There’s been no shortage of competition for Tesla’s revolutionary Model S electric car. Challengers have been created by established manufacturers, been jointly developed between rival car companies, and we’ve even seen the rise and fall of EV start-ups that fail before they start.
But while many have tried to knock off the undisputed EV king, the Model S has been on sale for almost a decade and still remains the stand-out example of how to make an electric vehicle work in the real world.
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That is, until now.
A new name has hit the market, and Lucid Motors looks to be aiming squarely at the Model S with its new Air electric sedan. Unlike its forebears, this one seems as though it’ll go the distance rather than fizzle into obscurity.
Before diving in, it’s worth mentioning the reasons we think the Lucid Air will go the distance. Lucid is a company that’s been around for well over a decade, and was originally just in the business of developing EV batteries for other manufacturers.
It then pivoted to developing electric vehicles themselves in 2016, and has been fine-tuning the Air sedan, which will go on sale late 2020, ever since. The company has more than 500 employees, some of whom were pilfered from Tesla, and holds funding in excess of a billion dollars.
With that, how do these two EV juggernauts compare against one another? Let’s pitch them head to head in a specification comparison.
Lucid has come prepared to take on the best, stocking a stonking great powertrain that should – on-paper at least – comfortably eclipse the performance of even the quickest Model S.
Lucid hasn’t divulged the full battery details just yet, but pundits expect a battery size in excess of 100kWh which will power both single- and dual-motor options, the latter of which powers all four wheels and can output 746kW.
That should see the Air propelled from zero to 100km/h in roughly 2.5 seconds – among the quickest sprinting cars on Earth. Lucid also claims the Air can reach an electronically-limited 320km/h top speed.
Comparatively, the Tesla Model S can’t quite match those mind-bending stats, but it’s no slouch either. The largest battery fitted to the Tesla Model S is a 100kWh battery pack that powers all four wheels for a combined 580kW.
This shoots the Model S from 0-100km/h in roughly 2.5 seconds and onto a 260km/h top speed.
Not only does Lucid’s larger battery afford it extra performance over the Model S, the company has confirmed it will travel further between charges too. An independently-tested 832 kilometres is the maximum combined range for the Air, which is the longest of any EV to date.
It’ll also charge quickly, utilising a 900-volt charging system (which can charge at 300kW DC) to draw a 480km charge in just 20 minutes.
The fastest charging rate on a Tesla is 50kW less with a maximum rate of 250kW, which is accessed through Tesla’s Supercharger locations. The Tesla is able to regain 80 percent of its battery capacity in 30 minutes on charge.
Electric vehicles and autonomy have become synonymous and as such Lucid plans to offer self-driving technology in the Air. Staples like radar-based cruise control, lane-keep assist, autonomous braking and self-parking will all combine to form the Air’s self-driving capability.
Lucid is aiming for a level 3 autonomous certification using LIDAR tech; the self-driving feature is said to be named DreamDrive. It won’t have level 3 tech at launch, but aims to develop the tech to that point within a couple of years.
There’s no doubt that Tesla has some of the best autonomous driving technology in the game, and that doesn’t look like it’ll change in the short term.
It isn’t quite at ‘eyes off’ level, but Tesla’s level 2 autonomous Autopilot system can function continually unaided in traffic using a litany of cameras and radars positioned around the vehicle.
Elon Musk has said that level 5 autonomous tech is coming within the year, though we’re not holding our breath.
Lucid makes no bones about the fact that the Air is a luxury vehicle, and will be appointed as one. The upscale interior is fitted with high quality materials and tech in either four- or five-seat configurations and it’s all under a large panoramic glass roof like a Tesla.
There are two main touchscreens that house a fully digital instrument cluster, and more controls are located on the second lower-mounted touchscreen. The car includes an artificially intelligent computer that can understand natural speech and learn preferences for music and destinations, for example.
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The Model S is also a luxurious vehicle bursting with tech and quality appointments. Taking pride of place in the cabin is a massive 17.0-inch touchscreen which controls the car’s systems, flanked by a fully digital instrument cluster.
There’s ample storage space and a large amount of room in both seating rows, and it’s all illuminated by a glass panoramic roof. Tesla’s seat material is completely synthetic, keeping in-line with the car’s sustainable nature.
While there’s no doubt that Tesla has dominated the electric car market for the better part of a decade, there’s been little evolution over that time (save for some pretty impressive battery updates). Despite a facelift in 2016, the Model S is largely the same car that debuted in 2012.
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This presents a unique opportunity for Lucid, whose innovation and product promises look set to eclipse Tesla’s Model S achievements so long as they can back their word once the car gets to market.