After spending the better part of the last decade operating completely out of the spotlight, US-based automotive startup Rivian has finally debuted its first electric vehicle: a five-passenger pickup truck called the R1T. Announced Monday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the R1T is positioned as a dream truck for outdoorsy types, combining the utility of a Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma with bleeding edge technology — all while putting out zero emissions, meaning owners can help reduce the harm being done to the natural world the company’s vehicles are meant to explore.
A big part of Rivian’s long, meticulous road to this debut has been all about making sure the R1T (and a sibling SUV scheduled to be revealed on Tuesday) offer top of the line specs when it comes to performance and range. The result is a quad-motor electric pickup truck capable of up to over 400 miles of range and able to reach 60 miles per hour in three seconds, putting Rivian’s first offering in rare air typically reserved for Teslas and supercars.
In accordance with all that, the R1T will be outfitted with a dream car price tag when it goes on sale in 2020. The base model starts at $69,000, with different battery configurations running the truck’s price ceiling to around $100,000. Preorders start this week, and require a (refundable) $1,000 deposit.
The R1T will be available in three different battery pack variants, though all will feature an electric motor on each wheel, offering precise all-wheel drive performance no matter how much power is available. The biggest version of the truck will have a 180kWh battery that will allow more than 400 miles of range, according to Rivian. (That’s 80 kWh more than the highest-capacity car Tesla currently sells.) A 135kWh version of the R1T will eclipse 300 miles. The smallest — equipped with a 105kWh pack that will give the truck about 230 miles of range — will be available “within six months” following the launch of the others.
All three versions of the truck have a top speed of 125 miles per hour. The mid-range battery pack version is the quickest, according to Rivian, hitting 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds flat thanks to a total power output of 562kW (about 750 horsepower). The 400-mile battery version of the truck sends 522kW (about 700 horsepower) to the gearbox and will hit the 60 mph mark in 3.2 seconds. The cheaper short-range version will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with 300kW of power (about 400 horsepower) on offer.
Dimension-wise, the R1T is most directly comparable to the new Ford Ranger or the newest Toyota Tacoma, though there are differences. Rivian’s electric pickup has a slightly longer wheelbase (135.8 inches) than the Ranger (127 inches) or the Tacoma (127.4 inches). At 226 inches overall, it is longer than the Ranger (210.8 inches) and the Tacoma (212.3 inches). Rivian’s truck is a smidge taller than both, too, measuring 71.5 inches to the Ranger’s 70.7 inch height, or the Tacoma’s 70.6-inch stance.
The R1T is not quite as wide as the Ranger, with Rivian’s truck measuring 79.3 inches compared to the Ranger’s width of 85.8 inches. (The base model of the Tacoma measures 74.4 inches wide). The R1T has a payload of about 1,760 pounds, which is shy of the Ranger’s 2,080 pound capacity, but far exceeds the Tacoma’s 1,175 pound limit.
The Ford Ranger and the Toyota Tacoma start at around $25,000, so they easily beat the R1T on price. But Rivian promises the R1T will deliver more than what you’d find in a conventional pickup truck of this size.
For one thing, the R1T has a towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, which is more comparable to the capability of a higher-end F-150. There’s also a bounty of storage space in the R1T thanks to the fact that the battery and electric drivetrain are all located on the floor of the vehicle.
The front trunk offers 11.7 cubic feet (330 liters) of storage space, and there’s a 12.4 cubic foot (350-liter) “gear tunnel” that sits between the cab and the bed and runs the entire width of the vehicle, which Rivian says is ideal for things like skis, or golf bags, or fishing rods, or even lumber. And there’s a storage compartment in the floor of the bed that’s big enough for a spare tire.
Rivian has packed its first vehicle with loads of technology, too. A 15.6-inch touchscreen display dominates the middle of the dashboard, echoing the screen-first approach of Tesla’s Model 3. Another 12.3-inch screen takes the place of what are, historically, physical dials in the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. A third 6.8-inch touchscreen is found at the back of the center console, providing infotainment and climate control access to rear passengers. Some of the only buttons to be found are the thumb dials on the steering wheel, another echo of the Model 3.
Meanwhile, three 110-volt power outlets can be found in the pickup’s bed, allowing owners to use the truck’s big battery to charge devices or power tools on the go. There’s a built-in compressed air source for filling bike tires. And Rivian has built in some clever security measures, too. Cables in the bed, which help strap down gear, are linked into the truck’s digital architecture in such a way that will alert the owner if they’re tampered with. Cameras watching the bed can also alert an owner to potential thefts.
Being an electric vehicle made in the late 2010s, the truck is unsurprisingly equipped with hardware that Rivian says will allow it to one day drive itself. That includes those cameras, as well as lidar, radar, ultrasonic, and “high-precision” GPS technologies, according to Rivian. This tech will allow for “eyes off, hands off” driving on the highway, the company says, and one day will make it possible for the truck to do more impressive things in the future, like meet a driver at the end of a hiking trail or river run.
Rivian is explicitly targeting adventurers with its first truck, an approach that will extend to the SUV that is also being announced this week, as well as future products.
“They may have different form factors, they may be different sizes, but every single one of [our products] has to have this Patagonia-like feel of enabling adventure,” Rivian CEO and founder RJ Scaringe tells The Verge. “We want to keep that very sharp. We want to focus only on the adventure space, so customers understand what we stand for.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to regularly kayak white-water rapids to enjoy the R1T, Scaringe says. Instead, he’s trying to imbue the brand with an aspirational quality from the get go. That materializes in the storage and other utility features, but also in the truck’s design.
“From a design point of view it’s really important for us that the vehicle feels comfortable getting dirty and looks robust and rugged, but at the same time is sophisticated and intelligent,” Scaringe says. “[We’re] combining an aesthetic that communicates a level of technology, a level of refinement, a level of sophistication, while still being something that still looks natural going through the woods, going on the beach, going over some pretty gnarly trails.”
A number of EV startups have spent the last decade trying to follow in Tesla’s wake, but almost none of them have succeeded in putting a car on the road. Faraday Future garnered a ton of attention and soaked up a lot of talent and funding, only to find itself on the brink of bankruptcy for the second year in a row. Fisker, LeEco, and others have faced similar struggles. Lucid Motors was nearly out of money before recently securing enough funding from Saudi Arabia to launch its first electric luxury sedan in 2020. One of the only high-profile startups to put a car on the road is China’s NIO.
That’s a pretty bad track record considering many of these high-profile startups haven’t made it to the hardest part: production. Rivian will have to face that same challenge soon enough. But the company’s slow, steady, and quiet approach means the attention (and the pressure to produce) is arriving well after the foundation is in place. Rivian has a manufacturing facility secured and ready to go in Illinois. It has 600 employees working across two locations in California, one in Michigan, and one in the UK. It also has come out laser-focused on a niche — though Tesla is planning an electric pickup, which Elon Musk says he’s “personally most excited about” compared to the company’s other planned offerings.
“We were quiet in stealth mode to avoid getting caught in this sort of hype cycle, and we said let’s make sure we have all the pieces lined up — the vehicle, the technology, the team, the supply chain, the manufacturing plant — before we actually talk about it,” Scaringe says. “Because of that, some people have been questioning [us]. People need to see that this is very, very real.”
On a more personal level, Scaringe says he’s relieved to finally shed some light on all the things that Rivian’s been up to. “Basically the majority of my adult life has been focused on this, and we finally get to show it,” he says. “I’m excited.”