Large crowd visits Hope Ranch home to meet engineer Peter Rawlinson and test-drive his state-of-the-art Lucid Air electric cars
Fans of Peter Rawlinson — the renowned Welsh automotive engineer who worked on the Tesla Model S — got a chance to test-drive his futuristic, Lucid Air luxury electric cars Sunday at a Hope Ranch residence.
The large crowd also got to rub elbows with Mr. Rawlinson, who lives in California, and chat with him about his achievements with electric cars.
Mr. Rawlinson, the CEO and chief technology officer of Lucid Motors, told the News-Press the Lucid Air model is an important step in making electric vehicles affordable and achieving progress against the perils of climate change. He said he and his company strived to “reach for the stars in what is possible.”
“It’s important to understand the rationale behind Lucid,” Mr. Rawlinson said, answering the News-Press’ questions by email. “It’s not simply to create electric cars. That in itself is far from enough. Lucid exists to push the limit of what is possible with EV technology and take it to the next level.
“This is important, not from hubris, but because the world needs sustainable mobility urgently, and higher technology will both catalyze rapid adoption today and pave the way for cost reductions to make electric cars affordable to a far wider audience in the near future,” Mr. Rawlinson said. “It’s that wider uptake that’s important if we are to make a dent in global emissions and global warming,” said Mr. Rawlinson, who told the News-Press he would love to start a dealership in a city he loves: Santa Barbara.
Mr. Rawlinson’s cars, in fact, proved to be a hit in Santa Barbara with the large number of people who visited the Hope Ranch home. People came in their Teslas and Rivian trucks from as far as Atascadero to try out the Lucid cars.
And they were thrilled with their test drives.
“Even though you feel like you are flying in the Air, you never feel like you are going to slip or slide off the turns. It is FUN to drive,” said one person who test-drove the Lucid Air.
Geri and Jerry Bidwell, Santa Barbara residents who got their Lucid Air eight months ago, told the News-Press they’ve had no problems with the car.
“It’s clear to me that Rawlinson has worked very hard on this car,” Geri Bidwell told the News-Press. “He treats everyone with positivity and respect. His Lucid car is an emblem of that.”
Jerry Bidwell said the Lucid Air has been a great car.
Mr. Rawlinson told the News-Press that he and his company wanted to “push the envelope in every sense and advance the technology.
“To that aim, we needed to attract and hire the best engineers and scientists in the world. That was challenging given we were a very small, virtually unknown company. However, great people are drawn by big ideas coupled with serious intent.
“So we were able to attract the talent and empower them by equipping them with supercomputers and simulation software,” Mr. Rawlinson said. “We took everything back to laws of physics levels and simulated things like the magnetic flux deep inside the motors at an atomic level.
“Although we reached for the stars in what was possible, it was vital that we remained pragmatic and created something that was able to be put into mass production, because otherwise no one could benefit,” Mr. Rawlinson said.
The Welsh native’s love for technology goes back to Imperial College London, where he graduated in mechanical engineering, then got a job with Jaguar. Eventually he became Jaguar’s chief engineer.
He later moved from Jaguar to Lotus, where, again, he became the chief engineer. From there, he went to a smaller car manufacturer, Corus Automotive, and that’s where he was working when he got a call from Elon Musk.
That brought Mr. Rawlinson from Europe to California, where he joined Mr. Musk at Tesla as the company’s vice president of vehicle engineering and the chief engineer of the popular Model S, a groundbreaking electric car, in 2010.
“I personally recruited and led the very best engineers and in so doing provided an overarching vision for the product and a relentless search for excellence,” Mr. Rawlinson told the News-Press about the Model S. “I didn’t set targets against other cars, which would be the normal thing to do, I simply wanted to explore the art of the possible, to push things to the limit of science and physics.
“I wanted to show what could be done and what I could do in leading a great team,” he said. “I was almost paranoid that someone else would create a better electric car, and paradoxically that paranoia ensured that no one did — at least until the Lucid Air came along.”
And that set the stage for Mr. Rawlinson’s next challenge. In 2012, Mr. Rawlinson took a break from Tesla to help his mother in England. But instead of returning to Tesla, he became Lucid Motors’ chief technology officer in 2013, then its CEO as well in 2019.
Make the world’s best electric car.
“Model S had been styled before I arrived at Tesla, and the normal way a car tends to be created is that the external styling is created first and the engineering is done after the fact,” he said. “In that way, the Model S was undertaken in a very traditional manner, which was, of course, out of my control.
“However, I realized that an electric car could be so much more and saw potential for miniaturizing the electric drivetrain in a way to make a car smaller on the outside and larger on the inside,” Mr. Rawlinson said. “So with Lucid Air, we designed the car from the inside out which remarkably, although it sounds an obvious thing to do, is actually quite a revolutionary approach.
“The result is a car smaller than a Model S on the outside, but far more comfortable and spacious on the inside in a way nobody else has achieved,” he said.
Not surprisingly, one of the great joys in Mr. Rawlinson’s life is driving.
“This never gets old, and this goes way back to owning my Lotus Elan when I was just 21 years old,” he said. “Later I was to become chief engineer of advanced engineering at Lotus.”
He said he frequently drives his Lucid Air from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles and can do so without stopping to charge because the car has an electric range that exceeds 500 miles.
“Lucid Air is possibly the greatest driver’s car I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “Seriously! The car displays such engaging driver dynamics it’s untrue, and yet it’s also capable of swift, relaxed and effortless mile-eating range.”