After nine years of design and development, automotive startup Rivian unveiled not one but two new electric vehicles (each with Level 3 autonomy) at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show on Tuesday. The R1T is a pickup built specifically for off-road adventuring while the swanky R1S looks to compete with Range Rover’s line of upscale SUVs in both looks and amenities.
Both vehicles are built upon Rivian’s “skateboard” frame construction, wherein the entirety of the drivetrain and power storage sit even with or slightly below the frame of the vehicle the same way a skateboard’s trucks, spacers, wheels, and bearings all sit underneath the deck. This, along with the fact that there is no engine or driveshaft (since the motors in each wheel make it AWD) frees up a huge amount of space for designers to work with. The R1T’s hood lifts up to reveal 330 liters of cargo space — in what the company is the vehicle’s “front trunk” or “frunk” — the rear cargo bed offers nearly 2 square meters of flat space in which to pack, and a clever cubby hole (dubbed the “gear tunnel”) hidden under the rear passenger seats that run the width of the vehicle offers another 350 liters of space for long objects like golf clubs, hunting gear or ski sets.
Unlike other luxury SUVs, whether they’re gas-powered or electric, the 5-passenger R1t and 7-passenger R1S are both built to live in the wilds. The Rivians offer a trio of battery packages ranging from a 105 kWh pack with a 220-mile range to a massive 180 kWh pack that pushes the range to well over 400 miles. For comparison, the Tesla Model X manages — at most — 335 miles with its 100 kWh energy storage system. They’re quick too. With the largest battery pack, these vehicles can launch from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds. That’s a tenth of a second slower than the Lamborghini Aventador and less than a half-second slower than the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport’s 2.4-second mark. And you’re doing it in a pickup truck.
What’s more, the Rivian’s are smart enough to drive themselves. Well, to a degree. Both models will offer Level 3 autonomy (you can take your hands and eyes off the road for short periods while on the freeway) when the R1T and R1S launch in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Even better, they don’t even really need roads to drive themselves — they can navigate everything from dirt roads to deer trails without needing the driver to guide them.
The rest of their specs are nothing to sneeze at either, what with the R1’s 5000 kg towing capacity, ability to scale 45 degree inclines and, since these vehicles don’t need to breathe as internal combustion engines do, they can drive through up to a meter of water without issue.
The interior, despite being well appointed with dual touchscreen monitors acting as both the instrument cluster and infotainment system, the Rivian vehicles are built to spill… or rather built for spills, as the seats, carpeting and floorboards are designed for easy cleaning. I especially dug the built-in air compressor on the R1T. Using air from the suspension, drivers will be able to top off the pressure on their 4×4’s mountain bikes, and inner tubes without having to drag along a separate compressor and current inverter.
The R1T and R1S are both slated to retail for between $50,000 and $70,000, depending on options and battery sizes, when they go on sale at the start of the next decade. They’ll be produced here in the US — specifically at an old 2.6 million square foot Mitsubishi plant that the company acquired and converted for its use.
Granted, 2020 still feels a lifetime away and there’s still a good chance that Rivian could flame out like Faraday Future did before any of its vehicles actually hit the road. But if these folks are successful, have no doubt that they’ll revolutionize the electric vehicle market in ways that Tesla has only dreamed.