Tesla’s most credible rival raises $1 billion from Saudi Arabia

Lucid Motors, the electric car startup we described as Tesla’s most credible rival last year, got a shot in the arm on Monday as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund announced a $1 billion investment. The company aims to bring its first car to market in 2020.

Lucid has been building up to this moment for more than a decade.

The company was founded in 2007 under the name Atieva to build technology related to electric cars—but not the entire car itself. In 2015, the Chinese state-owned automaker BAIC became Lucid’s biggest investor, and we learned that Atieva was pivoting to face Tesla head-on by building an electric car of its own.

The company rebranded as Lucid two years ago and has a number of Tesla veterans—including chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson—helping design its first car, the Lucid Air.

Ars Technica’s Jonathan Gitlin got a firsthand look at a prototype of Lucid’s first model, the Lucid Air, 18 months ago, and he liked what he saw. Gitlin described it as “remarkably functional for such an early stage in the development process.” Lucid is aiming for the same luxury sedan market as Tesla’s Model S. Lucid brags that its prototype is the size of a Mercedes-Benz E Class while offering more interior space than the roomier S Class.

We reported last year that the high-end model is expected to cost upwards of $100,000. It will come with a dual-motor, 1,000 horsepower setup that enables acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds.

While the company has an impressive prototype, what it hasn’t had, until now, is enough money to turn that into a shipping commercial product. Lucid announced early last year that it was building a factory in Arizona, but work on the factory stalled for more than a year as Lucid looked for $700 million in financing.

Raising $1 billion from Saudi Arabia will finally allow Lucid to move ahead at full speed, with production now scheduled to begin in 2020. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund also took a significant position in Tesla earlier this year.

If Tesla’s history is any indication, the company will need to raise more money—probably a lot more—if it hopes to become a mainstream carmaker. Tesla has burned through billions of dollars in recent years as it brought the Model X, the Model X, and then the Model 3 to market.

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