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Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson speaks with Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller on "Axios on HBO." Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson doesn't "want to be doing wealthy people's cars," he told "Axios on HBO" in an interview that aired Sunday.

Why it matters: Americans are warming up to the idea of electric cars, but the purchase price is still too high for many people, who also worry about how far their car will go before the battery needs recharging.

  • The $169,000 Lucid Air Dream, while financially out of reach for most people, has an unprecedented 520-mile driving range — efficiency that can be carried over to lower-priced models.
  • "The biggest challenge I've always faced was getting money, not going bankrupt, having that investment as a startup to develop this," Rawlinson said, pointing to Lucid's debut model.
  • "Start with this, but my passion: get this down from $169,000 to under $70,000 by the end of next year."
  • "Efficiency's the key, and our technology will drive down the (battery) pack size in this car. And driving the pack size will drive down the cost. And that's where we get to a $25,000 car. And I think that could come three to four years from now."

But it likely won't be a $25,000 Lucid, Rawlinson also tells Axios. Instead, it will be other brands, selling high-volume models with smaller, cheaper battery packs based on Lucid's efficiency breakthroughs.

What's happening: Citing a "growing urgency" across the industry, Rawlinson told me "many companies" have approached him this year about potentially licensing Lucid's technology.

  • When pressed to name the carmakers he's talking to, he said it's "a mix of companies" that recognizes "the train's going to leave the station and they don't want to miss it" but that worry they don't have the time or resources to develop their own technology.
  • Licensing revenue could be a big growth driver for Lucid, helping to finance further vehicle development, he said. But for now, the company's primary focus is getting the first 500 or so models built at its Arizona factory into customers' hands before the end of the year.

The backdrop: Lucid is often painted as the next Tesla, but its hot stock tumbled last week after the company disclosed an SEC subpoena concerning the SPAC deal that took it public this year followed by a sizable debt offering that could dilute existing shareholders.

  • The startup, which was briefly worth more than Ford Motor last month, still has a market capitalization of $62 billion.
  • Rawlinson defended the valuation, telling "Axios on HBO" it's because investors had conferred "tech company status" on Lucid that they don't assign to legacy automakers like General Motors or Ford.

He also defended Lucid's ownership structure, which is 60% controlled by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, chaired by the controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, who was implicated by the CIA in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I think we've got to look at the big picture here," Rawlinson told "Axios on HBO."

  • "I think that the entire world is facing an environmental crisis. And here we have a country which has really grown to its position through its fossil fuel wealth having the foresight to invest in this new green, environmental-friendly endeavor."
  • "I unequivocally condemn what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. We all do. But this is about making electric cars and benefiting the future of mankind. And that's the business I'm in, not politics."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 6, 2022 - Energy & Environment

The fast-evolving electric vehicle landscape

The electric Chevy Silverado pickup. Photo courtesy of GM.

New vehicle rollouts, pledges and data this week offer a snapshot of where the electric vehicle market is today and where it's heading.

Driving the news: The big CES tech show brought several announcements.

1 hour ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.