by Hannah Elliot | bloomberg
RJ Scaring believes that trucks can save the world.
That’s why the 38-year-old vegetarian spent years developing the R1T, the first production vehicle from the company he founded 12 years ago.
After several production delays—the coronavirus pandemic, semiconductor shortages, and the essential fact that Irvine-based Rivian had never built any production vehicles—I found myself driving a $73,000 R1T “launch edition” in the Rocky Mountains. After all, this is Scaringe’s message to the world: this is how we save the planet.
“For me, my central focus is climate and carbon,” Scaring told me over a metal bowl of vegetable curry on September 22 in Breckenridge, Colo. Rivian, which expects an $80 billion initial public offering for this fall, is on the hook to deliver 100,000 electric vans to Amazon.com by 2030, after it had just announced it would begin deliveries of the R1T.
But how is the truck?
From September 22, I spent three days living in the One Green R1T. I crossed the continental divide on paved switchbacks and unpaved shell-shingle peaks near a fairly troubled family of forgetful mountain goats. I ate all my food from a $5,000 two-burner camp kitchen that fits into a gear tunnel under the vehicle.
related: Will Irvine-based Rivian Be the ‘Tesla of Trucks’?
My first impression was that Scaring and his agile team tried to think through everything while building it. It felt like he had taken his notes on several back-country climbing and biking trips, then built a vehicle to suit his own Patagonia-loving lifestyle. (Yes, those vertical headlights shaped like big biscotti are different; don’t judge them until you see them in real life, because they actually look great.)
But the R1T’s truck bed keeps some important red flags waving above us as it cruises. The discerning consumer would do well to pause to consider them before they go blind—and I mean blind, as sales are currently limited to online-purchases. let’s discuss.
no work truck
Loaded with vegan leather seats and an all-glass panoramic roof, the R1T is no workhorse. There will be no snow on its front end; Its 16-inch center touchscreen shouldn’t get wet and won’t respond to finger input; And its rigid, non-adjustable seats lack the comfort of premium work rigs that double as offices and conference rooms for contractors.
After nine hours during my longest day of driving, my neck and shoulders felt like they were strapped into the back row coach position on a transatlantic flight.
The Scaringe wants you to believe this is a truck for campers and climbers, and the Rivian behaves well enough to surprise and delight the demanding outdoor enthusiast. At the start of my testing, I happily stuffed my carry-on, duffel bag, coat, and scarf into the lockable 11.6-cubic-foot Gear Tunnel, which runs the width of the truck.
It’s an elegant solution for secure storage without eating into rear-seat legroom, and its doors double as seats, too. A full-size storage space under the bed of the truck gives an additional 14.3 cubic feet for luggage and gear.
Elsewhere, the 11-cubic-foot frunk Rivian displays ingenuity: the large storage space can be locked using either a carabiner key fob, in-vehicle controls on the center display, an external button under the front lightbar, or the Rivian app. Is. A cargo net helps store loose items, and lights inside are automatically illuminated. A 12-volt outlet runs power through its deep groove.
It is the work of the people who live the life they are trying to sell you. I’m already predicting a Rivian x Patagonia Special Edition, like Ford did with Eddie Bauer back in the day. (Rose Marcario, former chief executive officer of Patagonia, is a member of the Rivian board.)
treats for every adventurer
Part of the R1T’s charm is its cleverness: The standard removable Bluetooth speaker stored in the center of the console doubled as a lantern as we ate tacos from the camp kitchen at night. Rolls-Royce was the first to have torches like umbrellas in its coaches.
The rear holds a standard air compressor that I used to refill my tires after crossing the cliffs near Dillon Lake and the old west town of Montezuma. (We did some wind earlier to help improve traction.)
Ground covered was not the most extreme for an electric vehicle or off-roader. Leave that gap for weeks spent in the dunes of Death Valley in Boulders and Rolls-Royce Cullinans in Moab mounted in electric and hybrid Jeep Wranglers. But the R1T proved to be quite capable in its Off-Road, All-Purpose, Sport and Conservation modes, which adjust power, braking, ride height, stiffness and handling to enhance the truck’s capability.
With about 15 inches of clearance, it allowed me to crawl through lanes and steep-sided slopes with little effort. I loved the shape and feel of the steering wheel and the craftsmanship of the natural-grain ash-wood trim along with the doors and dashboard. As I went into the woods, the cabin seal proved calm. The fit-and-finish elements and build quality of the Rivian are better than what Tesla has given us so far.
