Behind the wheel and under the hood of the first production electric pickup Rivian R1T

The first to enter the market was an electric pickup not from Ford and General Motors. It was not even the late Tesla Cybertruck. The first was a Rivian R1T from a California startup. And he already did Robert Scaringe nicknamed RJ – a mechanical engineer with glasses, Ph.D. trained at MIT – billionaire at 38

R1T, whose capitalization is already approaching $ 100 billion, still has many miles and years to go to the title of “next Tesla” – an honorary title and at the same time a stone on the neck for many newcomers to the electric vehicle market. But judging purely by technical performance and engineering advances, the R1T pickup turned out to be a very successful touchstone. It is redefining the concept of pickup trucks in the same way the Tesla Model S redefined the concept of sedans. It starts at $ 68,575 when well-equipped, which is comparable to the stocked gasoline pickups in the light category, and the Rivian can be a good workhorse in terms of design, innovation and overall capabilities.

It all starts with four separate electric motors that I experienced while taxiing the R1T through the streets of New York and the surrounding area. This approach is pioneered in the manufacture of electric vehicles, and provides the magical ability to change the direction of application of torque – that is, to accelerate or decelerate individual wheels with computer precision, and to transfer torque almost instantaneously from front to back or from left to right. It’s also worth considering the smart suspension with hydraulically cross-linked dampers. [hydraulically cross-linked dampers], which is found only where as
more expensive supercars from McLaren.

The system eliminates the need for heavy mechanical anti-roll bars, which have to make compromises in driving efficiency, either on tarmac or off-road. Air springs and monotube shock absorbers External fluid reservoirs used in serious SUVs handle the tremendous amount of heat generated in the shock absorbers without “aerating” the fluid and losing damping control, and provide the longer shock travel needed for extreme wheel skew when overcoming obstacles.

These capabilities allow the Rivian’s 4WD pickup truck to climb into places where only the most equipped SUVs dare to venture – Hummer, Jeep or Rover Defender. It is worth paying attention to the clearance with a maximum height of 38 cm, adjustable by the driver – this is 10 cm more than that of the Wrangler Rubicon. I’m still looking forward to off-road driving with this pickup truck. However, the proof of the possibility is the fact that the R1T successfully passed TransAmerica Trail – 8000 km long track, passing through rough terrain from North Carolina to the Oregon coast.

Unlike 4WD fossil fuel vehicles, the R1T has no mechanical protrusions underneath that could snag or crash on rocks or other obstacles. At the bottom there are only batteries, protected by an aerodynamic cover made of composite material. The Rivian is capable of pulling a 5,000 kg trailer, almost as much as the Ford F-150, the most popular pickup truck in America for the last 39 years. At the same time, the size of the Rivian is closer to medium-sized pickups, such as the Toyota Tacoma, which is capable of pulling a trailer weighing only 3100 kg.

But most of all, Rivian wins on tarmac. With 835 horses under the hood and 670 Nm of torque from four electric motors with a rotational speed of 18,500 rpm, the Rivian accelerates to 100 km / h in 3.5 seconds – faster than many sports cars. To do this, select the sport mode on the center display of the car. Other modes include universal, economical, off-road (with four sub-modes) and driving with a trailer.

Amazing agility for a 3,200kg pickup – almost a ton more than comparable fossil fuel vehicles. It’s all about its heavy 135 kWh battery. The R1T covers 500 km in combined city / highway mode (EPA estimate). You can put in an extra battery for $ 10,000 and drive more than 650 km. This will be more than the GMC Hummer EV promises, due next year at $ 112,595. GMC is aiming for 550 km with a 200 kWh battery – the largest ever installed in an EV. … Rivian plans to offer a cheaper 105 kWh battery with a range of about 370 km.

At the same time, at speed, the Rivian does not feel like an SUV, but more like a sports sedan – very heavy, of course. Independently tested by announcedthat the Rivian is not only the fastest pickup truck they’ve ever experienced, but it also stops and handles the fastest.

