If Ford’s decision earlier this year wasn’t proof, then GM’s announcement this week should remove all doubt: Americans are done with the sedan. Like it or not, the trucks and SUVs have won, and that bodes well for one of the newest entrants into the market, a startup called Rivian.
This week, Rivian finally revealed its first two products, the R1T, an all-electric pickup truck starting at $61,500, and the R1S, a seven-seater electric SUV that starts at $65,000. (Both prices are the $7,500 IRS tax credit.)
Both are ground-up designs, sharing a skateboard platform (common to most battery electric vehicles, with the battery pack living between the axles and underneath the passenger compartment). Rivian will offer three different sizes of battery in both vehicles; at launch, you can pick either 180kWh (and 400 miles/640km of range) or 135kWh (310 miles/500km) packs, with a third configuration of 105kWh (240 miles/390km) coming six months after production starts in 2020. The batteries are capable of recharging at up to 160kW on a DC fast charger and are also equipped with an 11kW onboard charger.
Both R1T and R1S feature four electric motors—one per wheel—and varying levels of power and torque depending on the battery size. Interestingly, the 135kWh pack gets the greatest power output (562kW/754hp); the 180kWh vehicles have to make do with a mere 522kW/700hp. Both make an identical 1200Nm/855ft-lbs. (The 105kWh configuration will come with 300kW/402hp and 560Nm/413ft-lbs.) The R1T will have a payload capacity of 1,763lbs (800kg) and a trailer rating of 11,000lbs (5,000kg).
As Tesla CEO Elon Musk is fond of telling people, starting a new car company in the US is far from easy, something that’s all too apparent from watching Faraday Future and Lucid’s various struggles. But Rivian appears to be doing everything right. I spoke with company founder and CEO RJ Scaringe earlier this year while Rivian was still in stealth mode and came away impressed. Its management team and board are both packed with industry veterans, and the company certainly appears conscious of the potential pitfalls. Since that time, it has also doubled in size, from 300 to 600 employees.
The company has split its efforts geographically to have the best access to regional talent pools. Facilities in California are responsible for battery tech and software (Irvine) and connected services and autonomous driving (San Jose). Vehicle design and engineering teams are based in Plymouth, Michigan, and the company has a 2.6 million square foot factory in Normal, Illinois; it acquired the ex-Mitsubishi factory in January 2017. Deliveries of the R1T are planned to begin in 2020, with the R1S SUV following in 2021.