But being so seductive is expensive. The R1T’s $73,000 starting price didn’t include such other practical items as a three-person tent with cargo crossbar ($2,650), wall charger ($500) or camp kitchen ($5,000). The upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning, for comparison, starts at a far more affordable $39,974.
A less loaded R1T “Explore” version will be out in January 2022 if Rivian can produce it in time. That starts at $67,500.
on the trail
I drove the R1T 200 highway miles round trip between Breckenridge and Denver (switching driving duties with another journalist from time to time), so I can attest that the R1T is very fast. Its 800-plus horsepower and 900 pound-feet of torque from four electric motors easily pushed it to 100 mph as I drove past the RV down Loveland Pass. And that’s a lot of power to carry – more than the F150 and its peers. Rivian says it will hit 60 mph in 3 seconds; It certainly felt like that. Top speed will be electronically limited to 110 mph.
I didn’t experience any concerns regarding range, which Rivian says is 314 miles on a single charge of its largest battery option. I found this to be a believable guess; In fact, on parts of the off-road portion of my drive, the truck showed more charge on it than it did when I started, thanks to energy regeneration as I braked steep grades.
The battery goes from 215 miles to 89 miles on my longest day of nine hours of driving. Certainly, towing another vehicle would reduce the wheel size by far more (by 50%) than it should, which ranges from 20 to 22 inches and could eliminate the extra 15% limit. Using DC fast charging, you can add up to 140 miles of range in 20 minutes, Rivian says. It will take hours for full charge.
Unfortunately, the truck lacked the ability to monitor actual battery life usage in real time on my commute, along with many other absent applications, including basic and essential hill-descent control. “Not yet,” said the Rivian engineers when asked. Rivian offers neither Apple CarPlay nor Samsung connectivity.
Applications such as adaptive cruise control and highway assist require the car to be restarted before it can function properly. Highway Assist was so sensitive about navigating gentle corners and speeds that it only works when you’re driving in a straight line or under the speed limit.
Custom Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tires also did poorly. When a small, sharp rock punctured the pavement, I had a flat cruising 8 mph in an easy, straight grade. Using a spare tire ($600 to $800, depending on wheel size) hidden in the bed of the truck, and aided by two Rivian employees, the switch took all of 10 minutes, but I wish Rivian had kept up with its archaic, The flashy tires would have put as much thought into Jack because it had a modern camp kitchen. Constructed from thin metal and a plastic, Frisbee-type base, the instrument would have been familiar to my grandfather.
My windows started shaking right after the flat; The rubber lining inside was improperly bent and preventing them from rolling. I could eventually pick them up in fits and starts, but not before a layer of fine dust settled into the cabin. The windshield wipers in the Rivian truck ahead of me went on the fritz, accidentally jerking while team members tried to dislodge the Go-Pro before knocking it down.
“These are pre-production models,” Rivian employees assured me. The trucks that customers will get will not have any of these glitches, he promised. I look forward to hearing from those who paid the $1,000 deposit required to reserve one, neither viewed nor operated.
Rivian (like all electric vehicle companies) still lacks a convenient charging network. Relying on existing CCS fast-charging stations, it installed additional chargers to support my test route. (“The Rivian Adventure” charging network will come at some point in the future, Rivian says.)
Rivian offers four service centers throughout the United States—one near the LAX airport, one in south San Francisco, one in a Seattle suburb, and one in Brooklyn, NY. (Tesla has about 200.) Repairs on customer trucks eventually end. will be done through “Mobile” repairmen, a spokesperson told me, sounds more like waiting for a cable guy than quick and reliable service to me.
Rivian trucks since their inception have only been driven in tightly controlled scenarios; They still have a month left in real world driving by real world people. Meanwhile, dealership protection laws are preventing Rivian from conducting sales activities in several states.
Even if the R1T proves to be rugged and reliable, I’ve yet to see any evidence that the core of America’s truck-savvy customers will be taken away from its altruistic promise. If he’s to have a real chance at doing all that world-changing talk, Scaringe is going to need at least one of those good ol’ boys to get into his rig.
I’m not a complete freak. I hope Scaringe and his band of true believers succeed with their plans to heal the world. But until we see more, I’ll continue my climate-saving efforts to drive older, prebuilt cars and eat vegetable curry.