Rivian’s Cool Electric Pickup

Launching a new car company is no easy thing. Doing so while focusing on the fiercely-competitive truck and SUV segment of the industry against entrenched legacy automakers seems nuts and fraught with peril. But upstart Rivian knows what it’s doing.

Start-up electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian is on a roll. The company plans to offer the five-passenger R1T electric pickup in late 2020, built on its innovative electric ‘skateboard’ platform. Now it has 500,000 more reasons supporting its success with a half-billion-dollar investment from Ford. This strategic investment buys Ford the ability to build its own electric models – presumably pickups and SUVs – on the Rivian ‘skateboard’ platform. Rivian received an earlier $700 investment from Amazon and others.

Rivian’s skateboard architecture locates the battery pack in the floor in the middle of the vehicle. The R1T has four motors, two per axle, with each motor individually controlling a wheel to provide precise control. These are not hub motors since each motor is mounted in the body. The skateboard chassis also includes braking, suspension, and cooling systems.

The R1T will be offered with three different battery packs and electric motor configurations.  A 180-kWh battery pack version energizing motors with a total of 700 horsepower and 823 lb-ft torque is expected to deliver a range of over 400 miles. Another powertrain option is a 135-kWh pack model with 754 horsepower and 823 lb-ft torque provided by four motors, featuring a range of about 300 miles.  The base R1T will come with a 105-kWh battery and motors delivering 403 horsepower and 413 lb-ft torque, with a range of more than 250 miles.

A substantial 14 inches of ground clearance plus the ability to wade through three feet of water and climb a 45-percent incline makes for some serious off-roading capability. In addition, the R1T has a payload capacity of 17,600 pounds and can tow 11,000 pounds. It’s smart, too, offering Level 3 autonomous driving capability, a suite of active-safety features, an adjustable air suspension, and automated trailer backup.

The cost of entry for Rivian’s R1T pickup is an expected base price of $69,000 before a federal tax credit and possible state incentives. It will be produced at Rivian’s manufacturing facility at a former 2.6 million square-foot Mitsubishi facility in Normal, Illinois. The company employs more than 1,000 people at development centers in Irvine and San Jose, California, and in Surrey, England. Along with the R1T pickup, Rivian is also developing its R1S SUV based on its skateboard chassis.