Lucid's Air crushes the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan in range, but its real challenge will be winning buyers away from better-known brands

  • Lucid Motors unveiled its debut vehicle, the Air sedan, on Wednesday.
  • The vehicle has impressive range and charging capabilities, but will compete against established brands and EVs with more popular body styles
  • The Air is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

When it arrives next spring, the Lucid Air sedan will set the stage for a new generation of EV startups hoping the shift away from gas-fueled powertrains will create an opportunity to reshape the auto industry. 

The vehicle, officially unveiled by Lucid Motors on Wednesday, addresses some of the issues that have so far restricted EVs to a niche market segment, but will face marketing challenges as it competes against automakers with established brands and vehicles with more popular body styles, automotive experts told Business Insider.

"Are the numbers better than what's out there? In a lot of cases, they are," Jessica Caldwell, the executive director of insights at Edmunds, said of the Air's performance specs. "But I think they have to be. Lucid is an unknown, unproven brand."

Concerns about the distance EVs can drive between charges, as well as the speed and availability of charging stations, have been cited as major obstacles in the path of growing adoption. The Air performs well on both fronts. An independent testing firm pegged the Air's range at 517 miles, which Lucid says will translate to more than 455 miles at highway speeds. Both of those numbers are well ahead of the current leader, the Tesla Model S sedan, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can drive 402 miles between charges. (The EPA has not yet tested the Air.)

The Air's 900-volt architecture will allow it to receive up to 300 miles of range in 20 minutes at fast-charging stations, a rate Lucid says is faster than those of rival EVs. While most public chargers won't support that speed, Lucid will give customers three years of free access to Electrify America's growing network of fast-charging stations.

"They've presented a very strong case for buying an electric vehicle," said Rebecca Lindland, an automotive consultant and the founder of the car-review site RebeccaDrives.com.

While the Air's performance metrics are competitive with anything on the road today, they could come at the cost of appealing to a relatively narrow group of consumers, said Lea Malloy, the head of research and development at Cox Automotive Mobility. Lucid has said it chose to debut with a sedan because it would allow for better driving capabilities than an SUV, but the popularity of sedans has been declining for years as SUV sales have exploded.

"The sedan and performance vehicle aren't really matchups for what the consumer prefers: the SUV, crossover, truck body styles," Malloy said.

And Lucid will be competing against name brands like Tesla, Porsche, and Audi, which have already released well-regarded EVs and plan to roll out more in the coming years. Lucid will have to devise a marketing strategy that will convince car shoppers to take a chance on them, Lindland said.

"Their challenge is going to be to tell people why they should buy a Lucid instead of something else," she said.

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