The luxury electric car known as the Lucid Air made its auto show debut in New York on Thursday.
Scheduled for production in 2019, the vehicle has long been considered a potential competitor to the Tesla Model S.
While skepticism remains (after all, even Tesla has had only two profitable quarters), the Air’s makers say the vehicle offers advantages that could disrupt the entire luxury sedan segment.
The Lucid Air’s electric powertrain allows it to conserve a considerable degree of space in the vehicle, which Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson says is one of the car’s key advantages.
The Air is shorter, narrower and lower than a Tesla Model S, but has the same interior space as a much larger Mercedes S-Class sedan, Rawlinson told reporters.
It’s also fast. The company recently tested the car’s stability at high speeds, reaching 217 miles per hour at a winter test track Ohio. Stability at high speeds is particularly important in the German market, home to the luxury brands Rawlinson considers the company’s true competitors, he told CNBC.
Rawlinson previously served as a Tesla vice president and chief engineer for the Model S.
Customers paying the starting price of $60,000 ($52,000 with federal tax credits) will get the Lucid Air with 240 miles of range. The car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in “less than 2.5 seconds,” according to the company.
An optional upgrade will give 400 miles of range on a single charge. That would be the longest of any electric car.
All production cars will come with the hardware needed for full autonomy, and — as with Teslas — the software will be introduced via over the air updates as the technology becomes available and legal conditions permit.
The car has other features, such as headlights made up of clusters of hundreds of microlenses, which swivel and project beams of light at different focal lengths to illuminate more of the road.
Customers can upgrade to an “executive package” with rear seats that recline to about 55 degrees, a feature that grew out of the inspiration the company drew from executive jets. The model on display at the New York Auto Show had a glass roof, also available with an upgrade.
That model would cost closer to $100,000, Rawlinson said, “but for $60,000 you’ll still get a cracking good car.”
Lucid expects to begin production in the second quarter of 2019 and build 10,000 vehicles in the first year of operation. By 2022, its factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, is expected to employ 2,000 full-time employees and manufacture up to 130,000 vehicles annually, the company has said.
Drivers can reserve a car on Lucid’s website. Deliveries will begin in 2019.