arizona.
Although a fleet of Mercedes EQ electric cars are believed to be in use at NEOM, there are currently no electric cars sold in Saudi Arabia - only hybrid models - nor is there any charging infrastructure for them, apart from few locations like the one of the malls in Jeddah, an auto industry source told Arab News.
No legislation has yet been put in place in relation to the infrastructure, Arab News understands.
There are no battery disposal or recycling facilities in the Kingdom either, the source said.
While that is the case, there will be a long road ahead for electric car ownership here. Something that is expected to change with more Lucids cars on the road in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.