Lucid has used an over-the-air (OTA) update to its flagship Air electric sedans to figure out which vehicles are affected by a recall issue, the company reported in documents filed with the federal government and posted earlier this week.
The recall of an estimated 259 Lucid Air luxury EVs from model years 2022 and 2023 involves replacement of potentially defective parts, and thus can't be solved by a software update alone. But it's the result of a much smaller pool of vehicles, after Lucid pushed an OTA update to help identify the problematic parts.
Contactors are switches that close when driving to allow power to flow from the battery pack to the motor or motors. In the affected vehicles, the contactors may open unexpectedly, causing a loss of power. This is due to their spring force being overwhelmed by magnetic force, according to recall documents.
2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring
When operating normally, the contactors exhibit a "single-dip signature" caused by movement of components in a magnetic field, according to the documents. A "double-dip signature" indicates susceptibility to opening unexpectedly, Lucid found, cutting off power to the motors. In recall documents, the automaker pointed out that displays, power steering, and power brakes won't be affected.
The contactor shifted to an updated design in October, but for older cars Lucid used an OTA update to remotely analyze vehicles for risk of this defect. It initially identified 232 customer cars with contactors that may need replacement, and expects an additional 27 vehicles to require contact replacement once owners update their software and allow the analysis to run. Owners will have affected contactors replaced free of charge.
2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring
This sounds like an issue that Ford had with the Mustang Mach-E—and in that case it was able to remedy it via an OTA update that changed the behavior of the contactor. What Lucid is doing here fits into another category—using OTA updates to push diagnostic software, helping to lessen the size of physical recall remedies.
This kind of remote diagnosis of potentially defective components is something General Motors might have found useful, for instance, when it turned to dealerships to flash tens of thousands of Bolt EVs with battery diagnostic software.
As Lucid underscores, a significant portion of the potential pool of vehicles will need to be physically brought in for the updates, too, but that's only because their owners haven't kept up on them.
Tesla already has a track record for providing recall remedies through OTA updates, for what might otherwise be far greater service challenges, including issues with power steering, heat pumps, and power windows. Now Lucid takes the usefulness of such updates to the next step—if it can get its owners to accept them.