Glass roofs on cars have evolved somewhat from the humble, retractable sunroof to the sleek and very stylish panoramic glass roof of the Tesla Model 3 and S electric sedans.
Michigan-based Rivian, which came out of stealth mode and wowed crowds last year with its all-electric ute (pickup) and SUV at the LA Auto Show, is taking it one step further.
According to comments made by the EV maker – which is yet to confirm a release date for its electric offerings, the all-electric R1S SUV will have an optional electrochromic glass roof.
Electro-what, I hear you say?
An electrochromic glass roof – otherwise known as “smart glass”, it can change its light transmissions properties when a small voltage is applied to the window, turning it from transparent to opaque.
Hi Steven! We will offer multiple roof styles including electrochromic glass (which turns from opaque to transparent on demand), a fixed glass panel, a two-piece removable composite roof and a standard fixed roof.
— Rivian (@Rivian) August 13, 2019
Panoramic roofs are a beautiful thing; they let in the sky and the view and give passengers in the car a feeling of space, especially important in smaller cars such as the Model 3.
But it has been noted that panoramic roofs have the potential for letting in too much light, and heat – to the point that in 2016, Tesla started handing out sunshades to owners of the Model X whose giant panoramic windshield left little protection from the sun.
The electrochromic roof helps solve this problem, turning the roof from a giant window into a protective shield from light and heat.
The McLaren 720S Spyder has the same kind of roof, and Fisker and Lucid are also promising something similar.
Other roof options as confirmed in the tweet above from Rivian are “a fixed glass panel, a two-piece removable composite roof and a standard fixed roof”.
Backed by Ford and Amazon however, it seems likely that it will be Rivian that could be the first electric carmaker to bring a production EV to market with this kind of roof, which along with its R1T electric ute promises lots of cool features from wireless vehicle-to-vehicle charging, (projected) driving range of up to 660km and 1m wading ability.
Speaking of which, in other news it seems that Ford, which has invested $US500 million ($A737 million) does not intend making an all-electric pickup (that is, ute) in collaboration with Rivian.
While Ford has recently been flexing some all-electric muscle with its prototype all-electric F-150, in a recent interview with MotorTrend, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said that “You shouldn’t go down the path of assuming it’s a pickup.”
Is it possible that means Ford will make an all-electric SUV with Rivian instead? Seems likely given this and utes are Rivian’s speciality.
Whatever it is – it is known that the collaboration between Ford and Rivian will make use of Rivian’s skateboard platform for Ford’s yet-to-be confirmed electric SUV, as well as Rivian’s know-how for hooking up not only a powertrain but also the electrical architecture that goes with it.
“Rivian is a really special thing that’s teaching us about merging not only the powertrain, but the architecture that the ECUs [electronic control unit] and other things connect to,” Hackett told MotorTrend.
Rivian has more or less said that its electric R1S SUV and R1T ute will come to Australia, although we do not know yet when that will be or how much either will sell for.
In the US however, the R1T will start at $US69,000 ($A101,800 converted) and the R1S at $US72,500 (about $A107,000 converted), both before the full US federal tax credit for electric vehicles of $US7,500 ($A11,064 converted).
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.