Lucid shows off 40 prototype Air EVs awaiting testing

Sven Gustafson

Like other automakers, and a few startups hoping to launch their first electric vehicle models, Lucid has seen its plans to unveil the Air sedan delayed by the coronavirus. That’s left the fledgling automaker with dozens of prototypes lying around, temporarily unable to perform the test runs they were designed for, but needing to keep up the marketing hype effort after the New York Auto Show was postponed.

So the company chose to show off the prototypes — it has 40 of them, in fact, with more planned to be built — in this video, which shows them parked at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. They’re wearing four different wraps, each of which is said to reflect different inspirations. Though the jump-cuts in the video are quick, we can definitely make out a few things, including a bank of evergreen sequoia trees, a silhouette of a Joshua tree, the Golden Gate Bridge and the famed Bixby Creek Bridge along the Pacific Coast Highway. We detect a strong Golden State theme; Lucid says it will share more details about the inspiration behind the wraps on its social media channels.

Each prototype car is also numbered on the hood, including No. 400. That’s the same number of the prototype shown in a recent video of an Air prototype that underwent range testing in its home state. It showed highlights from the drive from its Bay Area home down to Los Angeles and back, hitting the company’s goal of doing each 400-mile leg on a single charge. The trips were done in February and March, before the state of California went on stay-at-home quarantine.

Meanwhile, Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson recently spoke with IEEE Spectrum for a technical discussion about the Air’s efficiency. In it, he discussed the rationale behind going with a 900-volt current, which is higher than even the Porsche Taycan’s 800-volt architecture.

“Our real reason for having a high-voltage system is the greater efficiency of the inverter and the electronics that control the motor,” Rawlinson said. “The inverter is a high-frequency switch that converts direct current to alternating current; the frequency of that AC determines the frequency of spin of the motor.”

Rawlinson said the company’s inverter was built completely in-house and uses a silicon carbide chip, which he said is optimal for high voltages. That also means smaller radiators and higher aerodynamics than either the Taycan or the Tesla Model S, a direct competitor that Rawlinson famously helped develop when he worked at Tesla.

Meanwhile, the company has been promising that it will soon announce details about a global reveal of the production Air, when we'll learn more about its specs.

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