Thursday, May 26

Meet the Briton who leads a Tesla rival who wants to save the planet | Automotive industry

Lucid Motors boss Peter Rawlinson is fluent in the language of the new generation of electric car makers: He wants to save the planet, and he wants to do it fast.

The California automaker is only beginning production of its highly anticipated first model in the second half of this year, but it has quickly been seen as one of the leaders in Tesla’s pool of potential rivals. A recent $ 24bn (£ 17bn) deal to list on the US equity markets will give you $ 4.6bn in funds to play with.

Such is the urgency of the “looming environmental crisis” facing the world, according to Rawlinson, that Lucid hopes to work with mass-market automakers to get their technology into production as soon as possible.

Lucid has been “contacted by some auto companies this year” about licensing deals, Rawlinson told The Guardian. Those talks haven’t yielded “anything tangible” yet and the prospect of earning income from partnerships with other automakers, he says, remains highly speculative. However, there is “delicious potential,” and the right partner could produce an affordable electric car in four years, he says.

Peter Rawlinson from Lucid
Lucid’s Peter Rawlinson says conversations with other automakers haven’t yielded “anything tangible” yet. Photography: Lucid

He declined to comment when asked if Apple, the iPhone maker that is considering making an electric car, had reached out to Lucid.

“The big picture is that I have this dichotomy,” Rawlinson said, speaking via video call from California. “The dichotomy is that we need to put millions of $ 25,000 cars into production quickly to save the planet. We have the right technology, but as a company I can’t get there for about eight or nine years and it’s too late. “

An agreement with car manufacturers such as Honda, Hyundai or Toyota (named by Rawlinson) would be the “icing on the cake” for a company, which still does not sell a single car, which has become one of the standard bearers of the Spac boom of electric cars in the US (or bubble, depending on taste). Rivals that are also using Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (Spacs) to list in the US include Arrival from the UK and Canoo, Fisker, Lordstown and Rivian from the US, in addition to Chinese competitors like Li Auto, Nio and Xpeng.

What sets Lucid’s Spac apart is its size. The $ 4.6 billion financing it will get from the listing, if completed, will include $ 2.1 billion directly from Spac’s cash deposit and another 2.5 billion investors led by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, which is its largest shareholder.

That arguably makes Rawlinson the most influential carmaker in Britain, albeit with a firm base in California.

Rawlinson grew up in South Wales and went to school in Cowbridge, near Cardiff. He considered going to art school, but instead studied mechanical engineering at Imperial College London. He worked at Jaguar and Lotus in the UK before joining an ambitious new electric car maker. That company was Elon Musk’s Tesla, and Rawlinson ended up as chief engineer for Tesla’s Model S.

In 2013, Rawlinson moved to Atieva, which made batteries for the Formula E electric racing series. Atieva eventually decided to move into car production and Rawlinson convinced him to change his name to Lucid.

Rawlinson is closely following Tesla’s business model, from targeting its first cars at wealthier buyers to starting a home battery business. Rawlinson praises his former employer and says he has “the best electrical technology in production today.”

Tomorrow could be a different matter. Lucid’s claims about his cars are yet to be proven, but they are extraordinary.

The Lucid air, which will begin production in the second half of this year, aims for a range of 517 miles for its $ 161,000 flagship model. Such a long driving distance between recharges would put an end to the “range anxiety” that so many motorists cite as an inconvenience of buying electricity.

The Air’s promised acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 2.5 seconds would also surpass a Ferrari, but with zero carbon emissions.

A Lucid Air Grand Touring luxury electric car
An agreement with automakers like Honda, Hyundai or Toyota would be the “icing on the cake” for Lucid. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon / AFP / Getty Images

There is no great technological reveal of how this great goal will be achieved. Instead, Lucid is eliminating inefficiencies wherever it can find them, with the battery, gears, power electronics, and motor developed in-house. Examples of important developments are batteries that have a simpler manufacturing process or an engine that can be pumped directly through coolant, allowing for more efficient heat management.

Lucid employs nearly 2,000 people, and 3,000 workers are expected to be added in the US by the end of 2022. The factory it has built in Arizona can theoretically make 34,000 cars a year. By 2023, he expects about 90,000 units when he sells a seven-seater SUV that currently goes by the nickname “Project Gravity.”

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By 2025, he speculates that it will have revenue of $ 14 billion, which would represent a staggering growth rate. Five years later, it hopes to produce 500,000 cars a year, possibly with factories in China and the Middle East. That would still be just a fraction of similarly valuated high-volume automakers, but it wouldn’t be for lack of ambition on Lucid’s part.

“All of humanity will benefit from the technology that we bring in this high-end product,” Rawlinson said, “because it will produce a cascade of more affordable cars that we are going to build in the future.”

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