The last year of trading has generally been brutal for electric-vehicle (EV) stocks, and smaller players in the space have been particularly hard hit. From a valuation standpoint, Lucid Group (LCID 2.17%) and Rivian Automotive (RIVN 0.18%) have been among the industry's biggest losers over the last 12 months, with each stock plummeting more than 80% across the stretch. 

But while the share prices for companies in the space have plummeted, it's unlikely that the long-term outlook for the EV revolution has been derailed. Which of these two EV players will prove to be the better buy-and-hold stock? Here's why two Motley Fool contributors come down on opposing sides of the debate. 

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Consumers can't get enough EVs

Parkev Tatevosian (Rivian): Rivian benefits from a strong tailwind as consumers flock to EVs. This trend is likely to persist, given that governments are subsidizing the industry to encourage wider adoption.

Rivian is snowballing: In its most recent quarter, the company increased vehicle production by 67% from the previous quarter. With an order backlog of more than 114,000, production is the crucial element.

In addition to the figure above, Rivian has an order for 100,000 electric delivery vans from Amazon. Management reaffirmed that the company would likely produce 25,000 vehicles in 2022. With $14 billion in cash on hand as of Sept. 30, it certainly is not lacking the resources to do so. But the question remains: Can Rivian ramp up production efficiently?

For now, the company is not profitable and is bleeding cash. In its most recent quarter, it lost $1.7 billion on the bottom line. For the nine months that ended Sept. 30, its losses totaled $5 billion.

Its fashionable cars and government incentives are ensuring robust customer demand. Investors could reap huge rewards if Rivian can get the manufacturing process right.

Still, investors should keep in mind that this will not be an easy feat. In other words, the potential reward for investing in Rivian also comes with sizable risk.

Focusing on the pemium EV market

Keith Noonan (Lucid): In addition to myriad macroeconomic pressures, Lucid has faced production challenges and declining investor enthusiasm for the broader EV space over the last year. The stock trades down roughly 89% from its lifetime high, and the EV specialist now has a market capitalization of roughly $11.3 billion. 

With the potential for a recession to shape much of the operating backdrop of 2023, it's possible that the broader automotive space will have a rough go of things over the next year. Smaller EV companies in particular could see outsize negative effects. But Lucid presents a potentially explosive opportunity despite its admittedly significant risk profile.

The business is scaling rapidly and currently trades at roughly 4.3 times next year's expected sales, which opens the door for valuation turbulence in conjunction with trends for the broader market. But it also leaves room for explosive capital appreciation if the company can execute on its vision.

With revenue growing quickly and the business' focus on the ultra-premium segment of the EV market creating the opportunity for strong margins, Lucid might have an easier time shifting into profitability and earnings growth compared to many industry peers. 

Lucid's focus on luxury sedans could help it stand out in the increasingly crowded EV market, and its move into luxury SUVs with the launch of its Gravity model in 2024 could prove to be a hit as well.

Even after big sell-offs, Lucid remains a high-risk stock. It's possible that the company's vision for growth in the EV industry won't pan out, and its share price still has room for continued downside from current levels.

Crucially, Lucid remains in the very early stages of ramping up production and sales initiatives, and that comes with risk even on the heels of a dramatic valuation contraction. But there's big potential here as well. 

Which stock is the better buy?

Rivian and Lucid both stand out as high-risk, high-reward stocks. While it remains in a relatively early stage of executing its long-term growth strategy, Rivian's business is currently in a more developed state. Its deals with enterprise partners including Amazon represent meaningful votes of confidence and help create some added security for its performance outlook.

Meanwhile, Lucid stock looks even riskier at current levels, but its focus on the luxury EV market could potentially come with big payoffs down the line. 

If picking between the two stocks, investors should weigh each company's individual strengths and differing approach to the EV market and decide based on which strategy seems more appealing.