Tesla competitor and startup Rivian, which has plans to go head-to-head with the California carmaker with an all-electric pickup (ute) and SUV, has cut a major deal with legacy carmaker Ford, amounting to $US500 million ($A713 million).
The deal is another in a series of high profile investments for the electric car startup which first wowed crowds at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November last year, then clinching a $US700 million ($A980 million) deal lead by online retail giant Amazon.
While it had been reported that Rivian was previously in talks with General Motors, this deal fell through apparently due to high expectations from the US car giant.
The all-electric R1T ute and R1S SUV, which will both be built on a “skateboard” platform that includes battery pack, drive units, suspension, brakes and thermal management system, will feature impressively rugged specs, according to the Michigan-based startup.
These include a standard 135kW battery and 370km range, a quad-motor drive system delivering 147kW of power to each wheel, a 5 tonne towing capacity and (for the ute – the SUV has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity) and the ability to wade through 3 feet of water.
Other notable features include a 350 litre “gear tunnel” that sits in the exterior space just behind the rear seats, that is open to both sides for, as Rivian puts it, “gear that never fits anywhere” (for the ute) and an fold down seats in the R1S SUV that would be perfect for charging a laptop.
These are vehicles that might be welcomed by many in Australia, where recent political backlash from Labor’s wish to introduce a 50% electric vehicle target for all new car sales by 2030 has invoked rubbish from the Coalition leader and prime minister Scott Morrison that electric cars are a “war on weekends”.
Rivian’s CEO and founder RJ Scaringe already has Australia pegged as an ideal market for his startup’s rough-and-ready electric vehicles – and another confirmation that an Australian launch is on the way has now come from Rivian’s chief engineer, Brian Gase.
Speaking with NZ journalist Stephen Ottley recently, Gase (who has spent time in Australia) confirmed that Rivian will launch in Australia, although no date has yet been set.
“Yes we will have an Australian launch,” Gase said. “And I can’t wait to come back to Australia and show this to all of those beautiful people.”
While pricing is also an unknown for the moment, and specs like the above more than likely to ask a premium, residents in the US, Canada and Mexico are already able to place a pre-order for $US1,000 ($A1,430 at today’s rates).
Production for the Rivian R1T dual-cab ute and R1S seven-seater SUV is slated to commence by the end of 2020.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.