2 of Tesla's most promising rivals are picking up steam

Tesla has dominated the US electric car market for years as the sole startup that's managed to mass-produce EVs and keep the lights on. Today, Elon Musk's automaker hardly qualifies as an startup anymore (it's worth some $750 billion), but a growing number of new manufacturers think they can replicate Tesla's success.

Two contenders have risen to the top of the heap as their years-long efforts finally start to pay off. Lucid Motors and Rivian have both been making strides as of late and are set to start delivering their debut vehicles in 2021. 

Rivian, which is working on a pickup truck and a Range Rover-esque luxury SUV, announced Tuesday that its vehicles are certified for sale in all 50 states and that its first customer-ready R1T pickups rolled had rolled off the production line in Normal, Illinois. Rivian's first saleable vehicle comes more than a decade after CEO RJ Scaringe founded the company in 2009.

Earlier in September, the Environmental Protection Agency rated Rivian's SUV and pickup at an impressive 316 and 314 miles of range, respectively. 

The Lucid Air.

Rivian plans to start shipping R1T Launch Edition trucks to preorder holders by the end of September, followed by its first R1S SUVs later this fall. It confidentially filed for an IPO in August and is aiming to go public around November, Bloomberg reported.

It's reportedly seeking a valuation of roughly $80 billion, more than Ford or General Motors. 

Lucid, for its part, recently made good on its longstanding promise to build the longest-range EV on the market. The EPA on Wednesday gave its debut vehicle — the Air Dream Edition R sedan — a range rating of 520 miles. It's a staggering rating, and no production EV has even come close to delivering that sort of mileage between charge-ups.

The Tesla Model S, which has led the market in battery range for years, can travel 405 miles on a full battery, according to EPA estimates. 

Lucid has already begun building preproduction cars at its factory in Arizona and says it will start shipping the $169,000 Air Dream Edition to preorder holders later in 2021. The company is taking a page out of Tesla's playbook by starting with a super-premium vehicle and working toward more affordable offerings, including a $77,400 base model of the Air and a small SUV called the Gravity.

Some on Wall Street are optimistic about Lucid's potential to challenge Tesla and legacy automakers alike. In a Wednesday note to investors, Bank of America analysts called Lucid potentially the next Tesla or Ferrari, noting that it is "a relative competitive threat to the universe of incumbent automakers, with innovative technology, attractive product, compelling brand, clean sheet manufacturing approach, and impressive management experience."

Shares of Lucid have risen 18.5% since Wednesday, and are up some 130% year-to-date. 

Still, mass-producing cars is a notoriously tricky and expensive business. And just because Lucid and Rivian are able to start delivering vehicles to customers, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be able to do it for long. Tesla famously had numerous brushes with failure and financial disaster on its way to the top.