After almost a decade of working incognito, Michigan-based automotive startup Rivian is finally debuting its all-electric 5-passenger pickup truck, capable of clocking 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds in its top configuration.
Launched in 2009, Rivian has since been quietly developing its line of electric vehicles and is on the verge of officially launching its first two products – the R1T pickup truck and the R1S SUV – at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show this week.
The company, however, chose to unveil the truck version ahead of the official launch, giving us our first look at the R1T on Monday (Nov 26) and, if one were to describe it in a word, it’s gorgeous.
At 215.5-inch long and 79.3-inch wide, the R1T is a tad larger than a Honda Ridgeline or a Nissan Nivara, with a generously spacious cabin that comfortably accommodates five passengers.
Futuristically designed, the vehicle has a full-width LED light bar on the front, it’s continuity broken by two vertical sets of round LEDs housed inside oval “stadium lights.”
In the absence of a traditional grille, the truck looks pretty neat and flat front-on, with just a skid plate and a couple of recovery hooks at the lower edge.
Since Rivian is a relatively unknown name, it was imperative that the vehicle’s design stood out to give the brand the desired recognition
“We don’t have history, we are a new brand,” said Jeff Hammoud, VP of vehicle design, adding “you’ll be able to describe this [truck] to your friends quite easily.”
As is the current norm with electric vehicles, the R1T sits on a “skateboard” platform, but what Riviana has done differently here is that it has integrated four compact yet powerful electric motors.
Each motor has a 147 kW power output or 197 horsepower, which translates to a combined output of 788 hp vindicating Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe’s claim of “nearly 800 horsepower.”
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that, as the R1T is being offered in three battery-pack configurations of 105-kWh, 135-kWh, and 180-kWh – each offering a different “input to gearbox” power of 300kW, 522kW and 562kW and a range of 230+, 300+ and 400+ miles, respectively.
The 105-kWh model is rated 402 hp and 413 pound-feet of torque; the 135-kWh version should give 754 hp, plus 826 pound-feet of torque; while the 180-kWh R1T will be rated 700 horsepower and 826 pound-feet of torque.
Post-purchase, online upgrades will allow buyers to “unlock” more power, somewhat along the lines of Tesla’s “Ludicrous Mode” upgrades via software.
The RT1 boasts a payload capacity of 800 kg and a towing capacity of 5,000 kg, in addition to a plethora of other features.
Let’s get some of them straight from the horse’s mouth.
“The R1T’s lockable Gear Tunnel aft of the cab, which extends from one side of the vehicle to the other, provides more than 350 liters of space for hauling gear of any size, whether it be snowboards, golf bags or strollers.
“The gear tunnel doors also act as steps for loading items into the bed or on the roof, as well as seats perfect for lacing up hiking boots.
“The R1T has a watertight, integrated tonneau cover for the bed and in the rear beneath the bed floor is a 200-liter sealed bin that can also be used to store a full-size spare tire.
“The bed features three 110-volt outlets with more 400 watts available at each.”
Rivian also says that the R1T will be equipped with an extensive array of sensors for autonomous highway driving, including “camera, lidar, radar, ultrasonic and a high precision GPS coupled with high definition maps.”
“This hardware enables “Level 3” (hands-off wheel and eyes off road) autonomy for highway operation. Beyond the highway Level 3, the vehicle will have a range of self-driving features focused on enabling active lifestyles,” says Rivian.
According to Rivian, the R1T is expected to hit the roads sometime in the last quarter of 2020.
Rivian is doing a Tesla again here by releasing the higher versions first, as the Palo Alto company did with the Model 3.
This means, we can expect to see the 400+ and 300+ miles range versions at launch, while the 230+ miles base version will release “within 12 months of the start of production.”
The R1T will sell at a starting price of $69,000, which is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but does offer fantastic value for all those dollars – at least on paper, for now.
All of that said, producing the vehicle in high volumes is going to be an altogether different challenge, Tesla’s production woes with the Model 3 being the ideal case in point.
“It’s the biggest challenge we have,” acknowledges the company’s executive director of engineering Mark Vinnels, but is confident that the Rivian team will come out on top.
In fact, the company has already started making the right moves, buying off a shuttered Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, as recently as last year.
It is investing millions in the plant to bring it up mass-production capability as it looks to roll out hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles from the facility in the not-too-distant future.
Rivian is also in talks with various companies for sourcing the trucks various components.
To sum up the R1T in a few words, the specs are top of the line EV stuff and it’s easy on the eyes too, but then design is always a subjective matter.