On the wooded mountain roads of New York State, the R1T reminded me of the hippos in tutu from Disney’s Fantasia. He was very agile, despite all the frightening mass. The metaphor can be continued further – in contrast to the menacing masculinity of most pickups, the Rivian’s appearance can be called almost cute – from the expressively round anime LED eyes to the body with smooth lines. Forest dwellers will also approve of it – Rivian engineers are proud that the R1T (soon to be followed by a version with a closed cabin) does not pollute untouched landscapes with emissions, does not disturb the peace and tranquility of roads and paths. It drives so quietly that all I can hear is the rustle of off-road tires. Conscientious mud-lovers try not to leave a lot of footprints, and Rivian adds to this motto a call not to leave sound pollution.

The R1T has a “tunnel” that can be equipped with a pull-out kitchen on request – with a burner, sink and dishes.

R1T has other interesting ideas as well. It lures hikers and kayakers with innovative features. For the first time, a pickup truck has a cargo “tunnel” that runs through the hull behind the passenger compartment. Its appearance is possible due to the lack of equipment required for internal combustion engines. Great storage space for camping gear that doesn’t need to fill up the rear seat and doesn’t need to be stowed in the back. The coolest electric field kitchen looks there – expensive, $ 5,000, but convenient for all tourism lovers. Pull the kitchen out of the tunnel and cook – at your service are two induction burners, a sink with a 22 L canister and a tap, and a set of dishes for 30 items. For an afternoon nap, you can use the Yakima tent, which can be mounted either on the roof or on the aluminum bars above the bed.

Like many electric vehicles, there is space for luggage under the hood, and another one is located under the cargo compartment. Both have plugs that can be turned into ice containers. A 1000 lumen flashlight is inserted into the door – where Rolls-Royce has room to store an umbrella.

USB ports, 12 and 110 V sockets are scattered throughout the cab and the cargo compartment, which has a cover to protect the cargo. There is also a built-in pump in the compartment, so you can slightly deflate the tires for off-road driving, and then inflate them back for a trip to refuel, without reaching the portable pump. However, you only have to go to a gas station in Rivian for coffee or to the toilet.

The cabin looks minimalist and rich, finished with real wood and leatherette. Dominates inside the 15.6 “infotainment screen” like Tesla. “The system has cloud navigation, Spotify, InTune and other applications. The Bluetooth speaker with the battery is detachable from the console, while being part of the Meridian audio system with 18 speakers. The interface is quite understandable – unfortunately, the engineers abandoned many traditional analog controls in favor of a touch screen.The control of the heating and ventilation curtains is organized using a digital interface, which is inconvenient to use on the move.A technical drawback is the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – you can only connect a smartphone via Bluetooth This situation needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

The first R1T has already rolled off the assembly line of the former Mitsubishi factory in Illinois. It will soon be followed by a closed-body SUV with five / seven passenger seats. Rivian also plans to build 100,000 electric vans for Amazon. The latter, together with Ford, supports the company, and they jointly own 28% of Rivian. This contract can provide good support for a company that plans to open showrooms and a service network in the United States – including mobile maintenance stations, with repairmen who drive up to your home or office if necessary.

However, it is the R1T that is getting the attention of Tesla, GM and Ford. The latter, meanwhile, is putting the finishing touches on the long-awaited F-150 Lightning electric pickup model due out next spring.

In the electric pickup revolution, Rivian took off first, with a pretense of “try, catch up” – and the significance of this leap is difficult to overestimate, both in technical and competitive sense. The US market is dominated by pickup trucks – be it the suburbs or the countryside. They have reached a historic peak in sales – one in four cars sold comes with a pickup truck. It’s a cash cow for GM, Ford and the Stellantis Ram – and most of the profits come from the leather-wrapped versions stuffed with luxury gadgets. Let’s see how big a piece Rivian can cut for itself.

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