Yesterday, hopeful Tesla-fighting startup Lucid unveiled the prototype of its new car, the Air. It’s a striking design, and Lucid claims it’ll go 400 miles on a charge and let you launch it off a bridge with its 1000 insane electro-horsepower. But I think the real revolutionary thing they’ve done is resurrected disappearing headlamps.
Before a more careful approach to aerodynamics made us realize that pop-up headlights were effectively speed brakes, they were once a staple of sports car design. Everything from the Opel GT to the MR2 to the Fiero to the Corvette to the Miata once drove around with their eyes closed, and watching a pair of hidden headlights pop up was always a treat.
For a while in the 1970s, we got so crazy with covered headlights that we were even sticking them on family cars and freaking upholstering them, because we had a real problem.
Covered and pop-up headlights have been effectively dead for a couple decades now, though, both because they don’t work in the wind-tunnel tested designs of modern cars and may not meet pedestrian safety standards.
What Lucid has done is to take a page from the old Citroën SM and maybe a hint from modern Acura and cram a whole mess of small lights behind some glass.
The outer glass provides the aerodynamic profile needed, and the many little lights combine to provide the illumination needed. Lucid’s innovation was realizing that they could have some fun inside the glass, and not just let a bunch of little lights sit there; they could hide and show the lights at will, because life is for the living.
You can see their lights in action in this promo video for them, which is unbearable in pretty much every other context:
The approach they took, with a little cascading flipping of the lights from closed to open, adds just that right touch of drama to the car. Sure, it’s another electric motor and another mechanism to potentially break, but it’s little dramatic touches like these that make people give a shit about a car.
Remember how everyone, even non-gearheads, knew about the Tesla’s glide-out door handles? Dramatic and useless touches are important on cars, especially for a company like Lucid, which will be trading heavily in image and status.
So, great job on these headlights, Lucid! I love them. Now you just need to build yourselves a factory and get going, already.