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Testing without limits: Lucid Air hits 235 mph

The Lucid team recently returned to the Transportation Research Centre (TRC) facility in Ohio for the next round of testing with the Lucid Air Alpha Speed Car. The car completed a series of tests, including a set of tyre tests and a high-speed oval run with the software speed limit removed. This allowed the company to evaluate performance at even higher speeds, up to 235 mph.

Lucid fitted one of its Air Alpha prototypes with a roll cage in preparation for a series of high-speed tests intended to explore the limits of the platform and uncover any behaviors that may not be discovered in lab testing. This prototype, dubbed the Lucid Air Alpha Speed Car, was first tested in April 2017. For additional safety during the first high-speed tests, the car was given aerodynamic aids and a parachute to slow the car abruptly in case the straights didn’t prove long enough to reach desired speeds and slow down sufficiently for the next turn. For this first test, the top speed was software limited to 217 mph (350 km/h).

The first test exceeded expectation, with the test driver exiting the banked oval at over 200 mph. The car then hit the speed limiter less than a quarter of the way down the straightaway, leaving plenty of space to slow down without the use of the parachute.

Although the car performed wonderfully, Lucid also found opportunities for improvement. For example, the self-leveling air suspension was not able to adjust quickly enough when running near 200 mph on a high-banked track, with heavy downforce pushing the car laterally against the track. The company also found the front motor was running at temperatures higher than had been predicted in computer simulations.

Before heading back out for a second test, Lucid made a few adjustments; the air suspension required a software update to improve responsiveness when loaded heavily, the front motor required updates to coolant flow and ventilation and the new, aerodynamically efficient wheels were fitted. The company then removed the speed limiter to see what a Lucid Air alpha prototype was capable of achieving.

After completing the other planned tests, the team was ready to run the oval. At 11 am, the test driver set off on his flying lap. It was clear to the spotters standing hundreds of metres away that the car was moving faster coming off the banking than during the last test. And they were right. This time the Air came off the banking at 215 mph and reached an ultimate GPS confirmed speed of 235.44 mph.

The Air Alpha prototype was perfectly stable in corners and on the straight, which is illustrated by the driver’s slow and steady inputs that can be seen in the accompanying video. The software update to the air suspension performed as expected and responded appropriately during cornering. The thermal levels of the powertrain, including the front motor, stayed within specification throughout the run.

235.44 mph. While it 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. 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.

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