With pickup trucks accounting for nearly 3 million sales in 2018 and defining the largest part of the USA vehicle market, the Rivian R1T pure electric truck, capable of 400 e-miles, will be a best-seller when it begins deliveries in late 2020.
By John Coulter, Current EV CMO
Glimpsing the potential in Rivian’s electric skateboard chassis platform, Amazon and Ford have made a combined $1.2 billion investment in the company. Voicing his support for Rivian’s mission, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO said: “As with most of our major investments, and acquisitions, we’re always looking for mission-driven entrepreneurs — missionaries instead of mercenaries. And the guy who leads the company, a guy named R.J., is one of the most missionary entrepreneurs I’ve ever met.” He’s referring to Rivian’s CEO, R.J. Scaringe. All told, Scaringe has been able to raise $1.7 billion, without selling a single truck yet.
The R1T produces over 800 lb-ft of torque, has a nearly 1800 lb capacity, can tow around 11,000 pounds, and has an e-mobility range of 400 miles. What’s more, it can sprint from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds, and 0 to 100 in 7 seconds. The R1T and its companion vehicle, the R1S, an SUV with the same stats, are available for pre-order on the company’s website.
Unlike other car manufacturers, who release photos of their products in advance of arrival and debut their prototype vehicles at auto shows for years in advance to create buzz and interest, Rivian developed its two e-vehicles in stealth mode for years before finally previewing its electric truck prototype at the LA Auto Show in November 2018.
After completing a doctorate in mechanical engineering at MIT, R.J. Scaringe founded Mainstream Motors, which would later become Rivian, in 2009. He and his initial team worked for two and a half years to create a sports car, but he pulled the plug in 2011, saying: “In my heart and soul, I knew I wasn’t answering the fundamental question of why the world needs this company to be successful.” When the car design was done, Scaringe told his team they were abandoning it and starting work on a truck design instead. Moving the company to Michigan, Scaringe received early backing from Saudi and Japanese investors to develop his e-truck designs.
The R1T truck and R1S SUV will offer a range of three battery packs – 105KWh, 135kWh, and 300kWh. The 300kWh pack will offer a 400-mile range. Three 110-volt power outlets will be located in the pickup's bed, allowing owners to use the truck's big battery to charge devices or power tools on the go. Rivian’s largest megapack holds enough energy to power a typical US household for more than two weeks.
Each version will have All Wheel Drive, with an e-motor at each wheel. Level 3 autonomous tech will be standard, as will adjustable air suspension. The R1T’s cabin will use leather, wood and metal for the instrument gauge clusters and the infotainment system. The R1T has a large truck beneath its front hood and a lockable in-bed compartment.
Additionally, the truck has a large “gear tunnel” – a passage across the truck’s width, underneath the truck bed’s front, with doors on either side that fold flat to become steps. Rivian plans to make a large pull-out camping kitchen which will fit in the tunnel and be offered as an option.
Though the R1T has enormous potential as a commercial vehicle, R.J. Scaringe is targeting the USA premium pickup and SUV market for consumers who want large vehicles for both city and off-road usage.
The e-truck and SUV will be marketed as lifestyle products as opposed to work trucks. The vehicles are designed to be adventure-ready. They’re able to wade through 1 meter of water, climb 45-degree inclines, and drive over boulders. R1T’s battery pack will be bolted into the frame of the vehicle and covered with a ‘ballistic shield’ that prevents damage to the underside of the battery pack and protects occupants within the vehicle’s cabin. Fitted to the entire underbody of the vehicle, the shield will also make the battery pack waterproof.
Right now, Americans are buying trucks in huge numbers. The profit margins for these vehicles are much higher than those of compact and mid-sized sedans. This is one of the reasons that Ford is ditching its car lines in North America and focusing instead on trucks.
Rivian has spent 9 incognito years developing its unique battery system at an unassuming industrial business park in Irvine, California with no posted signage indicating its identity. It will use a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois for creating its battery packs and is currently studying options for its main vehicle assembly line operation. The company will also establish a retail operation to showcase its products to consumers.
Says Christian Prenzler of Teslarati.com: “Rivian engineers have worked on battery algorithms that leverage a driver’s profile, including their location and navigation data, and real-time weather conditions, to preemptively optimize a battery. For example, when a vehicle is on its way to a DC-charging station, the battery modules will be cooled ahead of time and prepared to accept the fastest charging rate. In essence, Rivian’s battery algorithms are adjusting battery cell settings, constantly, on the fly. By using machine-learning to build predictive models of various conditions, Rivian is able to tune battery cells, with high confidence, on conditions it may encounter.”
“Rivian’s R1T pickup truck and R1S adventure SUV will use the exact same battery modules. Battery capacity will vary based on the number of modules inside a skateboard-style battery pack design. Each Rivian module holds 864 cells, with 432 on the bottom and the other half stacked on top. In between the cells is a thin 7mm aluminum plate with liquid coolant. The unique structure isn’t known to be used by any other manufacturer.”
A first for any car company: Rivians will be able to share charges with each other. If one Rivian runs out of power, a second Rivian can feed the first Rivian’s battery. This ability is especially great when Rivians penetrate deep wilderness areas.
Scaringe is promising only 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles in 2021, the first year of production. The Rivian website has tens of thousands of reservations from buyers who’ve made $1,000 deposits.
The fully-loaded R1Ts that use the 300kWh 400-mile-range battery pack will cost more than $90,000. The 105kWh battery version will start at around $70,000. The R1S SUV will take direct aim at gas guzzlers in the premium sports utility segment like Land Rover and Porsche’s Cayenne. The R1T e-truck will take aim at ICE trucks that make up the $95 billion dollar-a-year US truck market dominated by Ford and GM.
If this is the first time you’ve read anything about Rivian, that’s intentional. Up until now, Rivan has quietly operated its research and development in private, with almost no public announcements. But all that’s changed now. The world has been made aware of Rivan’s premium electric vehicles and is anxiously awaiting their arrival.