Electric vehicles and truck functionality have long been rather separate. And while there are quite a few electric SUVs out there, not many are prepared for off-road adventuring. Automotive startup Rivian is working to change that by making electric trucks and SUVs unlike anything else currently on the market.
As America’s interest in larger vehicles, especially in trucks and SUVs, is booming, and the demand for electric vehicles increasing as well, this startup seems to have hit a sweet spot.
And bigger companies have taken notice of the brand’s unique positioning. Amazon made a large investment, pouring $700 million into the company in February 2019. More recently, the new automaker got a boost from Ford, whose F-150 was the best-selling pickup truck – and best-selling vehicle overall – in the U.S. last year. With large corporations interested in this startup, it seems they’ve got potential in this market, even as a newcomer.
But who is this up-and-coming truck maker?
Well, to start, they’re surprisingly not all that new. By the time their first vehicle is sold, the company will be well over ten years old.
Rivian’s story began in a time when a lot of U.S. automakers were hitting turbulence and facing bailouts. Their founder, an MIT grad and now CEO, started the company in 2009 in Florida under the name Avera Motors. They changed their name in order to avoid a lawsuit with Hyundai, who claimed the brand name was too close to their Azera nameplate.
With one footprint in Livonia, Michigan and another in the tech-heavy San Francisco Bay area, Rivian seems to be torn between being an automaker and a tech company. While rival Tesla seems to lean more to the tech side, Rivian appears to be sticking to tradition by taking up residence in Michigan like automotive heavyweights Ford and General Motors.
In 2017, Rivian took over Mitsubishi’s former factory in Normal, IL after many years of research and development. Now, their R1T truck is approaching the deadline of the 2019 production start date, and the buzz is mounting around this revolutionary pickup truck and SUV.
So what’s the R1T anyways?
Branded as an electric adventure truck, Rivian’s R1T is different than any truck you’ve seen before. It seems to balance power and functionality in a way an EV has never done before. The company claims their R1T will be able to manage 0-60 mph in three seconds, will be capable of wading through water up to 3-feet deep, and will boast a range upwards of 400 miles. The combination of off-roading and towing capability puts this EV in a market all its own. And that’s not to mention that it’ll be in a league its own just by being a pickup truck.
From the photos available, it looks like the R1T will feature a crew cab and blend utilitarian style with luxury touches. Features like a horizontal pass-through storage compartment under the bed, an optional pull-out kitchen, and other options for avid campers incorporate thoughtful storage and put an emphasis on the outdoors lifestyle this truck will fit.
And there’s an SUV too?
Yes. Rivian is also in the midst of creating an SUV version alongside the truck, giving the brand another offering. The SUV model, called the R1S, seems like it will compete closely with Range Rover’s plug-in hybrid. It appears to have an emphasis on luxury, even more so than the truck, and will sell at a slightly higher starting price.
Tesla lovers will enjoy the front trunk, and will also find similar elements like the huge touch-screen inside. The SUV will offer a more capable alternative to rival Tesla’s Model X and others like the Jaguar I-Pace, as the R1S is far better equipped for off-roading situations and more. Most electric SUVs tend to keep low to the ground, but this one stands up higher, perfect for those who would rather own a Jeep or Range Rover than the low-crawling Model X.
What’s next for Rivian?
We have to wonder what’s to come for a company that’s already seen huge investments from titans like Ford and Amazon. With two vehicles now available for pre-order and many promises made, it’ll be interesting to see how this tech-influenced automaker will do over the next few years.
Rivian has plans to make up to six models in the next few years, and their next project is to capture rally fans with a crossover. However, it seems they have a few projects to finish before moving onto others.
As rival Tesla starts to promise an electric pickup, there’s certainly speculation on whether the truck crowd will embrace electrification. But as Ford announces its plans to offer an electric F-150, there might just be some interest brewing in having the functionality of a truck with the performance benefits of an electric drivetrain. It’s worth wondering if the blue oval’s investment in this startup will help make the electrified F-150 possible.
As of writing, Rivian’s new trucks and SUVs are available for pre-order and will start at $69,000. However, those who order their truck now will have a bit of a wait ahead of them – the CEO explained in an interview that the plan is to roll out 20,000 trucks and SUVs in 2021 and 40,000 in 2022. Pre-orders began in late 2018.
Whatever the future might hold for this brand, they seem to have the connections needed to make it work. The prospect of having an electric truck designed for adventure and performance is something unique to the market, and while they lead the pack in that aspect, that’s not to say that there won’t be some competition in the road ahead.