Though we’ve seen interesting battery-powered electric pickup designs from companies like Workhorse and Bollinger, not to mention the rumored mammoth model Tesla is working on, the most compelling model we’ve yet seen is from a company called Rivian.
Built atop a common “Skateboard” platform, Rivian has introduced its R1T pickup and R1S SUV as a reimagination of their respective segments, says company founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe.
“I started Rivian to deliver products that the world didn’t already have… Starting with a clean sheet, we have spent years developing the technology to deliver the ideal vehicle for active customers,” Scaringe says. “This means having great driving dynamics on any surface on- or off-road, providing cargo solutions to easily store any type of gear, whether it’s a surfboard or a fishing rod and, very importantly, being capable of driving long distances on a single charge,” he continued.
The R1T, which includes a version pushing 800 horsepower, features autonomous driving capabilities, a range of up to 400-plus miles, a wading depth of up to 1 meter (3.28 feet) and a quad-motor all-wheel-drive that is designed to deliver precise control on- and off-road.
The “Skateboard” platform
The foundation of the R1T and R1S is Rivian’s skateboard platform, which packages the battery pack, drive units, suspension, braking and thermal system all below the height of the wheels leaving the space above for occupants and their gear while providing a low center of gravity.
An unequal length double wishbone suspension in the front and a multi-link suspension in the rear are designed to deliver a smooth ride. Dynamic roll control and adaptive dampers along with ride-height adjustable air-suspension allow the suspension to be adjusted for highway comfort, on-road performance or off-road capability.
Rivian’s vehicles also feature a quad-motor system that produces 197 horsepower per wheel or 788 horses total with precise torque control to each wheel, enabling active torque vectoring designed to maximise performance from high-speed cornering to low-speed rock crawling. With 2,581 lb.-ft. of grounded torque per wheel (10,324 foot pounds for the entire truck), the R1T can reach 60 mph in 3 seconds and 100 mph in less than 7 seconds. The powertrain and chassis work together to enable the R1T’s tow rating of 11,000 pounds.
“The beauty and elegance of our quad-motor setup isn’t just about brute power; this architecture provides instantaneous torque with extremely precise control at each wheel, which is completely game-changing from a dynamics perspective, both on- and off-road,” said Rivian’s executive director of engineering and programs Mark Vinnels.
Here’s what that looks like in practice. On a beach no less.
— Rivian (@Rivian) November 24, 2018
Rivian says its energy-dense battery module and pack incorporate underbody protection and an advanced cooling system. Adaptive control algorithms learn driver behavior, optimizing user-specific battery management for maximizing battery life, reliability and second-life reusability. Three battery sizes are planned, with the 180 kWh and 135 kWh available at launch and a 105 kWh being made available within six months.
The battery is designed for fast charging with charging rates of up to 160kW. This enables approximately 200 miles of range to be added in 30 minutes of charging. In addition to DC fast-charging, an 11kW onboard charger facilitates rapid charging at a Level 2 charger.
The R1T will launch with a hardware suite with multiple modalities 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.
Rivian reports that its safety systems and body-structure design will deliver IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus and NHTSA 5-Star ratings. Safety features include 8 airbags for occupant protection and reinforcements of the skateboard platform to protect the battery. The R1T and R1S will also be offered with a full complement of active safety systems enabled by Rivian’s suite of self-driving sensors.
Pricing for the R1T starts at $61,500 after Federal Tax credit. Deliveries will begin in late 2020. Fully-equipped vehicles with the highest performance level and largest battery pack will enter production first. The 180 kWh pack (400+ miles range) and 135 kWh pack will be available at launch, with the base variant (250+ miles range) to follow within 12 months of the start of production.
Rivian, with a team of 600 employees, has development centers in Plymouth, Mich., San Jose, Calif., Irvine, Calif. and the United Kingdom. The company will produce vehicles at its 2.6 million square foot manufacturing plant in Normal, Ill.
Interior/exterior design and storage
The main bodyline of the R1T wraps up and around the cab and gives the vehicle a distinctive silhouette, while highlighting the Gear Tunnel cutline and accentuating the rear fender flares. The R1T features short overhangs, high ground clearance and aggressive approach and departure angles. Rivian “stadium” headlights and a daytime running light extends the entire width of the vehicle.
Rivian reports that the R1T’s vehicle architecture allows for more lockable storage than any other pickup in the world. The 330-liter front trunk is easily accessed for daily use with the hood fully powered for opening and closing.
The R1T’s lockable Gear Tunnel sits below the cab, and extends across the width of the vehicle, providing more than 350 liters of space for hauling oversized gear, such as snowboards, golf bags or strollers.
The Gear Tunnel doors also act as steps for loading items into the bed or onto the roof, as well as a seat and a convenience platform for such as lacing up hiking boots. The R1T has a watertight, integrated tonneau cover and 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 and integrated compressed air.
As part of a Gear Guard feature, the bed also has two integrated locking cables to secure bicycle frames and other gear to the bed. Any gear stored in the bed is monitored by a bed camera and the system alerts owners should the bed or contents be tampered with.
Rivian has developed a telescoping racking system with easy-to-use mounts that quickly attach to the roof as well as the bed rails and bed floor. The racks integrate with a range of accessories including tents, travel containers and bike/ski racks. When not in use, the racks can be easily stored in the front trunk.
Rivian’s interior features wood accents among high-tech displays, including a custom 15.6-inch center touch screen, 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 6.8-inch rear touch screen. Rivian developed maps, music, navigation and other adventure-focused features to complete the digital experience.
“Although the exterior of the vehicle is what first attracts you, the interior is where you spend the most of your time, so we really focused on creating a transformational space,” said Rivian’s vice-president of vehicle design Jeff Hammoud. “The biggest challenge was creating an interior design that delivered a premium experience, while still being comfortable as a space that is heavily used. To do this, we looked outside the automotive industry and took inspiration from contemporary furniture, as well as hiking and outdoor gear, to drive the design.”