Lucid Air configurator taps next-gen console tech for more realistic EV orders

Deliveries of Lucid Motors' first all-electric car may not be starting until next year, but that hasn't stopped the automaker from loading up its online configurator for those who want to stake a place in line. Promising to borrow tech from the gaming world to make customizing the new luxury electric sedan more true to life, it's an arguably timely implementation of the tech given the reluctance of many new car buyers to step into a brick and mortar dealership.

Lucid, of course, doesn't have any dealerships yet. Its twenty planned "Lucid Studios and Services Centers" – think showrooms, test drive hubs, and repair facilities – are expected to be open by the end of 2021, but for the moment the online experience is your only way to really get to grips with what the new Air offers.

Rather than wait for that, the automaker tapped some new technologies that might be more familiar to those who follow high-end graphics cards or next-gen consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. By using ray-tracing and a cloud-based rendering engine, the vehicle on-screen not only looks more like the eventual production Air, Lucid promises, it can more readily update as different features, trims, and paint options are added.

For example, the configurator apparently uses the same digital model as the car designers themselves use. That way, updates to the former can instantly reflect changes to the latter.

Getting the online configurator for your new EV just right is important business these days. After all, coaxing eager early-adopters to put down a reservation – even if it's only for $100 or so – can add up considerably, as Tesla can attest. The California automaker is notorious for banking hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in reservation fees which, while refundable, also help provide a useful stopgap for ramping up production lines.

It's not alone, though. We've seen both new EV startups, like Nikola, embrace the reservations process, and more established companies such as VW do the same. Those who like the idea of getting behind the all-electric wheel of a VW ID.4, for example, can try out Volkswagen's brand new online configurator and put down a refundable deposit to be at the front of the line when the crossover arrives on US shores by the end of the year.

In Lucid's case, it's asking for a refundable $7,500 deposit for those wanting a 2021 Air Dream Edition, which will be put toward the $169,000 sticker price (before destination, tax credits, and any incentives). If you don't mind waiting a little longer – and spending less – for an Air Grand Touring or Air Touring, scheduled for Summer and late 2021 respectively, that's just a $1,000 deposit. You can even look far ahead to 2022, and the regular Lucid Air expected to start at under $80k; that also commands a $1k deposit.

Those who do go all the way to final ordering will apparently be able to go into a Lucid Studio and use a 4K virtual reality configurator, seeing their final choices as thought the EV itself was parked in front of them. There'll also be a "multi-user, multi-car VR experience" powered by ZeroLight – something we actually played with back in 2019 with the HTC VIVE Pro Eye – so that several people can interact with the same virtual vehicle at the same time.

Unfortunately there's no way to use all that to actually bring the Air to market any quicker. Production is expected to kick off later this year, with the first deliveries in North America currently scheduled for Spring 2021, assuming there are no delays. Beyond that, Lucid plans to launch its second vehicle based on the same Air platform, an all-electric SUV currently codenamed "Project Gravity," in 2023.