The Rivian R1T Suddenly and Impressively Becomes the World’s First All-Electric Pickup Truck. Not Ford. Not Tesla.
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The high stakes in the coveted North American truck market radically and suddenly changed this week when electric and autonomy startup Rivian Automotive, the once Florida, now Michigan startup unveiled for the first time at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles the world’s first all electric pickup truck, something makes like Ford and Chrysler avowed never to start producing or do so with just making hybrids, all to failure. While Tesla’s vision of all electric light duty trucking is still in the design studio, and Ford has to go to VW to launch their electric program because they ran out of money, Rivian beat everyone to it in the American truck arms race. And because of this, this is a game charger as to how market demand and consumer preferences will go, now that there is a full electric truck in production that shows the world what BEV trucking is truly like. And the R1T has impressive stats to pull her weight, even with a tow rating and a looong battery range, something some European all-electric utility vehicles in current production with outrageous torque can’t do:
Rivian introduces the R1T Pickup Truck:
- Starting MSRP $69,000 then up. More expensive models first to make money.
- $1,000 refundable deposit.
- Production starts very soon, “deliveries by late 2020.”
- Cheaper variants a year after that.
- 5 Passenger four door cab.
- 3 battery pack choices: 105 kW, 135 kW, 180 kW.
- Unprecedented 4 motor electric AWD.
- Top speed: 125 mph.
- 0-60 4.9, 3.0, 3.2 secs.
- Range: 230+, 300+, 400+ miles.
- Vehicle curb: 2,670 kg.
- Payload: 800kg.
- Tow Cap: 5,000 kg.
- A Frunk! With 4 motors! Are you watching Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes?
- Look at that, a gear tunnel! You watching Ford?
Details on a Rivian supplied spec sheet are illustrated separately.
With a bit of splash at its launch, Rivian Automotive turned a page and began in new chapter in the world’s industrial history by becoming the first automobile maker in the world to produce an all electric pickup truck, something not foreseen happening until perhaps the next decade, the earliest, by late 2020 by any other auto maker.
Why and How This is a Game Changer
The irony is that while the legacy makers all at one point had plenty of money, and at all points had plenty of time to develop an all electric pickup, Rivian took 10 painstaking, careful, and secretly orchestrated years of research, and development to get to this day. Well, the day of reckoning has come, and to the victor will belong the spoils, as Ford just had to sign a deal with the devil arrangement to essentially merge their commercial truck operations with VW to acquire VW’s MEB electric platform, since Ford really doesn’t have an all electric vehicle program.
This puts their number one selling Ford F-150 pickup truck, their biggest money maker, compromised with a new open segment and no competing model coming for perhaps years. This also puts a kink in Tesla’s plans, as they intend to put a pickup truck in their vehicle portfolio to corner most of the BEV market with an almost complete model range of BEV vehicles.
Rivian seems to borrow a bit from playbooks across the industry spectrum, from VW to Tesla, and seems to have perfected them to the next level: battery tray platform, over the air software and updates, a frunk and gear tunnel (though sideways not vertical like Bollinger’s), range over at least 230 miles like a gas tank, an unprecedented four electric motors as opposed to the so-far industry standard of one for base, two for heavy duty or performance, bold exterior, quality interior, sell the best stuff first with the most options then work your way down market to please everyone else.
No one can accuse Rivian however, of being copycat, especially when it comes to their interiors. In what some might say is a stinging rebuke to Tesla simplicity, Rivian goes its own way by designing an interior dash that is so not about just one screen, but presents well thought-out functionality, luxury, and even elegance.
This is the kind of high quality looking dash you can easily see being in a luxury or bespoke car. In fact I look at this dashboard and it reminds me if Elwood Engel were still alive and at Chrysler today, this is what a 1967 Imperial Crown dash would look like on a 2018 Imperial model had it existed, center stack included of course. Even the pedals with metal accents you just don’t see in some luxury cars anymore, these remind me of Imperial. These are now in a Rivian. Imperial lives on as a pickup. We are blessed.
And it sends a message to the industry that what Tesla is doing is fine for them, but Rivian feels it’s okay to have an electric vehicle that has a dash that reminds one of a gasoline car, even as Rivian goes full boat on autonomy. Rivian takes two screens and strategically integrates them into the dash, one for the driver over steering, the other larger center stack. And here’s the thing and I hope it’s real: it appears there’s even veneer around the instrumentation and vents. Cadillac are you watching, GM over their shoulders too, and Rivian if its fake, nice touch if it’s real: fake wood belongs to the 70’s, lets all keep it real.
Autonomy: Robot Rivian
And that interior works as a driver’s car as well as it does robot too. Rivian is set for level three to take on Tesla AutoPilot. From Rivian:
“The R1T will launch with a robust 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.”
