Lucid Air electric luxury sedan prototype [photo: David Noland]
No test drive
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say about how the Air drives (It’s actually an automobile, remember?) No journalist or company outsider, as far as I know, has yet taken the wheel.
But I did manage a shotgun ride in an engineering prototype, for some reason painted in disguising camouflage.
The Lucid engineering test driver careened up and down the narrow streets around the Lucid building for a couple of minutes, and the car felt very Tesla-like in its smoothness, quiet, and acceleration.
At one point, a Lucid marketing exec asked me, “You’re a Model S owner. What would it take to make you switch over to an Air?”
That, of course, is the $64,000 question that will determine whether Lucid succeeds or fails as a company.
Lucid Air spotted driving through San Francisco
What would it take to get me out of my Model S and into an Air?
With the understanding that I may not be a typical Model S owner, here’s my reply: The bigger back seat won’t do it. The private-jet luxury feel won’t do it. The fancy UI stuff won’t do it. The 235-mph top speed won’t do it.
Those are all fine things to have in a car, but they just don’t mean that much to me. In all those categories—room, luxury, speed, UI— the Model S meets or exceeds what I want out of a car.
For me personally, the Air has two big advantages over the Model S: the bigger driver’s door, and the improved control ergonomics. And I do love the sweeping panoramic windshield and glass roof.
But on the other hand: no hatchback for my bikes and dog. No cool CEO who also makes rockets. No company policy to change the world.
And here’s the killer: no Supercharging network.
Tesla Model S at Supercharger site in Ventura, CA, with just one slot open [photo: David Noland]
Having used Tesla’s Supercharging network extensively, all over the country, I can testify first-hand how splendid it is. I can’t imagine doing my annual New York-to-California drive without it.
Contrast that with recent frustrated reports from owners of Chevy Bolts—the only other long-range e-car currently on the market—who’ve tried to make cross-country journeys in their cars.
In my opinion, no company will ever seriously challenge Tesla without a comparable fast-charging network.
Considering that Tesla has a five-year, $2 billion-dollar head start, the odds of that happening any time soon are slim to none, it seems to me.
My advice to Lucid (and any other company currently working on Model S 2.0): strike a deal with Tesla to use its Superchargers.
Tesla Supercharger network, North American coverage map, Feb 2017 [graphic: Isaac Bowser]
Musk has already said he’s willing to do such a deal. Sure, it would mean swallowing some corporate pride.
But by 2020, if Tesla’s own Model S 2.0 is nearing the showroom, the challenge of being a Tesla-killer will be even more daunting than it is now.