LUCID AIR
Motor Trend|January 2022
THIS GAME-CHANGING ELECTRIC SEDAN POINTS THE WAY FORWARD
FRANK MARKUS

Automotive progress usually happens slowly, like a white oak sapling growing in a forest. But every now and then a new car jumps off the 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 levels of innovation and sophistication are as unexpected as multicolored tree bark.

A year or two ago, most of you and many of us might have said, “Lucid? Is it still going? I thought it was 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.

We weren't wowed by the whopping numbers Lucid has touted 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. Anyone can buy big numbers by installing giant motors and batteries. Rather, it's the sophisticated way Lucid achieves those big numbers in a package that ranks highly in each of our six key Car of the Year criteria that captured our attention and earned our Golden Calipers.

Engineering Excellence

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 a requiring minimal soldering. 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 number of rare-earth magnets by optimizing their positioning.

Then, instead of multiplying the motor's torque and sending it through beefy differential gears, Lucid packages a small, light differential 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 a drive unit with triple the power density of the leading competitors.

Although the cylindrical batteries chemistry 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 is 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.

Lucid designed and developed the entire electric powertrain 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 300 kW (or more) of the latest 800-volt juice. That makes the Lucid Air today's fastest-charging EV, capable of adding 300 miles of driving range in 20 minutes.

Efficiency

The initial Lucid Air Dream and Grand Touring models will deliver 451 to 520 miles of range from just 113 kWh of battery capacity. Later, a 92-kWh pack will provide 400-ish miles of range (and several more inches of foot- and legroom in the back seat). Lucid squeezes a remarkable number of miles from each kilowatt-hour in this Mercedes S-Class-competitive luxury sedan, thanks in part to Formula 1 racing-derived aerodynamic tricks that contribute to a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.200.

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