EV startup Lucid Motors begins construction of its plant in the US

by Kris Culmer, Autocar UK 08 Nov 2019

Construction of a factory for electric car start-up Lucid Motors has begun in Arizona, US. 

Final approval for the $700 million (£546m/Rs 4,987 crore) facility, in the small town of Casa Grande, was granted by the state last month. It is to sit on a greenfield site that Lucid will lease from the local county for $1.8m (£1.4m/Rs 12 crore) per year, with the option to purchase it after the fifth year. Although the site is nearly 500 acres, the initial building will cover just 1.8 acres.

As many as 2,000 people are expected to work at the factory by 2022, and the entire facility's planned six-year construction should generate more than 3,000 jobs.

The first examples of Lucid's first model – the Air, a 1,000bhp, 400-mile luxury electric saloon – are set to be built by the end of next year. The aim is 20,000 examples per year by the time the factory is complete.

The location was initally identified in November 2016, whereupon Lucid stated its aim to begin production of the Air in 2018. It then experienced a number of corporate financial issues, as major Chinese investor Jia Yueting – who also had involvement in another troubled American EV start-up, Faraday Future – slid toward bankruptcy. However, it announced last April that it had secured in excess of $1 billion (£760 million/Rs 7,125 crore) funding from the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. 

A spokesman for the PIF said at the time: "By investing in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle market, PIF is gaining exposure to long-term growth opportunities, supporting innovation and technological development, and driving revenue and sectoral diversification for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." 

The PIF aims to bring revenue back into the country in a world moving away from oil and "aims to strengthen PIF’s performance as an active contributor in the international economy, an investor in the industries of the future and the partner of choice for international investment opportunities. Our investment in Lucid is a strong example of these objectives.” The initial investment was said to be $500m (£391m/Rs 3,562 crore), with subsequent funding coming as Lucid achieves production milestones.

Lucid has announced that the first members of its Casa Grande assembly team are now working alongside engineers at the firm's new headquarters in California to build the next series of Air prototypes.

The company was formed in 2007 under the name Atieva by Bernard Tse, a former board member and vice president of Tesla, and engineer Sam Weng. Its CEO is now Peter Rawlinson, a former head engineer at Jaguar, Lotus and Tesla.

Recently appointed to the role of vice president of manufacturing, tasked with overseeing production initiation, is Peter Hochholdinger, another former Tesla employee and a previous senior director of production at Audi. 

Lucid has secured a battery supply deal with Samsung and LG Chem for the Air. It also plays a part in the engineering and supply of batteries for the Formula E electric single-seater racing series.