Earlier this month, Lucid Motors received its EPA rating on its electric vehicle battery packs. The results were, well, remarkably good. So good, in fact, that one of the company's vehicles beat the longest-range Tesla by 100 miles. Specifically, the Lucid Air Dream Edition was rated at 520 miles of range, making it the best ever for an electric vehicle.
Look, it's fair to argue whether an extra 100 miles of range makes a difference in the day-to-day driving of any vehicle. In reality, it probably doesn't. Most people don't drive more than 30 miles a day, meaning that having 520 miles of range is dramatic overkill.
Almost no one actually needs that kind of range. That's not the point, though. Almost everyone thinks they need it. People don't buy a car to only drive 30 miles a day. They buy vehicles so that they can drive a few hundred miles. Even if they never need to, people buy vehicles to get them where they need to go, without having to figure out whether the fuel tank (or battery) has enough juice to get them there.
These results, however, reveal an important difference in Lucid's strategy compared with Tesla's, and show why it just might beat the world's most popular electric vehicle maker at its own game. Lucid is focusing on solving the problem everyone thinks they have, which is a vehicle that can accommodate all of their driving needs.
Tesla, on the other hand, is focused on a problem almost no one thinks they have--self-driving vehicles. To that end, its most recent models don't even have a steering wheel (they have a yoke), because eventually you won't need one anyway.
To be fair, Tesla understood that "range anxiety" was real. It's the reason Tesla built out its vast network of Superchargers and then gave free charging to its early customers (Tesla now charges newer customers to use its network). Tesla knew that solving the charging issue would give people the peace of mind needed to spend money on an electric vehicle.
Now, Tesla seems entirely focused on changing the way we drive. Or, more specifically, the way we ride in a vehicle driven on its own. I'm not saying that self-driving vehicles aren't worth pursuing. But, for Tesla, it seems like it has lost focus of the thing that made it synonymous with electric vehicles, in favor of futuristic problems that no one actually has right now.
The point is that what you prioritize, you build. Tesla is prioritizing self-driving vehicles, something that has proved to be extremely difficult despite the fact that it's not the barrier to most people's buying an electric vehicle. I'd argue it might even present a new barrier.
Lucid Motors' CEO, Peter Rawlinson, previously led the development and design of Tesla's Model S, and set out to build a car that fixes all of the things he feels are wrong with that car. Of course, it's easier to do that when the car you are building is well into six figures, but it's clear that Lucid is prioritizing what it thinks matters most to customers.
I spoke with Rawlinson in June, and had a chance to ride in one of Lucid's vehicles, and it was clear to me that not only does Lucid make very nice electric vehicles, but it also fully intends to license its technology to other manufacturers. That means it's a lot more likely that you'll be able to buy something more affordable than a Lucid Air Dream Edition, which starts at $161,500.
That's the real reason this is bad news for Tesla. Tesla became the world's most valuable car manufacturer because it solved the problem of range anxiety, eliminating the most important barrier to buying an electric vehicle. Now, however, it's getting beat at its own game.