- About a month ago,
Lucid Automotive released their new luxury four-door sedan
to the world, the Lucid Air.
With a 517-mile range,
the Air is the longest range EV in the world.
And the day before they launched the Air,
Mr. Elon Musk himself took a jab at the CEO of Lucid.
His own former chief engineer of the Model S program,
Now, Elon said that Peter left Tesla
just when things got tough.
Adding that he didn't make any contributions
to the powertrain, the battery or the electronics.
I find all that pretty interesting.
So I went straight to the source
and spoke with Peter Rawlinson in person.
And what I found out is that it's Lucid's powertrain,
battery, and electronics that set them apart from Tesla.
And today, we're gonna figure out how they did it.
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Okay, people, back to B2B.
So first off, I know a lot of electric car technology
and the lingo that goes with it can be foreign to people.
So I'm gonna be using the Model S to help better understand
and appreciate what Lucid is doing.
Now, having said that,
there is no one magic component on the Air
that helps it achieve its 517-mile range.
It's a combination of advancing the technology
in multiple departments.
And one of the less obvious parts of the Air
that helps it go further is the motors.
Now, there's a variety of electric motors out there,
but Lucid went with a permanent magnet synchronous motor.
And they did that because they're super efficient
compared to say the more traditional induction motor.
And that's what Tesla was using
up until the Model 3 came out.
But there are two parts to all electric motors.
You got stator, that is the stationary part of the motor.
And then you have the rotor,
that's the part that rotates
and produces torque to move your wheels.
And you have coils made out of a conductive wire
running through the stator housing.
And when current from a battery is supplied to them,
those coils produce a magnetic field.
And when you phase that current going into the coils,
you create a rotating magnetic field
and that is basically the principle
that allows all these electric motors to work.
Now, with a permanent magnet synchronous motor,
its rotor has permanent magnets fixed to it.
So the rotating magnetic field of the stator
will interact with the permanent magnets on the rotor.
It's like a donkey-carrot situation.
To get the donkey moving, you have to dangle
that carrot just ahead of him.
And then once he gets running,
you let him eat it and now he's on a full sprint.
So when a permanent magnet starts off,
the magnets on the rotor are just behind the magnetic field
created by the coils.
Then once they lock into place, they become synchronous
hence the name permanent magnet synchronous motor.
And this is a super efficient type of electric motor.
One of the reasons they're more efficient
is because they have less loss due to resistance
compared to an induction motor.
they don't have permanent magnets on their rotors.
They use coils that are induced by the magnetic field
of the stator.
And because there's more wires in the motor,
there's more resistance.
And when you get more resistance, you have more heat
and when you have more heat, your motors are less efficient.
Not only are they Lucid Air motors more efficient,
they have a smaller form factor.
So in fact, because they take up such little space,
they can combine the inverter, the transmission,
the differential in the motor into a single package
that's right under 164 pounds.
Now, I weigh 185 pounds.
So just imagine, take my arms off, they're pretty weak.
They're about 10 pounds each.
So that's right about 165 pounds.
And squish me down into about the size of a roller bag
that you could carry on a flight.
That's how tiny they are, pretty small.
Now, each drive unit on the Lucid produces 670 horsepower
with the density at around 23 horsepower per liter.
Because these units are so small,
they have the ability to put three of them inside
the chassis of the Air.
But permanent magnet motors, they are nothing new.
They've been around for a while.
Lucid pushed the technology to increase their efficiency
even more by cooling down the windings in the stator.
Like I mentioned, the wires carrying current in the motors,
they get hot.
And a hilarious thing happens when you heat up a wire,
the resistance in that wire also increases.
And the greater resistance
mean it's harder for those electrons to do their job.
It reduces efficiency.
And when we apply a voltage to a copper wire, for example,
the electrons move through the wire
and that's called current.
Now, if we look at just a single electron,
as it moves through the wire,
each time it hits a copper ion, it loses energy.
And this energy is transferred to that ion it just hit
causing the ion to vibrate.
And if we multiply this by the billions of electrons
hitting those billions of ions,
those vibrating ions make it hard
for the electrons to flow through it.
A by-product of all those ions vibrating is heat.
So the more current, the more vibrations,
which is more heat,
the harder it is for electrons to pass through.
That's more resistance.
And you can think of it like this.
Okay, you're in the club,
you wanna get from the VIP section to the dance floor.
Got DJ Felipe, he's got a Shaggy tune on,
so naturally, no one's on the dance floor.
It's an easy stroll for you to get out there.
But once you get on the floor, DJ Felipe switches it up
and plays some Juvenile, Back That Ass Up.
So naturally, the dance floor gets crowded.
The DJ, he turned up the heat.
You look over at your bros over at VIP
and you tell them to come on over, but it's hard now.
There's a tone of asses vibrating,
making it pretty difficult for them to push through.
That is exactly what is happening in that copper wire.
So Lucid, they did something cool.
They developed a special way to cool the part
that gets the hottest and that's the coils.
And there are a few ways you can cool electric motors,
you can just wrap the motor in some sort of cooling jacket.
You can put passages inside the metal housing
and pump cooling through that.
But no one has been able to do what Lucid does,
they developed an axial jet cooling manifold
that butts up to the copper wire windings
and allows for an almost direct contact to the wire.
And by cooling the wires as directly as possible,
they're able to reduce the amount of heat
thereby decreasing the resistance in the wire,
increasing their efficiency.
But permanent magnets, they're not perfect, okay?
They're not like Zack Job and his perfect baby blue eyes.
They got a couple little flaws.
And one of them is called cogging torque.
A cogging torque is the resistance of the motor
when you're not putting power to it.
If you take an induction motor and you spin it by hand,
it will freely spin for a long time
because there are no permanent magnets interacting
with the iron stator.
