Electrical automobile startup Lucid Motors has begun engaged on an SUV, and it might unveil the design as early as this summer season, in accordance with two individuals aware of the corporate’s plans. The startup’s first automotive, an all-electric sedan referred to as the Lucid Air, is scheduled to enter manufacturing in late 2020.

Peter Rawlinson, Lucid Motors’ chief know-how officer, didn’t deny the SUV plans in an interview with The Verge final week. Rawlinson mentioned it’s “fairly doable” that the Silicon Valley-based automaker would reveal plans for an SUV later this 12 months.

“We’ve got a plan for future fashions in thoughts, and we will hopefully be ready to make clear that plan later this 12 months,” Rawlinson informed The Verge. “Actually, with Lucid Air platform, we’ve got a platform that’s ideally suited to extra autos than simply the Air. And, after all, we wish to exploit that.”

An SUV has been in consideration relationship again to when Lucid Motors’ mother or father firm, battery maker Atieva, determined to construct and promote an electrical automotive within the first place. One slide of a 2016 pitch deck for Lucid Motors, a replica of which was obtained by The Verge, reveals the define of the Lucid Air sedan alongside outlines of a crossover and a full-sized SUV. It’s unclear how far alongside the challenge is, although, as the corporate is targeted on ending growth of the Air.

The push to develop a second automotive is coming, partly, from Lucid Motors’ latest investor, Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund (PIF), in accordance with the individuals aware of the corporate’s plans. Gross sales of bigger vehicles and vehicles are via the roof, and main automakers like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, have adopted Tesla’s lead in creating all-electric SUVs.

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The PIF introduced final September that it had pledged greater than $1 billion in alternate for an undisclosed stake in Lucid Motors. The information got here at a vital time for Lucid Motors, because the EV startup had spent greater than a 12 months making an attempt to safe a brand new funding spherical to assist begin manufacturing of the Air. (It additionally broke only a few weeks earlier than the homicide of Washington Publish journalist Jamal Khashoggi.)

Lucid Motors isn’t transferring ahead at full velocity but, although. The funding from Saudi Arabia nonetheless hasn’t been permitted by the USA authorities, Rawlinson mentioned. The Committee on Overseas Funding in the USA remains to be reviewing it, although Rawlinson mentioned he expects it to approve the deal “within the very close to future.”

Within the meantime, he mentioned Lucid Motors is “in a monetary place the place we will proceed unbiased of that assessment” course of.

Atieva had beforehand raised a number of hundred million {dollars} and had a income stream from its battery enterprise, which boasts all-electric racing sequence System E as a buyer. However earlier than Saudi Arabia got here alongside, cash was getting tight. A possible take care of Ford fizzled, and enormous buyers had been confused or scared away by the truth that Faraday Future founder and CEO Jia Yueting nonetheless owns a big stake in Atieva, individuals aware of the 2 firms have informed The Verge. (Rawlinson declined to touch upon Jia’s relationship with the corporate.)

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To assist hold Lucid Motors afloat, Atieva entered into two separate agreements in 2017 the place it used its mental property as collateral for loans, as The Verge reported final summer season. It struck a take care of Arizona hedge fund Trinity Capital in March of that 12 months that was price about $30 million, in accordance with an individual aware of Lucid’s funding on the time. Atieva acquired a separate mortgage from Chinese language electrical bus firm Yinlong Electrical Car Group later in 2017 for an undisclosed quantity.

Within the week earlier than the Saudi Arabia deal was introduced final September, Trinity and Yinlong launched their maintain on Atieva’s IP after the loans had been repaid, in accordance with paperwork printed by the US Patent and Trademark Workplace. A number of the IP was then transferred to an organization run by Yasir Al Rumayyan, the pinnacle of the PIF.

Whereas it seems to have survived a brush with dying, Rawlinson — who was the lead engineer on Tesla’s Mannequin S — mentioned the delay in funding really did Lucid Motors some good. “I feel it’s actually strengthened the crew in a number of methods as a result of it confirmed the loyalty and dedication to this group,” he mentioned. “We caught collectively, and plenty of wouldn’t have.”

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Rawlinson mentioned that by being “actually prudent” with the cash the corporate did have, Lucid Motors was capable of advance its know-how throughout this “hiatus” interval.

“My engineers and technologists and scientists had been capable of proceed with their laptop modeling on a comparatively restricted price range, [and] these months that had been spent on these modeling endeavors have led to very vital developments in our know-how,” he mentioned. Particularly, Rawlinson mentioned Lucid Motors has made “actual breakthroughs” on the efficiency of the corporate’s electrical motor, in addition to how that motor will get packaged along with the automotive’s transmission and battery pack.

“One among our alpha [prototype cars], you could recall, hit 235 miles an hour in testing, and that was with our previous energy practice,” he mentioned. “Our new powertrain has taken fairly a leap ahead really and I’m actually excited.”

Rawlinson informed The Verge that when the remainder of the cash from the PIF is available in, the funding spherical ought to deliver the corporate proper as much as manufacturing. It’ll additionally enable Lucid Motors to start out constructing out a small community of shops and repair facilities, with the primary more likely to be in-built Silicon Valley by the tip of this 12 months.

Lucid Motors CTO Peter Rawlinson in one of many firm’s alpha prototype autos at CES 2017.
Picture by Sean O’Kane / The Verge

Rawlinson doesn’t anticipate to have to boost any extra funding as soon as Lucid Motors begins making vehicles. The primary vehicles to come back off the road in 2020 will promote for greater than $100,000 every, which Rawlinson mentioned will generate sufficient income to maintain transferring the corporate ahead. Ultimately, Lucid Motors plans to make progressively cheaper fashions that price nearer to $60,000.

A fleet of “beta” variations of the Air shall be constructed later this 12 months at Lucid Motors’ new headquarters in Newark, California, which Rawlinson mentioned the corporate began transferring into this previous week. That’s additionally the place Atieva will proceed to make battery packs.

Manufacturing of the Lucid Air will happen at a manufacturing unit in Casa Grande, Arizona, that the corporate has not but constructed. Lucid Motors finally desires to take a position some $700 million within the new facility and plans to interrupt floor later this spring, Rawlinson mentioned. He added that the corporate survey “about 65 websites” throughout the US earlier than selecting the land in Casa Grande.

Different EV startups like Byton or NIO have taken a extra world method of their early days, with places of work scattered in several nations, and plans to tackle a number of markets. Rawlinson mentioned Lucid Motors will stay targeted on the US within the early going. “We’re a US firm. We’re going to make the very best automotive on this planet right here within the US,” he mentioned. He harassed the significance of getting design, analysis and growth, and a few manufacturing beneath the one roof in Newark — no less than till the manufacturing unit in Arizona is constructed. “While we’re a small firm, communication is essential. Fleet footedness and communication is our life blood.”


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