Both vehicles are built upon Rivian's "skateboard" frame construction, wherein the entirety of the drivetrain and power storage site even with or slightly below the frame of the vehicle the same way skateboard's trucks, spacers, wheels and bearings all sit underneath the deck. This, along with the fact that there is no engine or drive (since the engines 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 almost 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 runs the width of the vehicle offers another 350 liters of space for long objects like golf clubs, hunting gear or ski sets.
"So when you start with a clean sheet, you start to look at where you put different things, and how you package the vehicle," Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe told Engadget. "We developed [the skateboard frame] to give us a really low center of gravity, and really a high level of performance. So lots of suspension adjustment, a lot of torque, a lot of power. "
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 packs ranging from a 105 kWh pack with 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 second half slower than the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport's 2.4 second mark. And you're doing it in a flippin '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 (when 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 do not even really need roads to drive themselves – they can navigate everything from dirt roads to deer trails without needing the driver to guide them.
"It is actually easier," Scaringe explained. "Because your speed is relatively low … so your reaction time, your response time is longer, and the level of complexity is much lower."
The rest of their specs are nothing to sneeze at either, what with the R1's 5000 kg towing capacity, ability to scale 45 degrees inclines and, since these vehicles do not need to breathe like internal combustion engines do, they can drive through up to meter of water without issue. Disclaimer: Do not be stupid and think that this gives you a pass to ford across flooded roads. Do not drown, turn around.
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 to 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 beginning of the next decade. They will be produced here in the US – specifically at an old 2.6 million square foot Mitsubishi plant that the company has acquired and converted for its use.
"We'll start in the thousands of units, and we'll ramp." Scaringe said. "And then we have four other products on the skateboard, which we have not yet shown, all of which speak to this idea of adventure and exploring, have a lot of functionality, a lot of performance, a lot of efficiency, of course , being electric architecture, that we'll be showing over the coming years. "
Granted, 2020 still feels life away and there's still a good chance that Rivian could flame out like Faraday Future did before any of their vehicles actually hit the road. But if these folks are successful, I have no doubt that they will revolutionize the electric vehicle market in ways that Tesla has just dreamed.