Now, doing the same experiment
with a permanent magnetic motor
and the rotor will quickly come to a stop.
That is what's called cogging torque.
So engineers, they get fancy
and they try to battle this phenomena.
They use a combo of induction motors and PM motors
to get the best of both worlds in terms of performance
and energy efficiency.
But what Lucid did was tackle the problem at the source.
They developed a permanent magnet motor
with very little cogging torque.
About a third of what you'd normally see
in a similar design.
So how did they do that?
Well, Peter Rawlinson wouldn't tell me.
We're buddies and all but he's gotta keep his secrets.
I gotta keep mine.
You better tell me, Pete.
So if they gained so much efficiency in the motors,
well, what about the part of the car
that most people associate being able to go further
on a single charge, the battery?
A quick and dirty way to increase your range
would be to simply add more batteries.
Peter calls it dumb range
because it's dumb to add more weight.
But Lucid has a bunch of smarties,
so they focused on taking the technology
and making it more efficient.
And one of the ways they did that
was by using a high voltage battery.
Now, quick little refresher to help remember
the difference between voltage and current
and how it relates to power is to look at water in a pipe.
Now, voltage is like pressure
that pushes water through the pipe.
And current on the other hand, that's the electrical flow.
And in our water pipe analogy,
it's related to the diameter of the pipe.
The larger is the diameter, the more water can flow.
So you can have a small pipe with a lot of pressure
or large pipe with a little bit of pressure.
Lucid took advantage of this
because when you use larger voltages
to deliver the same amount of power, you need less current.
You use more pressure in a smaller pipe.
Now, Tesla in their long range Model S
uses a battery that's 350 volts.
So if they were to try and deliver
the same amount of power as Lucid,
they would have to have almost three times as much current.
And like when we talked about the motors,
the more current you have, the more losses you incur.
Double the current, you multiply your losses by four.
It's called I squared R losses.
And with this high voltage design architecture,
it means they can use lower currents
which means small cables and wires
which means less resistance, less mass of material,
which in the end of the day equals a more efficient vehicle.
Now, Lucid uses 22 battery modules
to make a complete pack for the Air.
Each module produces 42 volts for sum total of 924 volts
and a package that weighs just about 1100 pounds.
Each module makes a smudge over five kilowatt hours.
And when you get 22 of them,
you get your 113 kilowatt hour battery.
And this is the battery configuration
that gets you 517 miles on a full charge.
Which comes out to around 4.6 miles per kilowatt hour.
That's like miles per gallon in the EV world.
This is how Lucid stacks up
to a bunch of EVs out there right now.
And as you can see, it tops the chart at maximizing range
with its high voltage battery configurations.
This technology is stripped right from Formula E.
When you buy a Lucid, you're getting Formula E battery tech.
All 24 cars on the grid run a Lucid battery pack
made right here in the good old USA at Lucid's headquarters
in Silicon Valley.
Now, Peter told me that the battery pack on the Lucid
is 85% mechanical engineering problem
and a 15% electrical engineering problem.
So instead of focusing on developing
a new lithium ion chemistry to improve efficiency,
they focused on designing the pack in a mechanical sense
that allows for it to be smaller and therefore lighter.
But one of the main reasons
for Lucid using a high voltage system is greater efficiency
of the inverter and the electronics that control the motor.
Now, at the heart of all these moving electrons
is the power inverter.
And an inverter, it does a bunch of things
but its main function is to turn direct current
into alternating current.
The type of current used to power your house,
that's alternating current,
and that's the type of current the motors
and the Lucid Air need to operate.
And it's called alternating current
because the flow of electricity alternates direction.
Now, the battery on the other hand,
it supplies direct current.
The type of current that runs your Xbox controller
or power drill.
Direct current, it only flows in one direction.
So the inverter can take direct current from the battery
and turn it into alternating current
by switching the current on and off really, really fast.
Faster than humanly possible.
And the specific electrical pieces responsible
for doing all that are these.
They're called silicon carbide MOSFETs.
Now, inside the Lucid Air are a bunch
of these silicon carbide MOSFETs working together
to take that 900 plus volts from the battery
and supply it to the motors.
And more traditional MOSFETs are just made out of silicon
and aren't all that great or efficient under high voltages.
But silicon carbide, man,
it freaking loves voltage like I love french toast.
And some smart person out there was able to figure out
that it's better than plain old silicon
for high voltage applications.
It's not a coincidence that this is why Lucid uses them
in their inverter.
Now, I could go DEF CON nerd stage three right now
and talk about breakdown field and thermal conductivity
and wider band gap but that might bore the absolute (beep)
out of you.
So I'll just say that these little suckers are better.
I did a lot of research on them.
And unless you're really into MOSFETs,
I'll spare you the nerdy details and summarize it.
They allow the inverter to operate more efficiently.
I know I'm a broken record here.
But that's all (chuckles) that Lucid cares about
is being as efficient as possible.
And they have done that with the Lucid Air.
Now, just yesterday from us filming this episode,
Tesla had their shareholders meeting
and they came out with the new Model S Plaid
saying that it's gonna have a range of 520 miles,
it's gonna go 200 miles an hour.
It's gonna do the quarter mile in less than nine seconds.
So who knows what's to come with all of this?
But I do know this,
them battling it out is only gonna be good for us.
Thank you guys so much for watching this episode
of Bumper 2 Bumper.
Thanks for Lucid for bringing us down and having the CEO.
I got to talk to the CEO of a car company.
Dude, that's crazy.
Not everyone gets to do that.
So thank you guys so much.
Follow us here at Donut on Instagram at Donut Media.
Follow me at Jeremiah Burton.
Thank you guys so much for watching.
We'll be back next week.
Bye for now.