Any top auto executive exec worth his salt knows who Sandy Munro is. Munro is a renowned engineering figure in the motoring world.
His company, Michigan-based Munro & Associates, buys the latest automobiles, but not to use them on the road. Instead, he tears them apart. His engineers slice and dice new car variants — one piece or component at a time — to know their strong and weak points.
Their detailed, often voluminous, reports are then sent or sold to customers, mostly name-plate auto brands.
'Exceptional' electric drive system
Now, Munro has done a tear-down of Lucid Air sedan. And what he found blew his head off. Lucid Motors is a US luxury electric vehicle (EV) maker founded in 2007, and is majority owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).
It’s (Lucid Air) the only thing that I’ve seen that can beat Tesla, as far as a drive motor is concerned, a traction motor.
Munro has extolled Lucid’s exceptional drive system, or “powertrain” — the battery, the electric motor, inverter, differential and gear box — as having the potential to set a new EV industry standard.
“It’s the only thing that I’ve seen that can beat Tesla, as far as a drive motor is concerned, a traction motor,” said Munro.
“That is, without a question or a doubt… unbelievable. It’s smaller, it’s lighter, it’s everything you could possibly imagine that shouldn’t really work. And it does. And it works brilliantly well. The thing goes like a scolded cat… a 1,000 horsepower, or something like that? It’s ridiculous,” he added.
Lucid is led by Peter Rawlinson, a British engineer based in California, concurrently serving as Lucid's chief executive (CEO) and chief technology officer (CTO). An industry icon in his own right, Rawlinson previously engineered the Tesla Model S. Tesla boss Elon Musk, downplayed Rawlinson's role.
The British engineer may not have Musk's swagger, or lack of empathy, but Rawlinson is a recognised innovator: there's a list of patents that Rawlinson and members of his team had filed for, and related to, his previous work at Tesla.
Today, Lucid Motors has a total of 361 patents globally. In 2022, the company had filed 237 patents in the United States alone, according to Statista. This depth of intellectual property shows in its products.
In developing the Lucid Air sedan EV, Rawlison's team had one thing in mind: quell range anxiety and transform how motorists drive.
The result is an innovative light-weight but powerful motor.
Lucid vs Tesla: Mileage comparison
From the outset, Lucid’s engineering prowess shows in the range of its EVs. In terms of maximum range on a single charge, the Lucid Air outperforms the Tesla Model S in currently available options. Business Insider reported that Lucid is one of the few EV makers gaining "significant traction" in addition to Tesla.
The Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance has a range of 758 km (471 miles) with the power of 933 horses, while the Air Dream Edition Range can run 836.8 km (520 miles) on a single charge, and comes with the power of 111 horses.
That's nearly 30-percent more than Tesla's highest range of 651 km (405 miles). Lucid's lowest option is also greater than Tesla's lowest option: 659.8 km (410 miles) to Tesla's 637.3km (396 miles).
The Lucid Air comes equipped with a built-in "Wunderbox", a formidable battery charger using the remarkable 900V+ architecture, considred breakthrough technology.
It's the fastest EV charging system to date, enabling the Lucid Air to add up to 200 miles (321 km) of extra juice in an incredibly short 12-minute window.
The Wunderbox's intelligent design showcases a level of sophistication that sets it apart. It seamlessly identifies the Lucid Air and adapts incoming voltage to enhance the efficiency of the charging process.
Musk has very few nice words to say about Rawlinson.
Why Munro’s insights carry heavy weight
In the fast-rising EV community, where innovation is reshaping the future of transportation, Munro's engineering insights and independence carry significant weight.
Munro, himself a big Tesla fan, has highlighted its industry-setting and quick pace of innovation. Yet it's only recently, after his engineers got a hold of a Lucid Air, that Munro shifted his focus on the new EV maker, sparking discussions and piquing curiosity with his comments on the company's technology.
Lucid, headquartered in Newark, California, has a built-from-the-ground-up factory in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Notably, Munro proposed that Lucid's electric drive system has a real potential to surpass Tesla's. Musk's downplaying of Rawlinson's role in developing the Model S, as shown in this old video (below), amounts to selective memory.
Besides range, Lucid has a number of things going for it. The Lucid Air stands out in the world of electric vehicles with its extraordinary acceleration, clocking an astonishing 0 to 100 km/h (60 mph) in approximately two seconds.
These remarkable numbers not only put it in the league of high-performance sports cars but also embody a fascinating fusion of power, elegance, and urban sensibility.
It's a groundbreaking achievement that transcends mere statistics; it elevates the driving experience to unprecedented heights, reshaping our perception of what a luxury electric vehicle can accomplish.
Lucid redefines luxury in EVs
Lucid is seen by many as a Tesla upgrade. Green Car Reports this week cited a study by S&P Global Mobility which shows a shifting trend.
While Tesla's brand loyalty remains largely faithful to the brand, it faces an evolving landscape. Impressively, 72.8 per cent of Model 3 owners opt for another Tesla when replacing their cars, as do 59.9 per cent of Model S owners.
According to a recent study conducted by S&P Global Mobility, among Model S owners who opt for an alternative vehicle, the Lucid Air is the top choice, with 3.4 per cent preferring it. It is followed by the Rivian R1T at 1.8 per cent, the Mercedes-Benz EQS at 1.6 per cent, and the Rivian R1S at 1.2 per cent.
Small figures, but are good indicators.
EVs like Tesla and Lucid remain on the high side of affordability — and relatively limited in production numbers. Musk promised a $25,000 Model 2. Tesla hopes to hit 1.8 million units while Lucid targets "over 10,000" by end-2023.
Munro's perspective on Lucid's tech prowess and what it means for EVs in general has precipitated a fresh debate.
What would it take for companies like Lucid to take on the mass manufacturing juggernaut of Tesla, which has hit an all-time high production of 479,700 units in Q2023 (vs 440,808 units in Q1)? Will Tesla ever catch up with Lucid in powertrain and range?
Amid this slugfest, one trend arises: Battery prices continue to fall and are now below $100/kWh. This could put the internal combustion engine (ICE) age in everyone's rear-view mirror sooner than later.
Alongside incentives offered by various governments, Munro expects the trend to eventually drive up EV affordabibility, giving users more choices, better performance, comfort, safety, fun and Lucid-level range.