Electric cars are known for their lightning-quick acceleration, but their top speeds tend to leave something to be desired when compared to their ICE-driven counterparts. With up to 1,000 hp worth of electric motors to work with, Lucid Motors is intent on giving EV top speed a shot in the arm. It recently removed the speed limiter on its Air Alpha Speed Car before sending it ripping around the racing oval at 235 mph (378 km/h) ... and it filmed the run for our viewing enjoyment.
Electric motors may still lag well behind internal combustion engines in the top speed race, but they're catching up little by little. The Venturi VBB-3 upped the all-out electric land speed record ante to 341 mph (549 km/h) last year, and street-legal electric supercars are coming with claims of 200-mph (322 km/h) speeds.
Lucid isn't just hitting 200, it's blowing it away ... at least in testing. The EV startup hasn't locked in an official top speed figure for its upcoming Air sedan just yet, but it has confirmed that it'll be north of 200 mph. And the quest to find out how far north is proving an exciting one.
Shortly before Lucid showed the Air at the 2017 NY Auto Show, it welcomed in the warming spring weather by moving from winter testing to high-performance testing. It unleashed the specially prepared Air Alpha Speed Car on the Transportation Research Center's 7.5-mile (12-km) Ohio oval to test high-speed stability and powertrain thermal management, accelerating all the way up to the software-limited 217-mph (349-km/h) top speed.
"The Lucid Air will compete with the best vehicles in the biggest markets around the world," Lucid said. "In at least one of these markets, there is an expectation of high-speed cruising that we intend to satisfy.
"High-speed capability does not compromise the mission to develop a highly efficient vehicle. A larger battery, capable of storing large quantities of energy, can release energy at a greater rate. In addition, a larger electric motor is proven to be more efficient than a smaller motor. The result is a wonderful blend of maximum efficiency when needed and blistering performance when desired."
The initial test went better than Lucid expected but still revealed some weaknesses. Lucid has been making tweaks accordingly, including bolting on more aerodynamic wheels, sharpening air suspension responsiveness, and adjusting front motor coolant flow and ventilation.
So what to do next? How about deactivating that pesky speed limitation software to see what the Air speed prototype can really do.
Lucid returned to the TRC oval sans digital limiter this month, driving the Air Speed to a GPS-confirmed 235.44 mph (379 km/h). Its driver was also able to carry more speed out of the banks, firing out at 215 mph (346 km/h), about 15 mph (24 km/h) faster than the first time around.
The Air Speed Car has a track-optimized design that includes a roll cage so is not exactly a close-to-production prototype, but that's still a whole lot of speed for an EV. The list of ICE-driven supercars that can best 235.4 mph is a very short and lonely one, populated by legitimate world record holders and a sparse collection of seven-figure cars. If this were a production Air, and if it had achieved that 235 mph last year, it would have landed a number 4 spot on our list of fastest cars of 2016, between the 233-mph (375-km/h) Zenvo TS1 and the 238-mph (383-km/h) Pagani Huayra BC.
Of course, the Air still has a ways to go before becoming a fully realized production EV.
"While [235.44 mph] may be the top speed achievable on that day, with those conditions, and at this stage of development for the Alpha Speed Car, it is not the final production top speed for the Lucid Air," Lucid concluded on its blog entry about the recent test. "What it does represent, however, is further proof that the Lucid Air is a vehicle without compromise, one that offers incredible performance and dynamics, yet still offers remarkable space and comfort for a sublime luxury experience."
All in all, Lucid appears quite happy with the car's progression, and not just the headlining top speed. It praises the car's stability and cornering and says the suspension and cooling tweaks did their part.
Better yet, Lucid shows us just how well the test (or highlights of the test, anyway) went. So if you haven't already jumped right to it, now's the time to check out the video evidence of the Air Alpha Speed Car quietly tearing up Ohio pavement.
Source: Lucid Motors
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more