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Three-motor Lucid Air Performance could be a 1,300 hp Model S Plaid fighter

The dual-motor Air EV currently tops out at the 1,080-horsepower Dream Edition, but there's room in the chassis for a third motor and even more power.

2021 Lucid Air
Lucid Motors

With up to 1,080 horsepower depending on its configuration, the dual-motor 2021 Lucid Air EV is already boasting some seriously impressive numbers… but for electric speed freaks with deep pockets, the best is still yet to come. At a briefing prior to the Air's unveil, Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson previewed an upcoming three-motor Performance model that could arrive as early as late 2021.

Lucid isn't the first automaker to experiment with squeezing multiple compact and powerful electric motors into their cars. Tesla is developing three-motor systems for its upcoming Model S Plaid and Cybertruck; Rivian has room for tank-turning quad-motor systems in its R1T pickup and R1S SUV.

The upcoming Lucid Air will be available in three flavors. There's a 620-hp model with a single, rear axle motor. Adding a second motor to the front axle bumps up to the dual-motor 800-hp model. Finally, turning up the wick bumps the dual-motor output to 1,080 hp for the line-topping Air Dream Edition. The automaker will also be adding a fourth, "more reasonable" base model in 2022, presumably with less power or range, but right now less reasonable is more exciting.

Now playing: Watch this: 2021 Lucid Air packs 1,080 hp punch, 517-mile range

While showcasing Lucid's compact 650-hp drive unit, Rawlinson displayed examples of the Air's single- and dual-motor configurations. The tiny, powerful motor is tucked comfortably within the rear and front subframes. The drive unit is so small that there's even room to spare on the rear axle. And that's when Rawlinson rolled out the beast.

"Here we have the same rear subframe with aluminum casting, but we actually have a dual motor unit here: one motor for the left wheel and one for the right wheel," Rawlinson said, gesturing to the two drive units nestled back-to-back on the same axle. "This unit here is 1,300 hp and this is our Performance model, which will be made available coming late 2021."

That's 1,300 hp for the rear axle alone, before you even account for the single motor driving the front wheels. Theoretically, we're looking at up to 1,950 total ponies for the full three-motor party. 

2021 Lucid Air

Lucid Motors CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson presents the Performance model's dual-motor rear axle.

Lucid Motors

When this Performance model arrives, however, the actual tune is likely to be a touch lower. After all, none of the currently announced models reach the theoretical 650 single- or 1,300 dual-motor max. This is most likely to keep temperatures, range and battery health in check, leading to more conservative peak numbers. Using the Dream Edition's 1,080 hp as a jumping-off point for some back-of-the-napkin calculations, I'm estimating between 1,300 and 1,620 total hp, which is still mind-blowing.

Preorders for the dual- and single-motor Lucid Air Performance kicked off with Wednesday's announcement of the electric sedan, with Arizona-based production beginning later this year. The first 1,080-hp deliveries will arrive in spring 2021.

Will good things come to those who wait for the upcoming Performance model? How much of a price premium will it carry over the already expensive $169,000 Dream Edition? We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for more details over the coming months.