An 1,800-horsepower, three-motor EV powertrain has "always been part of [Lucid's] plan."
In Newark, California, just a short drive from Tesla's Fremont vehicle assembly plant, one of the company's former engineering all-stars is leading rival EV manufacturer Lucid Motors as it attempts the near-impossible: carving a niche for itself in a segment dominated by his former employer. Lucid's first car planned for series production, the Lucid Air, still has yet to materialize, but the company's CEO/CTO, Peter Rawlinson, was more than happy to share some details with MotorTrend in a recent interview.
Rawlinson's biggest, boldest, most attention-grabbing bit of info: the Lucid Air could eventually be offered with as much as 1,800 horsepower through a three-motor setup similar to the ones planned for the Tesla Cybertruck and GMC Hummer EV.
That three-motor powertrain has "always been part of our plan," Rawlinson told MotorTrend.
But what hasn't always been part of the plan is the new permanent-magnet electric drive motors Lucid is now working with. Earlier prototypes used a 400-volt system with induction motors, which can more easily be deactivated to minimize parasitic loss under low-load cruising. In the highest-spec powertrain, peak output totaled 1,000 horsepower.
Now, however, Lucid has switched to more powerful permanent-magnet motors, capable of up to 600 horsepower apiece on a 900-volt system, and the company is developing powertrains with one, two, or three of those motors.
Ordinarily, Rawlinson concedes, those permanent-magnet motors would be significantly less efficient than comparable induction motors, but "[Lucid's] losses are a step-change lower than anyone else, so we can use permanent magnet motors front and rear," he says. In fact, the car's powertrain losses are so manageable that Lucid has actually downsized the battery pack from its prototype fleet, which packed as much as 130 kWh of juice.
"You might say, hey that's a bad thing, but we've gained so much in efficiency, we can save some weight. Anyone can add dumb range," Rawlinson says.
More details about the production version of the Lucid Air should become available in August, which is when the company plans on unveiling the EV properly after its planned NY Auto Show debut was derailed by COVID-19. The car had been planned to enter production sometime later this year, but we'll remain cautiously optimistic on that.