NEW YORK -- The Lucid Air, a sleek four-door electric vehicle, sits tucked away in an inconspicuous space off the main lobby of the auto show here.
As journalists charge back and forth to automaker press conferences inside the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the Air attracts modest numbers of onlookers.
But, insists Peter Rawlinson, Lucid Motors' chief technology officer, the Air represents a leap in EV evolution over the vehicles produced by his former employer Tesla Inc.
"It's a revolutionary step forward because it's a car that is more compact on the outside and much more spacious on the inside," Rawlinson says.
"That's what makes it revolutionary.
"And this is not another Model S. This is the next-generation electric car. This is showing the true potential of electrification. No one's done that."
Audacious as that statement may be, Rawlinson has some standing to make it. He was chief engineer on Tesla's Model S, memorably using a stripped-down body frame at the 2011 Detroit auto show to demonstrate the advantages of Tesla's purpose-built EV platform with the battery pack set in the middle of the floor.
Rawlinson and Derek Jenkins, Lucid's vice president for design, maximized interior space in the Air by working around an irregularly shaped battery pack that, for instance, does not intrude into rear foot space.
The powertrain, developed in-house, is expected to produce 240 miles of range and 400 hp in the entry-level $60,000 model, with upper-level models hitting a 400-mile range. That price could change, and includes neither tax credits nor shipping.
Rawlinson says the car at the show here is an alpha prototype, with a beta prototype due in a year and production in two years. That, however, depends on Lucid raising more funding for a proposed plant in Casa Grande, Ariz. Although ultimately projected to cost $700 million, the plant is planned in three phases. The first, enabling production of 20,000 vehicles a year, would cost $240 million.
Lucid is working through venture capitalists to raise the money, he says, as it has throughout its existence. Initially a battery maker called Atieva, the company changed its name last year. Rawlinson adds that it is a misconception that Lucid is Chinese-owned; it is owned by an international assortment of investors and is headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif.
Although comparisons with Tesla are inevitable, Rawlinson says that Lucid is not particularly gunning for Tesla.
"Our competitive market is the luxury [segment] worldwide, which is dominated by the Germans and is worth collectively $100 billion a year," he says. "Let's be clear, Tesla is only scratching the surface of that."