A new era is upon us and many (most!) automakers are committing to phasing out the production of internal combustion vehicles within the next 7 to 10 years. What does the future look like? Luckily, not every electric vehicle has to look like an appliance or a nondescript hatchback. Nowadays, even mainstream pickup manufacturers have jumped into the game by offering current or proposed all-electric models.
To talk about the R1T pickup, we have to first talk about Rivian as a brand. Formally Rivian Automotive Inc., this manufacturer was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Irvine, California. From the beginning, the company dove right into a focus on autonomous and electric vehicles, and in 2016, it acquired a manufacturing plant in Illinois formerly occupied by Mitsubishi. Rivian’s first vehicles were unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018.
The R1T is a midsized, light-duty, crew-cab pickup that went on sale for the 2022 model year. The first R1T was delivered in September 2021. Power can be drawn from a variety of electric motor options, and each of the four wheels are spun independently. On paper, output is impressive: the R1T is rated at 835 horsepower, and the official range is 314 miles. These numbers put it right in the arena of some high-performance internal combustion trucks today. Worth noting: Rivian also produces a sport-utility vehicle using similar architecture, called the R1S.
After a two-year wait, my friend Todd took delivery of an R1T pickup on April 1, 2022. Now over a year later, I wanted to ask him how his experience is going and whether he had any advice for someone looking to convert to an EV automotive lifestyle sooner than later. Following was the transcript of our dialogue.
It has now been about 13 months since you took delivery of a Rivian R1T. What most interested you about getting a Rivian and how long did you have to wait for it?
Todd: What most interested us was the overlanding tent, and the camp kitchen, which is unfortunate that Rivian seems to have abandoned their plans to produce the camp kitchen, and the tent still hasn’t been released. The truck being geared for outdoor recreational use and off-road capabilities was very attractive as well, since we would like to venture more into those hobbies. Since order placement, we waited about two years for the truck to arrive.
What is your current odometer reading on the truck and can you tell how much (if at all) the battery has degraded over the past year?
Todd: Currently have about 12,500 miles on the truck, and the battery is holding steady at over 97% capacity.
What kind of range numbers are you seeing on a full charge?
Todd: We rarely ever drive the vehicle for maximum range. For example, if we charge to 100%, we hardly ever run it down below 20%. 260 to 280 miles per charge in conserve mode, which shuts off the rear two motors of the four, is consistent but depends on a multitude of other factors, including driving style and grade changes.
I know you have taken the truck on some technical trails in Sedona and in inclement weather in Flagstaff. Any specific observations on its capabilities as a truck (or lack thereof)?
Todd: Snow mode has consistently gotten better with every single update. The truck performs amazingly in inclement weather with it being able to independently operate each wheel for traction control. The weight of the truck helps too, being 7,000 pounds. Regenerative braking is reduced to almost nothing, which has made it a lot safer in very slick conditions. I got the chance to try out Rally Mode on a banked wide gravel road, and was able to take advantage of the full 840 horsepower with maximum traction. Wow, that was fun. Ran away from a couple turbo side-by-sides tailing behind me. Literally left them in the dust. Besides that, the perfectly flat underside of the truck gives it a TON of clearance for rock-crawling and off-roading. It crawls amazingly well, smooth and controlled.
What maintenance have you had to do? If none, is there anything scheduled, or do they just say to drive it until something breaks?
Todd: Basically, no scheduled maintenance. Will never replace the brakes due to the regenerative braking of the motors. No transfer cases with each wheel having its own dedicated motor. Have had a couple rock chips in the windshield which cause one replacement, and one small crack repair. Also, we had a hood latch malfunction which required replacement and was done promptly at zero cost to me. Rivian’s service has been top-notch. Every time I call about anything, a live person answers the phone. It’s amazing. They are helpful and fun to talk to.
Do you still have plans to get some of the accessories for the truck?
Todd: Absolutely, if they don’t release the overlanding tent soon, I will just go with a Thule alternative, and if they ever end up producing the camp kitchen, I will be first in line to buy it.
