It’s official: The 500-mile barrier for EV range has been broken by California-based Lucid Motors, maker of the Lucid Air luxury electric sport sedan.
The EV-maker has been promising the record-shattering result for months, but the federal EPA has now certified ranges of 516 and 520 miles for two “Dream Edition” versions of the 2022 Lucid Air, both already sold out. Those ratings far surpass the 405-mile range estimate for the previous record holder, Tesla’s Model S Long Range.
Mercedes-Benz’ EQS sport sedan, due in dealerships later this year, is expected to win a rating of about 370 miles while most other EV makers—except for those with electric trucks, which can carry larger batteries than sedans and small crossovers—are still struggling to break the 300-mile mark.
The record range comes at a cost, though. Lucid’s 500-mile models start at $139,000 while the Model S Long Range can be had for $91,900. Luxury appointments and electronics also pile on the bucks, with the all-wheel drive EQS expected to start at about $130,000 despite its 150-mile range handicap when compared with the Lucid Air.
Most EVs, including those from Lucid and Mercedes, qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, which helps make even these plutocrat-mobiles a bit more affordable. Tesla, however, has eclipsed the sales cap that ends the tax credit eligibility.
Lucid’s Long Rangers
Lucid received a 520-mile range estimate from the EPA for its $169,000 (before incentives) Lucid Air Dream Edition Range with 19-inch wheels. The Grand Touring trim with 19-inch wheels was rated at 516 miles by the agency.
The 1,111 horsepower Dream Edition Performance trim, also starting at $169,000, got a 471-mile range estimate for the version with 19-inch wheels. Tesla’s 1,020-horsepower Model S Plaid with 19-inch wheels is rated at 396 miles. To be fair, Tesla’s most powerful model also costs less at $131,690.
All three versions of the Lucid Air also can be equipped with 21-inch wheels, but the larger tires increase rolling resistance and cut into range. How much do wheels and tires matter? The official EPA estimates are 481 miles for the Dream Edition Range with the larger wheels and 469 miles for the Grand Touring.
The Air’s Performance trim with 21-inch wheels is rated at 451 miles, almost 30 percent more than the Models S Plaid on identically-sized wheels.
How’d They Do It?
Lucid, which got its start developing battery packs for electric race cars, credits its substantial lead in range to overall efficiency rather than sheer battery size, although its longest-range model uses the industry’s largest battery as measured by capacity.
Lucid’s in-house EV technology including its miniaturized, lightweight drive units—motor, transmission and power inverter—its 900-volt battery and its overall battery management strategy led to the landmark range ratings, said Peter Rawlinson, Lucid Group’s chief executive and chief technology officer.
Financial woes in 2017 slowed Lucid’s production schedule and gave the company’s engineers extra time to fine-turn every detail. Rawlinson has said in previous interviews that everything down to wheel bearings and the level of braking force was changed to improve efficiency.
Using a 900-volt battery—the industry standard has been 400 volts—allowed Lucid to reduce the size and weight of a number of electrical components. The higher voltage also reduces heat, cutting the amount of power that’s diverted to run the cooling system for the battery pack and power cables.
The all-wheel drive Dream and Grand Touring trims use two drive packages—one for each axle—and downsizing the components within them helped keep the weight down. Weight is one of an EV’s worst enemies when it comes to range.
Despite that, the Lucid Air is a large and hefty car. At 16.3 feet long and 6.4 feet wide it is nearly identical to the Tesla Model S although with an overall height of 55.5 inches its roof is 1.5 inches closer to the road. Even with its lightweight bits, the Lucid Air weighs in at just over 5,000 pounds, about 100 pounds more than the heaviest Model S, but 400 pounds less than the Mercedes EQS.
Lucid uses the same cylindrical battery cell format as Tesla and equips its models with packs ranging up to 118 kilowatt-hours total capacity. The Tesla Model S Long Range uses an estimated 100-kWh battery pack while Mercedes said the EQS is equipped with a 107.8-kWh pack.
Where Lucid excels is in the efficiency with which it transforms the electrons in the battery to power for driving the wheels.
Official numbers haven’t been released by the EPA, but it appears that the Lucid Air Dream Range uses only about 22 kilowatt-hours of power per 100 miles. The Tesla Model S Long Range, in comparison, has been rated by the EPA at 28 kWh per 100 miles.
Stacking Up Against The Opposition
All Lucid Air models are five seaters with dual motors and electric all-wheel drive. The Dream Range trim boasts 933 horsepower, a slight drop from the Performance trim’s 1,111 ponies in order to pick up the extra 49 miles of range. The Grand Touring trim is rated by Lucid at 800 horsepower. In gasoline vehicle terms, all three would be considered in supersedan territory.
The Tesla Model S Plaid is close to the Dream Performance at 1,020 horsepower, but the Model S Long Range lags the other Lucid trims at a mere 670 horsepower. How the models will compare in real world driving is still an open question, but we do know that “Much neck-snapping will ensue,” when test drives begin late this year, according to Lucid spokesman Andrew Hussey.
The EQS will have two trims, a rear-drive version rated at 329 horsepower and a dual motor, all-wheel drive variant rated at 516 horsepower. A just-announced Mercedes-AMG version of the EQS will have 751 peak horsepower with a “Race Start” function enabled, 651 horsepower in normal driving.
Lucid doesn’t provide torque figures and Rawlinson has said that torque “is irrelevant” for EVs.
Lucid claims 39.5 inches of front headroom, about three-quarters of an inch more than the Model S, and 41.5. inches of “effective” front legroom (45.4 inches maximum) versus the Tesla’s 42.7 inches.
Rear headroom, and this is after all a luxury sedan, is 38.3 inches, among the best in the electric sedan category, and rear legroom is 37.4 inches with the smaller “standard” battery and 35.8 inches with the long-range battery that the first three trims—Dream Range, Dream Performance and Grant Touring—are using.
The sporty sedan has one of the largest front storage areas, or “frunks,” around at 7.1 cubic-feet, or enough for two fairly large suitcases; the cargo hold behind the rear seats is about 16 cubic-feet (final U.S. measurements haven’t been published), which is in the same range as the Tesla Model 3 and Model S.
Customer deliveries of the Dream Range, Dream Performance and Grand Touring trims all are scheduled to start later this year. There are two less expensive trim levels of the Lucid Air on tap, but customers will have to wait until 2022 to get their hands on them.
The Lucid Air Pure, the base model, is priced from $77,400 before incentives and offers 480 horsepower. The Touring trim, with 620 horsepower, will start at $95,000. Both are expected to receive EPA range ratings of around 410 miles.
That’s still among the longest range EVs money can buy, but officially breaking the 500-mile barrier is significant. Most humans require a recharge of their own after 400 or 500 miles of driving, and such ranges diminish all but the most irrational range anxiety.