Tesla killers. As with any new electric car manufacturers, Rivian’s new line of luxury electric vehicles has been labelled this by the media.
But according to CEO and founder RJ Scaringe, Rivian’s looking to slay an entirely different dragon. Which could earn them the title “Range Rover killers.”
Since launching in 2009, the Midwestern startup has kept a low profile. But after unveiling two electric cars at the LA Auto Show, they won’t be able to fly under the radar any longer.
That said, their target audience won’t be Tesla’s power suit-wearing crowd. Instead, they’re going after the “Patagonia” market, granola-eating adventurers who want a reliable (even autonomous) off-roading option.
Here’s what you need to know about Rivian and the latest news on electric cars.
Electric SUVs: A Crowded Market
When Rivian unveiled its fully electric luxury SUV and a pickup truck at the end of 2018 in Los Angeles, comparisons to Tesla flew fast and furious. RJ Scaringe was even introduced as “the version of Elon Musk you’d want your daughter to marry.”
Of course, this remains a short-sighted categorisation of Scaringe, Rivian, and the emerging SUV market. The electric luxury SUV market is getting quite crowded.
Yes, Tesla remains just months away from the big reveal of its new Model Y, a smaller version of its luxury SUV, but the competition doesn’t end there.
Audi has started production of its e-tron, and Mercedes Benz gleefully showed off its fully electric EQC this year. Both are slated to hit the market in 2020 along with Rivian’s two forays into the EV market.
And we can’t forget about the Jaguar Land Rover I-Pace to the VW I.D. Crozz. Chinese companies, such as SF Motors, NIO, and Byton also want a piece of the action.
Competition from China means a crowded marketplace for Rivian, but one it hopes to dominate.
Carving Out a Market Niche
Of course, Rivian still has work to do when it comes to carving out a strong market niche for its new electric offerings. And it’s one that’s never really been seen before.
Scaringe has expressly aimed at the outdoor enthusiast market with the proclamation that he wants to appeal to the Patagonia-wearing crowd. He claims it’s a demographic ignored mainly by electric vehicle automakers until now.
But the real work may involve convincing this crowd to buy into Rivian’s all-electric pickup truck, the R1T. For better or worse, the company’s appeal to a very different demographic than the traditional construction working, hay baling crowd.
Priced like a Range Rover, the Rivian R1T will target customers who care about the environment and don’t mind getting muddy. With features like a luggage hatch that can fit snowboards and golf clubs, Rivian may be on to something.
But despite the crowded market, Rivian’s number one proposition remains the R1S. Let’s take a look at its specs, why it’s being touted as the world’s first electric adventure vehicle, and whether or not it represents a Range Rover slayer.
The World’s First Electric Adventure Vehicle
Rivian’s website lays out the essentials when it comes to the R1S SUV. It also makes some hefty promises that we’ll have to wait to see come to fruition. If, indeed they do.
That said, from the top down, Rivian’s assembled a group of engineers and designers with unique backgrounds who may be capable of delivering.
Designed for rapid acceleration and a smooth ride, the R1S is designed to appeal to the surfing, mountain biking, and outdoorsy family crowd.
Underscored by the design of the vehicle’s interior, the R1S not only proves roomy. It also contains an interior built for durability and easy cleaning. That means sturdy upholstery and many wood elements.
Although Rivian has yet to go into production, Scaringe told visitors to the LA Auto Show that what customers should expect to receive in a couple of years looks very similar to the two models on display.
Rivian’s New Take on Luxury Electric Vehicles
Built on the same platform as its pickup truck, the R1S seats up to seven. It matches the R1T in terms of many of its specs. It comes in three different battery pack versions including:
- A 105kWh with a range of 240 miles and 400 horsepower
- A 135kWh with an EV range of 310 miles and 750 horsepower
- A top-of-the-line 180kWh with an EV range of 410 miles and 700 horsepower
These ranges prove slightly higher than what Rivian claims the R1T will get. The pickup truck version also seats two fewer people. Similarly, the 180kWk R1S SUV will only boast a capacity of five, too.
