Rivian’s Electric Pickup, and the Old Battery Problem
What to do with old car batteries, when an electric car is retired?
Toyota, long ago, took them back and reclaimed the materials, essentially providing a closed loop. GM and Tesla recycle them into stationary energy storage. Now, Rivian, possibly the makers of the first fully battery-electric pickup truck—if they can beat Ford and Tesla to the punch, and Ram doesn’t pull one out of their hats—has announced that they, too, will go into stationary storage.
Tesla has repeatedly made headlines with its battery storage business, where utilities use batteries either as emergency backup or to hold some solar or wind energy for times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Rivian’s taken that one step further, by designing their battery packs to come out of the vehicle and go into rack storage. They even have the right programming for the different uses.
Rivian has followed the Tesla method of getting reservations for its truck, when it arrives; the stylish pickup resembles a Honda Ridgeline more than a Chevy Silverado, with four doors, a fairly small bed, and “sport-truck” styling.
The company isn’t a fly-by-night with a dozen people; around a thousand people are split between Detroit, California, and the new Chicago facility, which covers 508 acres—much of which is grass, though a transformation to farmland is planned.
The R1T truck itself promises a 400-mile range, four motors (all wheel drive), a 36-inch wading depth, and 0-60 in around 3 seconds. To make it more practical, there’s a flexible crossbar system, “gear tunnel” for pipes, wood, etc. (to go into both the bed and the interior), a 1,763-lb payload, and a stunning 11,000-pound towing capacity.
Really, it’s a good deal for $69,000 (keeping in mind that price probably won’t buy the 400-mile range, fastest speed, etc.), given that a highly trimmed F-150 gets into that range.
Will Rivian hit every mark? It’s hard to say. Tesla has unfailingly overpromised; Rivian may be doing the same. They will start out with the largest-capacity battery packs (180 kW and 135 kW) first, then produce the cheaper 105 kW packs. Production is set to start next year, but $1,000 deposits are being taken now. A deal with Ford has helped the company’s solvency, and even though Elon Musk is doing his best to suck the air out of the room with promises of a Tesla pickup, Rivian has a good head start.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, and lives in Farmingdale, New York.