Silicon Valley-based battery and drivetrain company Atieva has rebranded itself as Lucid Motors, and is looking to go into large scale production of a luxury, high performance, autonomous-capable electric car within two years.

The pioneering work of Tesla Motors has well and truly put the public on notice; electric cars are here, now, offering truly jaw-dropping performance and range figures that go way beyond just being practical for 99 percent of use cases.

But now that the door is open, competition is coming fast. Faraday Future and LeEco, for starters, are pushing to release high end, luxury, ultra-performance EVs with autonomous drive capabilities. A number of major manufacturers are gearing up for a push into battery cars. And the latest to throw its hat into the ring is Lucid Motors.

Formed in 2007, Lucid was known as Atieva until this month. Under that name, it developed lithium battery and electric drivetrain technology, and built giant battery packs for electric buses in China. But with the name change comes a hard pivot – Lucid Motors is aiming to launch a Tesla rival by 2018.

The company has clear pedigree when it comes to performance – it's already built a test van out of a Mercedes Vito, a 5,000-pound giant of a thing that rockets to 60 mph in a hair over 3 seconds thanks to around 900 horsepower at the wheels.

It's also got the personnel, the team being headed up by CTO Peter Rawlinson, a former VP of Vehicle Engineering at Tesla who's also worked at Lotus and Jaguar. Other team members hail from Mazda, Volkswagen, Audi, Oracle and a range of Silicon Valley startups.

Lucid is basing itself in Palo Alto, not far from Tesla, although it has not yet announced where its US-based manufacturing operations will sit. In the interim there appears to be ties to Chinese manufacturing options that could help the company get up and running.

Lucid has yet to release a name or any solid specs on its first car – we'll have to wait until later in the year for details. But here's what we know so far.

The battery will use Atieva technology, and should be some 20 percent more energy dense than the competition thanks to cooling systems and power management software. Range is expected to be over 300 miles (480 km), with a 400-plus-mile version also under consideration.

Fast charging is still up in the air, as the company has yet to decide between CHAdeMO or J1772 standards, so charge times can't be accurately guessed at yet.

Power will be outrageously excessive, a la the Tesla Model S, and 0-60 mph times will be well under 3 seconds. It'll be a four wheel drive beast with supercar acceleration and a limited top speed.

Design-wise, a key feature will be a glassed-over canopy giving passengers a big view of the sky, and we can also expect smart headlights, with each side deploying some 6,000 "micro lens" units capable of directing high and low beam light in clever ways – perhaps we'll see something similar here to what Mercedes promised with its 2009 Experimental Safety Vehicle, which keeps high beams active on country roads, but dims just the area an oncoming car's in.

Like all upcoming Tesla models, the Lucid car is being built with full autonomy in mind, with all the sensors and computing power it'll need to drive itself. Whatever stage the software is at by the time it launches, that's what you'll get, and the car can be expected to update itself over the air with new abilities as those capabilities are proven over time.

Aside from these few images Lucid has provided, there's little to go on for what it'll look like, but as a high end product it'll likely be easy on the eye. Connectivity-wise, the company has committed to supporting both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the dash uses a bunch of full color AMOLED screens.

Having a car, a supply chain and a factory ready for production within two years is a herculean task, but with strong backing from Chinese investors as well as Silicon Valley cash behind it, it seems Lucid is worth keeping an eye on as things develop.

Source: Lucid Motors

View gallery - 3 images