His last startup failed. Now, Lyndon Rive wants a second chance.
Rive was the original co-founder of Tesla Motors, and until his very recent departure from the company, he spent his days working full-time to make the world a greener place.
Now, he’s running Lucid Motors, a company that’s at a very early stage of development.
The gist of his strategy for Lucid is to focus on an extreme hydrogen fuel cell that can run three cars simultaneously with the power of an electric drive system. With electric cars growing in sales, the two technologies have to find a way to make a business out of each other.
Yes, that’s a lot of terms, but Lucid is clearly going after high-performance battery cars at a time when they are beginning to find a certain momentum.
What Lucid’s engineers are creating is a new kind of fuel cell. One made of tetraethyl lead and aluminum that uses more than one electrolyte to carry oxygen through the air to create hydrogen.
That hydrogen is stored in a fuel cell that powers the power system with electric power. It’s like a battery in a traditional lithium-ion chip, but the difference is that the tetraethyl lead-based cells are stronger and faster than the lithium-ion batteries because they can withstand greater temperatures and more movement than can be done in current cells.
These tetraethyl lead cells are already being developed by A123 Systems in Massachusetts, and those companies believe that one day they will be the basis for a fuel cell that can go from a pure liquid to something that is liquid cool – which would be good news for road trips.
Because the technology to make a tetraethyl lead fuel cell is very young, though, Lucid’s solution is to use a lithium-sulfur fuel cell and a small lithium-ion battery.
In contrast to the Tesla Model S, which makes 400 hp, the Lucid should be able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds, according to the startup.
The big advantage of Lucid’s approach is that the cost of the engine is significantly less than in current hybrid electric systems, which help lower the price. In order to run the car, though, the battery must be at least 25 percent larger than in a traditional battery car.
While Tesla worked on being nearly race-car-efficient in terms of gas mileage, Lucid’s aim is to be not far off, depending on how many customers buy the car.
While that’s a bold goal for a startup, Rive is confident. He told the BBC that he’s seeing more and more customers asking questions about the technology – not just consumers, but fleet operators who could help the car achieve its target range.
When it was founded in 2013, Lucid drew down $75 million from investors. Now, after several years of research and development, Lucid is out of money.
At first, the company was planning to put a prototype up for pre-order in a matter of months. Those hopes seem like a distant memory, as the new Lucid One, the car Lucid is planning to launch in 2017, has been delayed until at least 2018.
That company, though, hopes to reach a speed that Rive isn’t yet sure is possible. That speed is getting the car up to 120 miles per hour.