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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

With Saudi power, Lucid Motors could outrun Tesla

Sovereign PIF's $250 billion war chest could get start-up rival Lucid’s Air electric car into production

The Lucid Motors Alpha in Ohio. The PIF has made a $1bn investment in the US-based electric care maker. Bloomberg
The Lucid Motors Alpha in Ohio. The PIF has made a $1bn investment in the US-based electric care maker. Bloomberg

It’s an electric-car maker. It’s in the news. No, it’s not Tesla.

Lucid Motors, a start-up co-founded 11 years ago by a Silicon Valley veteran, is in the spotlight following news reports over the weekend that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund would be willing to invest $1 billion in it, possibly as an alternative to playing a key role in taking Tesla private.

Regardless of what the kingdom's Public Investment Fund does with Tesla, its $250 billion war chest could get Lucid’s Air electric car into production.

“The Lucid Air is legitimate technology and very well designed,” said Eric Noble, president of consulting firm The CarLab. “They have a stellar team, they just need money.”

Funding would be a welcome new lease on life for Lucid, which had been trying to raise a series D round of $700 million last year to get a plant up and running in Arizona.

Lucid was co-founded by Sam Weng, who came from software maker Oracle, and two partners as a maker of battery systems. The company has since assembled a team recruited from Mazda and Tesla, including chief technical officer Peter Rawlinson, who was chief engineer of Tesla’s Model S before joining in 2013.

When Lucid showed the Air as a concept car at the New York auto show in 2017, Mr Rawlinson said that the car would start at a base price of $60,000, or $52,500 after federal tax credits. Air’s motor can produce the equivalent of 400 horsepower and run 400km miles on a charge, the CTO said. Lucid also planned on a higher-end, 1,000 horsepower version that can drive 1,200km on a charge will be much more expensive, selling for “well north of $100,000," Mr Rawlinson said at the time.

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Lucid has no updated information on the car on its website. The company didn’t return an email seeking comment, and Mr Rawlinson didn’t answer a call seeking comment.

News of the PIF’s interest in Lucid was one factor weighing on Tesla stock Monday. Some investors feared that it signalled declining interest from the sovereign wealth fund, which has built a 5 per cent stake in Tesla, in helping its chief executive Elon Musk take his company private. Mr Musk, who announced his intention in a surprise tweet on August 7, said last week that he met with PIF board members on July 31 and after he felt confident that they would play a key role in his plan to take the company private.

The PIF has a mission to invest in new technology and diversify both its portfolio and the Saudi economy away from oil and gas. Sovereign wealth funds often have more patience than public markets and could wait for the technology to be ready for the market, he said.

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