Unless you were blind, deaf and dumb you couldn’t have missed the march of EVs (electric vehicles) over the last couple of years. Tesla have been pioneering the rollout of plenty of passenger cars manufactured at massive plants in the USA and in China to Tesla’s world markets including Australia. You likely saw around twelve months ago the prototype Tesla Cybertruck, which looks pretty silly, but that’s the way the world’s going as the old playbook is thrown out and a new era in vehicle design slides in. Fortunately there’s a few vehicle makers who’ve reined in fanciful designs and will give us something more pleasing to the eye, an evolution, but still a practical one and one of them is Rivian.
In 4WD circles Rivian has addressed the greater challenge of the introduction of EVs and that is range. A battery pack with hundreds of kilometres of realistic travel (that’s with the air-conditioning on, with a holiday load and occasionally in low range) has been the handbrake to the mass acceptance of EVs when the talk revolves around off-road. Rivian are the only ones who’ve put their money where their mouth is and developed a driveline that has the sort of capacity that’s going to be of interest to us and I’m pleased to announce has finally become a reality, with the first customer delivered R1T ute in Rivian Blue rolling off the production line yesterday.
In case you’ve missed this story, Rivian are a start-up company, not a legacy carmaker, launching in 2009 as Mainstream Motors (which sounds pretty boring) before changing to the name Rivian (which isn’t) in 2011. Ten years on and there’s been an incredible amount of activity with the brand with the purchase of an old Mitsubishi plant in Normal (which also sounds pretty boring), Illinois USA and its refurbishment in readiness for production again, the hiring of thousands of employees (8,000 and counting), new backers and partners including Ford and Amazon and capitalisation numbering around US$11Billion.
Full production of the R1T ute and the R1S wagon has been interrupted by Covid and the worldwide automotive chip shortage, so yesterday was cause for celebration as the blue truck drove under its own power off the retail manufacturing line and headed for it’s eager first customer. The ute and the wagon aren’t the only things that Rivian make for the world. Amazon placed an almighty order with Rivian for 100,000 delivery vans and these will underpin the company’s success initially providing sales income and a strategic partner who is definitely cashed up. That and Ford’s buy-in on Rivian’s technology for use in the F150 Lightning (due for launch in 2022) means Rivian’s likely to be a success in a sea of start-up failures. Amazon’s vans are made on the commercial production line at the same Normal plant in Illinois.
Both the R1T and R1S use what Rivian call their “large” 135kWh battery pack which has an offical EPA range of just over 500 kilometres. The Rivian Adventure Network will comprise a fast-charging network of 3,500 locations throughout the USA and Canada and a further 10,000 Waypoint top-up chargers at restaurants, hotels, shops and carparks to keep the fizz going. Of course you can use your wall charger at home in-between times too.
Performance is staggering; utilising a quad-motor driveline (that’s a motor per wheel and true 4WD) Rivian will accelerate from 0-100km/h in three seconds, tow up to 5,000kgs (although I bet there’ll be some caveats on that) and has a fording depth of 900mm and around 355mm of ground clearance.
It’s a big unit; the ute measures over 5.5m (like a Jeep Gladiator), stands 1.9m high, mirror to mirror is 2.05m wide and has a wheelbase of 3.4m (which isn’t ideal for rock-hopping).
The initial production “Launch Edition” vehicles wear their eco-friendly mantra well with vegan leather seating, recycled microfibre headlining and floor mats and of course that battery pack that promises cheap refuelling from the sun and wind.
We’ve already mentioned Ford aren’t going to miss out on this party with the drop of the F-150 Lightning in 2022 and GM want a piece of the action with their Hummer EV next year as well. The Hummer EV “Supertruck” is something we’ve had a look at in the recent past (and you can read that here) which throws plenty of off-road tech and then some stuff that are in the realm of the fantastical and with power and torque figures quoted at 745kW/15,500Nm that are bonkers!