Both the R1S SUV and the R1T pickup truck will feature similar speeds and acceleration times. The base models will accelerate from zero to 97 kilometres in five seconds. The higher specs will do it in just over three seconds.
These similarities all stem back to the same quad-motor layout. Each wheel gets powered by an electric motor, which translates into all-wheel-drive performance with razor-sharp precision.
Cutting Edge Technologies
Like other fully electric vehicles such as the VW I.D. Crozz, the Rivian R1S will feature advanced self-driving technologies. Claiming Level 3 autonomy on the road, the R1S promises an eyes-off, hands-off approach.
How will it achieve this? According to Rivian, the R1S will come fully equipped with cameras, ultrasonic, lidar, radar, and GPS technologies.
This technology would place the R1S in a class of its own as an autonomous off-roading vehicle. But only if the engineer and design team at Rivian can live up to these ambitious and unprecedented promises.
Learn more about self-driving technologies and the future of driving.
While its promises appear lofty, particularly in the current electric vehicle climate, Rivian has committed to start delivery as early as the end of 2020.
That’s when they’ll start deliveries of models featuring their two largest battery packs. The 105kWh base model is set to debut in 2021.
What makes Rivian’s timeframe ambitious is the release of both the R1S and the R1T at the same time. But considering the similarities in terms of mechanics and platform, perhaps Rivian hasn’t bitten off more than it can chew.
We’ll have to see moving forward.
The Price for Rivian’s Luxury Electric Vehicles
According to Rivian, pricing for the R1S will begin at AU$89,619. This mid-range cost puts it within striking distance of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and the Range Rover Sport.
This pricing also allows Rivian to significantly undercut the estimated price tag for Tesla’s upcoming Model Y. The company is already accepting pre-orders with a $1,000 down payment.
The Jaguar Land Rover Versus the R1S SUV
But does the R1S represent a Range Rover killer? To put this in perspective, let’s take a look at Jaguar Land Rover’s iPace, the company’s first fully electric vehicle.
The debut of the iPace, an SUV-style vehicle, continues to receive rave reviews. What’s more, its more affordable price (starting at AU$97,206) places it AU$14,063 below Tesla’s cheapest Model X.
Of course, this remains a significant distance above the starting price for the Rivian R1S. So, we’ll have to wait and see just how much people are willing to pay for the Jaguar name.
Appealing to Unique Demographics
The comparison of the iPace and R1S also proves somewhat inadequate. On the one hand, the Jaguar Land Rover iPace appeals to the high-end luxury crowd who would generally opt for a Tesla but might prove swayed by the Jaguar name.
On the other hand, Rivian hopes to hit the “Patagonia” sweet spot by appealing to outdoorsy adventurers who want to shrink their carbon footprint while getting lost in nature.
Rivian has even gone so far as to describe its driving range in terms of a round-trip journey from San Francisco to Yosemite. They want a piece of the weekend warrior market, and they want to appeal to families on the go.
That’s a different demographic than the one the Jaguar Land Rover iPace or Tesla’s Model X and Y SUVs hope to win over.
A Range Rover Slayer?
Will the Rivian R1S prove a Range Rover slayer? Perhaps, if Jaguar Land Rover makes good on its claims of introducing a revamped all-electric Range Rover onto the market soon.
If Rivian can deliver on its current list of promises and establish a specific niche in the luxury SUV market by appealing to outdoor adventurers and families, then, it will be well-prepared for an onslaught from Jaguar Land Rover.
How well Rivian can compete with the Jaguar Land Rover brand will depend on its showing starting in 2020.
But one thing’s clear, Rivian is preparing for a big splash onto the EV market; one that includes right-hand drive vehicles for markets like Australia, the UK, and Japan.
The Future of Electric Vehicles
Interested in learning more about the future of luxury electric vehicles coming to the Australian market? Or, maybe you’d like to find out more about how Australia can work to combat climate change aggressively?
Check out our post about the international effort to avert global warming and how zero emissions vehicles could pave the way for a healthier future for Australians.