New York — The Tesla Model S sedan and Model X SUV have pioneered the luxury electric-vehicle segment. But now they have company on both fronts.
The Lucid Air, a Model S-fighter, debuted at the New York Auto Show this week, just five months after the curtain rose on the Model X-fighting Jaguar I-Pace at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Beautifully styled by two of the industry’s leading designers to take on Tesla, the new models — one from a startup, the other from an established automaker — come from dramatically different business backgrounds.
“All credit to Tesla. They have pioneered electric vehicles, but now they know that other brands are on the march. There’s not a car brand at this show that’s not working on a (full-electric) vehicle,” said Andy Goss, Jaguar director of sales and marketing, in an interview. “BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche all have product coming.”
But it’s Lucid, headquartered in Silicon Valley near Tesla, that is pushing the envelope of EV capability. With a clean sheet of paper, Lucid is coming to the auto market with the intent of redefining it with more versatile EV platforms.
“The establishment (automakers) still have the majority of their focus on maintaining their internal-combustion lines,” says Lucid design chief Derek Jenkins, who in his previous role with Mazda designed such lookers as the Miata and CX-9 sport ute. “That’s their bread and butter — it defines their segments and their brands.”
Jaguar admits as much. Its I-Pace will help the automaker meet looming government emissions rules even as it chases coveted luxury consumers.
“Compliance issues have something to do with this, especially in China and Europe,” says Goss of those nations’ increasingly strict greenhouse gas limits. Battery-electric vehicles are a massive contributors to getting your average (fuel-economy ratings) down.”
With a development team led by Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson — Tesla’s former chief engineer — the gorgeous Air has the same exterior dimensions as the Model S but is larger inside. Where Tesla conformed to design standards of a long hood and tapered rear, the Lucid fully exploits the lack of gas engine for interior space. The Air’s premium model sports a full-glass moon-roof from stem to stern — hence its name.
“We can extract the full potential of the electric car. I couldn’t have done that at Tesla,” says Rawlinson. “Because the batteries are in the floor, this car has the exterior dimensions of a Mercedes E-Class and the interior dimensions of an S-Class long wheelbase.”
The Mercedes S-Class starts at $96,000. The Lucid, slated for 2020 sale, hopes to bow at just $60,000 — similar to the Model S. Lucid is in the process of raising $240 million to build its Casa Grande, Arizona, production plant.
Jaguar’s I-Pace, due next year, will likely start higher given its brand equity. Much of that value comes from the pen of legendary designer Ian Callum, father of the Jaguar F-Type, arguably the prettiest sports car in production. Yet Callum, like Lucid’s Jenkins, has turn away from the long hoods that Jaguar made famous (the signature 1960s E-Type is practically all hood) in order to take advantage of the 90 kWh battery pack stowed in the floor.
“I think we have an advantage because Jaguar has a design pioneer in Ian Callum and his existing design cues are particularly suited to electrification,” says Goss.
While similar in length to Jaguar’s popular F-Pace SUV, the I-Pace rides on its own platform and promises considerably more interior space thanks to its 4.6-inch longer wheelbase. Though nominally a crossover, Jaguar expects the I-Pace to draw both Model S and Model X customers.
Lucid’s product line more closely tracks Tesla’s model with a variety of battery options. Like Tesla, its base model with be rear-wheel drive with 240-mile range battery (kWh yet to be determined). Then battery sizes jump to 315-mile-range 100 kWh (equivalent to the current top-of-the-line Model S P100D), and a huge 130 kWh pack with 400-mile range and all-wheel drive.
“We’re the team that did it before. I’ve got the key brains behind the Tesla Model S,” says Rawlinson.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.