Rivian R1S SUV

The auto-show circuit in recent years has been a hotbed of tech startups trying to replicate Tesla’s success in shaking up the auto industry. Now comes Rivian, a maker of all-electric trucks that is partially financed by a Saudi company called ALJ.

Rivian unveiled two vehicles meant to open up a new market for upscale, completely electric vehicles at the LA Auto Show: a first-of-its-kind all-electric pickup, the R1T, and a companion SUV, the R1S.

Starting at $69,000 (or $61,500 after the federal tax credit), the R1T won’t be for everyone. And to get the advertised 400-mile range, you’ll have to pay thousands more for the higher-kilowatt battery pack. But the base model, with a 300-mile range, is in the price range of a top-of-the-line Ford F-150 or a GMC Sierra. But unlike those models, the R1T won’t consume any gas.  

Rivian is promising to deliver its vehicles to customers in the second half of 2020. Consumers can put down a refundable $1,000 deposit now. It’s converting an old Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Ill., for production.  

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For consumers, the question will be whether Rivian starts to sell vehicles in volume, like Tesla, or flames out like the original Fisker or the more recently spiraling Faraday Future.

There’s no electric pickup on the market now, but by the time Rivian’s is available, it may have competition. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that a pickup is a priority for the coming years, along with the Model Y, a Semi, and a second-generation Roadster.

“I started Rivian to deliver products that the world didn’t already have, to redefine expectations through the application of technology and innovation,” says Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. “Starting with a clean sheet, we have spent years developing the technology to deliver the ideal vehicle.”  

Rivian R1T front

Rivian’s vehicles have a sleek, high-tech look on the outside. They have clean lines and unique lighting—two vertical headlights embedded in a long, horizontal white light bar where the grille would be. The trucks sit high off the ground, and with sealed battery compartments, they’re capable of driving through 3 feet of water.

The R1T incorporates other electric-motor advantages, like accelerating 0-60 mph in a claimed sports-car-like 3 seconds. An electric motor on each wheel delivers power and traction that adjusts to the road conditions, useful for snow or off-road excursions. Multiple drive shafts, multilink rear suspension, and height-adjustable air springs add to off-road capabilities. The vehicle can lower itself for better aerodynamics and easier passenger access.

In another twist over the conventional pickup, Rivian has used its “skateboard” architecture (the batteries lay flat along the floor) to open up storage areas. The R1T’s storage bed is shorter than that of some midsized pickups, but there are two unique added compartments—a front trunk under the hood and a long “cargo tunnel” behind the rear seats, accessed from outside the vehicle, that’s big enough to accommodate skis or a surfboard.  

Rivian R1T interior

The R1S is a seven passenger, three-row SUV with an upright stance that resembles the Ford Flex or an old Jeep Wagoneer. Like in the R1T, Rivian promises a cabin full of space and premium materials, such as polished wood and leather. As with Tesla models, it has streamlined most controls into a large touch screen—which our testing shows can have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

The R1S starts at $65,000 after tax credits, and Rivian says it will have a range of 260 to 440 miles on a full charge.  

Since the unveiling, Rivian has announced a $700 million investment round led by Amazon.

Rivian R1T cargo

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