Rivian amps up adventure with 400-mile all-electric pickup truck
American electric vehicle startup Rivian propelled itself into the world at the 2018 LA Auto Show. It isn't just parading any old electric pickup truck around the show, instead redefining expectations with an all-electric performance machine built from the ground up to accelerate like a sports car, haul gear like a mule, splash through mud and water, and rack up family vacation miles on the highway. It calls this 753-hp, four-motor monster the R1T adventure vehicle, and it's hard not to love it.
Rivian sidesteps the usual American pickup truck focus on such mundane things as payload and bed strength, referring to the 216-in (5,475-mm) R1T as an "Electric Adventure Vehicle." It even slides a trademark at the end of the term.
We guess when you're trying to sell a 750-hp truck with adaptive suspension and a 3-second 0-60 mph (96.5 km/h) sprint time, you're expecting adrenaline junkies, not project managers, to show up in numbers for test drives. But with several drive system options, a five-seat cab, and cargo storage from bumper to bumper, the R1T should prove popular with all types of truck buyers.
Before it builds that popularity, truck buyers are going to have to open their minds to the idea of an all-electric pickup. Rivian helps them along by concentrating some serious battery power within its truck. Whether you're adventuring out to a remote campsite or commuting from job site to job site, you don't want to have butterflies in your stomach worrying about getting stranded by a dead battery, and with 400+ miles (644+ km) of range, Rivian's top-tier 180-kWh battery pack releases those butterflies into the atmosphere. Fast-charging promises roughly 200 miles (322 km) of range for 30 minutes of plug-in time.
Rivian's battery, which will also come in 105-kW, 230-mile (370 km) and 135-kWh, 300-mile (483 km) flavors, is mounted at the center of a skateboard chassis, the lynchpin of the R1T design. In addition to the battery, the skateboard platform secures the four motors, suspension components, brakes and thermal management hardware below wheel height, dropping the center of gravity down low and opening up all the space above the wheels for passengers and cargo.
Each of the four motors sends up to 197 hp to its dedicated wheel, creating an AWD system with precise torque control. Huge amounts of immediate torque fire the R1T forward like a high-performance track car, running 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat before hitting 100 mph in less than 7 seconds. On the other end of the performance spectrum, the quad-motor torque distribution also helps in low-speed rock crawling and towing loads up to 11,000 lb (5,000 kg).
"Our quad-motor setup isn't just about brute power," explains Mark Vinnels, Rivian's executive director of engineering and programs. "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."
Speaking of off-road, the "adventure vehicle" tag isn't just marketing speak. The R1T is built for hard, all-out on/off-road fun, whether it's serving as the main vessel for that fun or just a shuttle to it. The truck can ford through waters up to 3.3 feet (1 m) deep and cushion rough terrain with a "go-anywhere" suspension system with unequal length double wishbones up front and a multi-link in back. The air suspension provides ride height control so you can rely on 14 in (360 mm) of ground clearance when off-roading, then optimize aerodynamics on the highway by dropping it down to 9.4 in (240 mm). Lower it to 8 in (200 mm) upon arrival to make it easier to jump out. The suspension system also includes adaptive damping and dynamic roll control.
Rivian declares the R1T the world's pickup leader in lockable storage space, and we can't say we've ever seen another truck with similar storage. With no engine rumbling below the hood, the R1T can swallow up to 330 liters of cargo in its frunk. The configuration of the skateboard platform below paves the way for a full-width pass-through storage tunnel just in front of the rear wheels, packing in another 350 liters of gear, including long items like skis, snowboards and golf bags. The drop-down door of the tunnel doubles as a seat and a roof-access step. There's even 95 liters of storage tucked below the rear seats.
Lest we forget, the R1T is a pickup truck, so there's more storage in the bed, which measures 4.5 feet (1.4 m) with the tailgate up, 6.8 feet (2.1 m) with it down. A 200-L underfloor compartment holds a spare tire or other cargo and a set of cable locks secures bikes and such to the bed. Owners can even leave valuables knowing that the watchful eye of the bed camera system will alert them should anyone tamper with the cargo.
The bed includes a waterproof tonneau cover, and Rivian has also developed a telescoping rack system that can secure to the roof, bed rails or bed floor, supporting things like bike racks, cargo boxes and roof-top tents before compacting down and storing away in the frunk. The truck's payload is 1,764 lb (800 kg).
Long story short, there's no need to leave home without every single piece of gear you need, and maybe a few you don't really need at all. Upon arrival, the R1T helps power and support gear and activities with three bed-integrated 110-V outlets and a compressed air hookup.
Outside, Rivian has done an admirable job creating a truck with classic brute strength and cutting edge EV styling. Nowhere is the combination more evident than at the front-end, where a strong, upright structure frames a unique full-width daytime running lamp bar intersected by "stadium headlights." Farther back, the R1T shows its strength with muscular haunches, fender flares and a sturdy character line that swoops up around the glasshouse. The rear lighting signature follows the front in stretching clean across the width of the vehicle.
The interior uses a mix of luxury touches and durable, outdoor-inspired materials to create a space that's inviting and comfortable but tough enough to put through the wringer. Sustainable wood brings character to the dashboard's face, framing out the 15.6-in central infotainment touchscreen and 12.3-in digital instrument panel. Meanwhile, easy-clean, sportswear-derived materials feature in high-wear areas. Rivian's connected car platform runs on the two front digital displays, as well as a 6.8-in rear touchscreen, offering adventure-focused mapping and other applications.
Rivian intends to launch the R1T with a Level 3-capable hardware suite of high-precision GPS, high-definition mapping, cameras, LiDAR, radar and ultrasonic sensors. The self-driving functionality will extend beyond the highway to "a range of self-driving features focused on enabling active lifestyles" - maybe some type of driver-assisted off-roading like they've been working on over at Land Rover and Mississippi State University.
The R1T weighs 7,650 lb (3,470 kg) and its bulk is distributed 52/48 percent front/rear. Other vitals include a 125-mph (201-km/h) top speed, 34/30/26 approach/departure/break-over angles in raised-height off-road mode, and climbing capability up to 45 degrees.
That all sounds pretty amazing ... perhaps too amazing. With a number of other EV startups on the clock for actually delivering a production vehicle that follows through on their wild claims, it's natural to be very skeptical about yet another, especially when it's an all-out super-pickup. But we sure hope the R1T survives the journey to reality.
Rivian's plans call for production to fire up in late 2020 at the 2.6 million square foot manufacturing facility it is preparing in Normal, Illinois. Prices will start at US$69,000, before the $7,500 US federal tax credit, but the first R1Ts to roll off lines will be fully equipped 185-kWh performance variants that will undoubtedly cost quite a bit more.
Check out the R1T in Rivian's promo video below, including some the offroad footage towards the end.