I know you also traded out a Volvo SUV for a Tesla Model Y. Have you experienced any challenges with having a household of only EVs so far? Are there any negative trade-offs?
Todd: The Tesla is also a super fun vehicle, just like the Rivian. The one thing Tesla has going for it that no other manufacturer has yet, or will be able to match in the immediate future is their Supercharger Network. It is by far the most reliable, and largest charging network available, in addition to Teslas being able to utilize any charger that non-Tesla vehicles can utilize with a simple adapter. With that said, between the very robust charging network of the Tesla, and the somewhat more limited charging network of the Rivian, we hardly notice any tradeoffs or downsides to being an all-electric household, other than spending zero dollars at the gas station. Home charging is extremely cheap, which is where 90% of our charging takes place.
Name 3 things you feel that an EV does better than an internal combustion vehicle.
Todd: Number 1 for me might surprise you. It isn’t the gas savings. For me it’s the entire “driving experience.” It’s hard to describe. Instant power and torque available to you, at any time, without the wear and tear an internal combustion motor would endure to match that power and torque, is a beautiful thing. It is so much more simplistic with one pedal operation too. Perfectly smooth raw power curves. It would be hard for me to go back to a combustion motor vehicle now. You just don’t understand until you drive one for a decent amount of time. Number 2, No gas expense, instead charging at home when the car is just sitting. Number 3. An almost non-existent regular maintenance schedule.
What upgrades if any did you make or are you planning to make to your charging setup at home?
Todd: Right off the bat, I punched through the garage wall where my electrical panel is on the opposite side, ran a short piece of six-gauge wire to a 60-amp breaker, and installed a Rivian wall charger. This gives me a charging rate of about 25 miles per hour on the Rivian, and about 44 miles per hour on the Tesla. The reason for the difference in charge rates between the vehicles is their efficiency. Just like in the combustion motor world, a smaller lighter, more aerodynamic car/SUV is going to get much better efficiency than a heavy, much larger battery pack powered truck which isn’t quite as aerodynamic.
In the year that you’ve been driving the Rivian, have you gotten a feel for availability of charging stations, and is the experience more/less convenient than a traditional gas station?
Todd: For day-to-day charging and commuting, charging at home is much more convenient and economical than having to fill up at gas stations, hands-down. However, when road tripping, EVs require a bit more planning, just to make sure your charging needs can be met while out on the road. For me personally, that’s an acceptable trade off. As most of our time is spent going to destinations within range of a single charge, I was willing to educate myself with the knowledge necessary to navigate longer and more remote road trips when I find myself on them. To date, I have never found a place I couldn’t get to with one of our EVs without just a little extra planning. Most long trips require almost none, but every once in a while, I have to hash out the finer details.
From a cost-per-mile perspective, do you think going to an EV is a smart move for most peoples’ needs when factoring in the price of the vehicle?
Todd: This is kind of a tough question for sure. For us personally, I think we were probably already looking at vehicles that fall into the range of EV costs, so it just made sense to eliminate the cost of fuel from the equation. Now if we weren’t looking in the $50-90k EV price range, and had a budget of say $30-40k, then currently I am not sure you can justify the higher price of EVs. That’s my honest feeling on that. Manufacturers like Tesla and Rivian aren’t oblivious to this fact either. They seem astutely aware that their target buyers are people looking to spend a bit more money, because the cost of EV drivetrains (motors and batteries) are just flat-out more expensive than their combustion counterparts. But that is changing rapidly. So, it makes sense that in the beginning, they would release their more expensive models to people already looking to spend a bit more, and then as increased demand and technology advancements drive the cost down, EVs will become more and more accessible and make more sense for people not looking to spend as much.
What advice would you have to anyone considering a Rivian as his or her next ride?
Todd: If you can afford it, and a sporty, do-it-all truck is what you have been eyeballing, just do it. It is absolutely thrilling to drive. Get a wall charger in your garage and don’t look back.
Thanks, Todd, for taking the time to connect on this topic!