Say goodbye to traditional headlights as Rivian has front lighting you’d swear was only for prototypes that the production car may actually still look like a prototype and that’s cool. Cadillac went retro this and last decade with an “art and science” design with vertical stacked headlights not seen since the 1965-68 Sixty and Seventy Series sedans, here Rivian does this with a skinny ovular vertical stack not quite seen done this way before. Not all front vehicle lighting has to be round or horizontal and Rivian’s styling is hopefully going to be a design cue that’ll stay for a while to make it their trademark. That the teaser reveal shows their headlights as the light passes over the truck should be a hint that that’s a Rivian coming up ahead. Nice touch.
The front and rear lighting strips appear similar to become a Rivian trademark of approaching/passing vehicle, the rear strip reminds me of what Lincoln has been doing to their rear ends as they try to spruce up their range to improve sales. In this case identical front and rear treat,ent is tastefully done. The cab doors remind me of Honda Ridgeline without the ugly triangle that braced the cab with the bed Honda recently got rid of. I like how the cab is sleek and swept in so that the rear wheels struck out to give the rear end a wide ass, Camaro style, sure footing for a high torque drag, more useful for hauling a heavy camper without the need to go tandem, another nice touch. My favorite styling cue? The rear roof line, ironically reminiscent of the 1970’s to 80’s opera window days of the square backs, started by the Continentals of the mid 1970’s, GM perfected it with the Nova Seville in 1975, to infect Oldsmobile and Buick through the 80’s. Chevy got it lightly. It’s nice to see it comeback in a truck tastefully.
Overall favorite is the dashboard. I can sit behind that steering wheel for hours and pretend it’s all about Imperial . . .
The Skateboard Battery Tray: the 21st Century’s Ladder Frame Chassis
The skateboard battery tray seems to be the de rigueur of BEV engineering of late, and seems to be the 21st century’s ladder chassis frame that fits easily into a unibody modular platform shell. Perfect for a cross section of vehicles like VW and GM is planning, and perfect for smaller companies like Rivian and Bollinger who plan to use the same tray for a pickup and a utility vehicle.
Segment Opener for the Luxury Market
By introducing a new kind of vehicle into the market I’m amazed how some things automatically happen without either the auto maker intending, realizing, or if they do know, do so knowing as a consequence. Rivian for now created a whole new not seen before segment called “electric adventure vehicles,” but that probably will change to a luxury segment when Tesla or any other maker launches their own segment competition against them.
The starting price of the R1T starts at $69,000 USD. Regardless of what you may call it, with this vehicle, Rivian opens an all electric pickup truck segment in the luxury end of the strata, that will immediately compete with the top of the line legacy vehicles when they too have battery trays, and sooner, with Tesla’s pickup truck when it launches. That starting price and features they offer immediately puts them into competition with Cadillac and Lincoln and the Europeans with the next coming SUV.
Carefully looking behind and sideways to learn from mistakes past and present, they are following the Model 3 market strategy by selling up first and then work their way down. So they intend to offer their top of the line and best stuff first which will reinforce their luxury position and send a message to consumers and competition that they immediately are a luxury brand, they ain’t no Chevrolet.
And Finally: Looking Forward at Possibilities
Okay, Rivian is finally here, where can they go with this?
If the Mercedes Benz S Class is overall the Queen of the Roads, and if Tesla S is the Electric Queen variant, and if Range Rover is the 4x4 Queen, we Americans need an electric response to Range Rover and I’m hoping Rivian is it.
It would be nice if Cadillac electrified Escalade, but like F-150 she’s a gas best seller, so that also ain’t happening for awhile (or maybe with all this sooner?). But this I know: if this works out, and we follow Tesla’s historic trajectory, Rivian if successful will have a choice to go either mass production with a cheaper model or variant of these two trucks, as Tesla did, or go upmarket with what they already have, as Range Rover did.
Rivian as a startup would be in a much better position now to even make more money on its present vehicles to go bespoke upmarket to compete against trucks like Range Rover Autobiography, the “Rolls Rover.” This would further enhance their brand.
For those who laugh at this prospect read your car history: Rolls Royce was once too a startup 120 years ago that went directly to the upper strata of automobiles with dozens of brands crowding the field, electrics too. They almost failed at several points. They’ve had help but they’ve succeeded not necessarily always as a business, but more so as a brand. So easily can Rivian too with what they have here and as a business. They have an advantage Rolls didn’t, a kind of vehicle nobody makes yet. If this is what they give us with their pickup, I’m sure their soon coming SUV will be the same. Impressive.
Suddenly, Ford’s position in the pickup truck market somehow seems to have gotten substantially smaller. They may still lead in gas sales, but that segment is now endangered, and for Ford, they are now waaay behind, and for them, time is running out. They’re the sales leader for now, watch how quickly they become the sales follower . . .
Let the electric pickup truck games begin!
Rivian images courtesy Rivian Media.
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