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Tesla rival Lucid eyes Australia

Cover up: Would-be electric car-maker Lucid showed off prototypes of its large luxury sedan when announcing Arizona as the site of its new car plant.

Lucid set to go after Tesla with its patented battery technology from 2018


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30 Nov 2016

AMERICAN electric vehicle start-up Lucid Motors appears to have Australia in its sights for sales of its unnamed high-performance production car to be made at a $US700 million ($A937m) factory in Arizona from 2018.

The Silicon Valley-based company, a spin-off from battery specialist Atieva, this month received Australian trademark registration approval for the Lucid name covering automobiles and electrically powered vehicles.

This paves the way for the brand to follow Tesla into this market with the first of its battery-powered vehicles now under development in the United States by a team led by former Tesla vice-president and Tesla Model S chief engineer Peter Rawlinson and ex-Mazda, Volkswagen and Audi designer Derek Jenkins.

The fledgling company showed off two disguised prototypes of the full-electric large luxury sedan yesterday in Casa Grande, Arizona, when it announced the green light for construction of the new factory on the outskirts of Phoenix, starting in the first half of next year.

The plant, which Lucid says will employ more than 2000 people by 2022, is being masterminded by 18-year veteran of BMW manufacturing in South Carolina and Germany, Brian Barron, as Lucid’s global manufacturing director.

Atieva was founded in 2008 as a battery company by three partners who had worked on batteries and related technologies at IT giant Oracle and Tesla Motors.

The start-up both developed and manufactured battery packs offering energy ranging from 3kWh to 150kWh, selling them to original-equipment vehicle manufacturers, including Chinese bus-makers.

In 2014, the small company set out to design its own car with the backing of “nine-digit” (at least $100 million) funding from venture capitalists such as Venrock and corporations such as Japan’s Sumitomo and Chinese car builder LeEco.

Using proprietary battery technology on which it holds 50 US patents, the company subsequently built a prototype 900 horsepower (671kW) powertrain and fitted it to a converted Mercedes-Benz Vito van.

Claimed to be capable of a 2.7-second zero-to-60 miles per hour (96.5km/h) dash, the van – nicknamed Edna – is shown in videos published on the internet matching Tesla S sedans in a drag race while also blowing away a Ferrari and Nissan GT-R.

These batteries will be used in Formula E electric racecars for the next two seasons.

The line-up of executives at Lucid shows it is serious about its credentials.

The vice-president of design, Derek Jenkins, was Mazda North America design director, overseeing global hits such as the latest MX-5 and CX-9.

In his Audi days, he was principal designer for the 2002 Audi A8.

Chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson, a Brit, was chief engineer of Lotus Cars and principal engineer at Jaguar Cars before joining Tesla where he developed the Tesla Model S for Elon Musk.

Ironically, Mr Musk scouted Arizona for the site of Tesla’s new $5 billion Gigafactory before settling on nearby Nevada for the facility that is expected to start producing batteries within weeks.

The Arizona state and local governments reportedly has offered substantial incentives for Lucid to site its plant at Casa Grande.

The Arizona state governor and local mayor were among the dignitaries to turn out for Wednesday’s factory announcement.

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