You probably haven’t heard of the new US-based electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian, but it will part of your life soon, even if you don’t buy one.
Rivian’s success is all but guaranteed success thanks to a $500 million investment from Ford and another $700 million investment led by Amazon.
Ford will be using the revolutionary Rivian chasis in its own EV models, and Amazon will be using Rivian-branded models for deliveries and other fleet uses.
Rivian has two models – a pick-up truck and a full-size SUV – both sitting on top of its so-called “skateboard” platform, which can be scaled up or down to accommodate body styles of different sizes, weights and designs.
It is the revolutionary turned-up design in the front and back of the chassis that gives the platform its skateboard name.
The upturns hold the battery pack, drive units, suspension and braking and thermal systems, keeping them out of the way of passengers.
That means more cabin space for people, more cargo space for whatever, and a lower center of gravity for improved driving dynamics.
That’s what attracted Ford, which will use the platform to develop an all-new, next-generation EV for its growing electric portfolio. The Rivian-based EV is in addition to a Mustang-inspired EV crossover and an electrified F-150 pickup that includes both a pure EV and a hybrid.
Amazon is expected to use the Rivian SUV or pickup for deliveries and other warehousing and supply needs.
Produced in a former Mitsubishi factory in Illinois
The Ford editions won’t compete with the models Rivian is producing at a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill.
Rivian purchased it for the bargain price of $16 million, complete with equipment, a year after the Japanese manufacturer literally walked away in 2015 following years of dwindling production.
Rivian was smart enough to hire back many of the 1,000 stranded Mitsubishi workers.
“They know the plant inside and out,” strategy director Patrick Hunt told me, and their expertise will help produce vehicles more efficiently in the sprawling 2.6 million square foot facility.
Rivian also has hired away dozens of skilled designers, technicians and others from Tesla, McLaren and Ford, along with an Apple exec who helped introduce the iPhone to the world, according to The Verge.
Both the R1T (T is for truck) and R1S (S is for SUV) have an impressive 400 mile range between charges, and can accelerate 0-60 mph in three seconds, the same as a gas-powered Toyota Tunda, Hunt told me.
The power comes from a hunky lithium battery pack, of course, plus electric motors over each wheel, which provide quad motor AWD control and capability, especially handy for off-roading.
Special Rivian design features
The truck is a five-passenger model with some inventive cargo space. I loved the side-to-side pass-through Gear Tunnel between the cabin and truck bed, just behind the cab door.
It’s big enough for a snowboard, golf clubs, strollers, or as Hunt likes to joke, “disobedient children”.
Because there’s no engine under the hood, it’s another huge space for storage. “Put the groceries there, where it’s clean, and stow the dirty stuff in the back,” he says.
The SUV is a seven-passenger. The roof rack is able to handle anything from bikes to kayaks, and there’s ample cargo space behind the third row seats.
Both have a tow rating of 11,000 pounds, and both have high ground clearance for driving over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house, the boat launch site, the campsite or the hiking trailhead.
Both models also have distinctive “stadium” headlights and a daytime running light that extends the full width of the vehicles, making them instantly recognizable as not the other guy’s pick-up or SUV.
Inside, Rivian uses only sustainably sourced wood. All the interior materials were chosen also so they can be cleaned easily, whether it’s mud, grease or little fingerprints from those disobedient kids you didn’t stash in the Gear Tunnel.
All that technology and hunk-ology don’t come cheap.
Prices start at around $69,000, so even with $7,500 worth of federal and state tax credits, you’re still looking at an EV from a new brand that costs more than a conventional truck or SUV from a brand that’s been around since the days of eight-track tape.
Rivian’s first two models are due for delivery in North America in late 2020, and globally in 2021. There’s no word on whether there will be additional models down the road, but let’s not quibble.
Here’s hoping Rivian is one of the new car companies with staying power.
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