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THE START-UP COMPANY Rivian intends to beat Detroit at its own money-making game by being the first to build a battery-electric pickup truck. Thus far, pickups have been conventionally internal-combustion-powered, but despite (or maybe because of) their fossil-fueled heritage, these vehicle continue to be the most popular in the U.S.

According to Automotive News, December 10, 2018, full-size pickup trucks are the top three selling vehicles in the U.S. The Ford F-Series continues its long-standing winning ways over other pickups, SUVs, crossovers, and cars of any sort. The Ram pickup displaces the Chevrolet Silverado in its traditional second place. Way down in eighth through tenth places are the top-selling sedans, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic, respectively.

Data from Automotive News, December 10, 2018.

This is good news for automakers because sedans are the least profitable of their products—except, perhaps, the low-volume hybrids, plug-in hybrids, BEVs, and other clean-air varieties.

On the other hand, everyone and their brother are predicting an upsurge in electric vehicle sales within the next decade. T. Rowe Price, for example, says, “An aggregation of third-party forecasts point to EVs accounting for approximately 10-15 percent of sales in 2025,” with one of its specialists thinking “the reality will be the other way around—only 10-15 percent of consumers will want to buy a combustion engine car at that time.”

EVs at 85 to 90 percent within six years?? According to, “US Electric Vehicle Sales Increased by 81 Percent in 2018.” However, the 361,307 EVs in 2018’s total sales of 17,274,250 vehicles works out to 2 percent—a long way from even the forecasts of 10-15-percent.

Rivian R1T, a BEV pickup scheduled for 2020 production. Image from

So why a BEV pickup? In SAE Automotive Engineering, January 2019, editor-in-chief Lindsay Brooks asks, “Why haven’t the Detroit 3 bothered to show an e-pickup—at least to inform the public that they’re on the case?” In the same SAE Automotive Engineering issue, Bill Visnic provides his technical summary of the Rivian R1T in “Pickup Shocker.”

Here are tidbits gleaned from SAE Automotive Engineering.

Rivian’s capitalization is said to be comfortable, if not lavish, led by Saudi Arabian automotive distributor Abdul Latif Jameel, with close ties to MIT where company founder R.J. Scaringe earned his Master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Rivian, headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, now has around 560 employees in its three U.S. facilities and an office in the United Kingdom.

Rivian’s manufacturing facility is the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, which it’s said to have acquired for a bargain $16 million. First production Rivian R1Ts are expected during 2020.

Rivian’s battery/chassis structure is a skateboard configuration, atop which different body styles reside. A Rivian R1S SUV is also in the works. This and the following image from SAE Automotive Engineering, January 2019.

A tidy-size skateboard describes the R1T’s BEV architecture. It’s a modular layout, with battery options (and concomitant range) of an entry-level 105 kW-h (230-mile range), 135 kW-h (300 miles), or 180 kW-h (400 miles).

R1T prices are expected to be from $69,000 to $90,000 and beyond, depending upon battery choice and other options. Hardly chump change, but not outlandish among top-line full-size pickups these days.

Rivian is aiming for a sweet spot midway between conventional full-size pickups and those of mid-size. The R1T’s overall length of around 216 in. brackets between the 2019 Ford Ranger’s 210.8 in. and its full-size F-Series’ choices of 209.3 in. (Regular cab, 6.5-ft. box), 227.9-in. (Regular cab, 8.0-ft. box), stretching all the way to 250.5 in. (SuperCab, 8.0-ft. box).

The Rivian’s 155-in. (4.6-ft.) bed length goes against the norm, but, as Visnic notes, “it’s a long-standing industry axiom that few who own pickups put much of anything in the bed.”

Evidently, pickup owners rarely carry 4×8 plywood sheets any more. And, as a Rivian design plus, a built-in rigid tonneau cover for the cargo area opens and closes with the touch of a button.

The R1T’s towing capacity is rated at 5000 kg. (11,023 lb.); its payload, at 800 kg. (1764 lb.) Again, these specifications bracket between those of conventional mid-size and full-size pickups.

Twin electric motors reside front and rear for the R1T’s all-wheel drive.

BEV power galore is delivered to each of the R1T’s four wheels through individual motors, each producing 137 kW (186 hp). This works out to a total 743 hp, wheel-spinning torque of 811 lb-ft, and a claimed 0-60-mph dash in 3 seconds.

Missing, you’ll note, is an opportunity to opt for a diesel’s “rolling coal.” Otherwise, however, T. Rowe Price may know something I don’t. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. jlalbrecht64
    January 14, 2019

    As a BEV fan, I’m interested in how this will go. I have never understood the US fascination with pick-up trucks. I hated them during the twelve years I lived in Texas. You can’t see over or through them on the freeway. They are inefficient in multiple ways. Clearly, I don’t get it.

    I read about Rivian a couple months ago. This seems like a smart move. Biggest market (US pick-ups); no competition (BEV). AWD and a tonneau cover eliminate two of a standard pick-ups deficiencies.

    I also don’t think that BEVs will be 80-85% of the market in 10 years. Price, infrastructure, and tradition add another 10 years on to that estimate, IMO. That may be my inner fear/hopes speaking though, as I work partly in the fossil fuel industry.

  2. Gordon Craig
    January 14, 2019

    Watch out, Tesla may come up with a “Ute”!—very common in OZ and long ago the El Camino and Ranchero, now fetching big prices on the auction block. bw, gordon

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