Behind the Scenes at Rivian

Dave Nichols
March 14, 2022
Electric vehicle startup Rivian has become the second most valuable automaker on Wall Street. From Rivian's R1T, R1S to Amazon delivery vans, the fast-growing electric car company has big plans. Learn more about Rivian here as we go behind the scenes.
Dark green Rivian R1T parked outside Rivian Headquarters

A Little Bit About Rivian

A startup all-electric truck company called Rivian has become one of the biggest names on Wall Street recently as its IPO has been valued at over $127 billion as of this writing. That means that Rivian is in the second spot for automakers only behind Tesla which has a stock market value of over a $1 trillion. In the current top five U.S. automakers we find General Motors in third place at $86 billion, Ford in fourth at $80 billion, and another all-electric startup Lucid Group in fifth place at $69 billion.

That’s extremely impressive for a small electric automaker that started out as Mainstream Motors back in 2009, transitioning to Rivian Automotive, Inc. in 2011. The MIT graduate and engineer who is behind it all is Robert “RJ” Scaringe who grew up near Melbourne, Florida, where he spent his youth working on cars and enjoying hiking and exploring the Sunshine State. He found himself driving many miles out into nature for his adventures and realized that he was contributing to the pollution of the environment he loved and hoped to preserve. In fact, Rivian’s name is taken from the Indian River where RJ spent much of his youth exploring in his rowboat.

If you were to stop by Rivian’s corporate offices in Irvine, California, or its manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois, you might think you were visiting an outdoors adventure store such as REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods. That’s because the company prides itself on not looking or acting like a place that makes cars (or trucks). CEO Scaringe’s deep commitment to the environment and to sustainability can be seen everywhere you look in the facility. Rivian’s one goal is to make a positive difference in the world, and it is setting out to do just that.

Rivian parked next to hay bales with tent accessory in extended from the bed of the electric truck

Rivian's Early Electric Car Prototypes

Rivian spent its first few years developing an all-electric luxury sports car, unveiling a working prototype in 2011. But Scaringe and his design team realized that a new and more adventurous vehicle was not only more in line with the company’s ideals, but also the sweet spot in where Americans were making new vehicle purchases, namely in SUVs and pickup trucks. Besides other startups such as Lucid was trying to capture the luxury EV sedan and sports car market. Focusing on luxury SUVs and trucks would set Rivian apart.

By 2015, the company had shifted focus towards an ecosystem focused on vehicles for the great outdoors. Two years later, Rivian purchased an old Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, to act as its manufacturing facility and was granted tax abatement from Illinois for bringing jobs to the state. By the end of 2017 it had two alpha prototypes completed; a completely reimagined pickup truck and an SUV, America’s two favorite vehicles. The R1T truck and R1S SUV debuted that year at the Los Angeles Auto Show to amazed crowds.

So, what would an all-electric pickup truck and an SUV look like from Rivian? What if you could wipe the conventional slate clean and start from scratch? Imagine vehicles that are filled with luxury and creature comforts that include plenty of electric outlets and every amenity for camping and other outdoor fun. Pack them with storage spaces and the absolute latest technology. That’s what Rivian did.

three Rivian R1T electric trucks driving around freeway curve

The Rivian R1T Truck and R1S SUV

The first vehicle available to consumers is Rivian’s amazing R1T pickup. Three trim levels are available including the Launch Edition this year. It comes with the company’s mid-tier battery pack which offers over 300 miles of range before you have to recharge.

Reservations for the $75,000 five-seater Launch Edition were maxed out for 2021, followed by the Adventure Package that goes for the same price, and a lower priced Explore Package at $67,500. The Launch Edition began rolling off the line in September 2021, going to eager customers and CEO RJ Scaringe captured it all on Twitter.

Sitting on the same proprietary chassis "skateboard" platform as the pickup truck, the R1S offers more room for seating and cargo than the pickup truck with luxurious seating for seven. It promises superior luxury and range as well as the ability to traverse extremely rugged terrain. As with the pickup variant, this model will be available in three trim levels and the Launch Edition is sold out though the Adventure and Explore variants are due this year. Prices are slightly higher than the R1T but all Rivian vehicles offer the Federal EV tax credit as well as other state and local incentives to help lower the price.

amazon prime electric delivery van

Electric Vans for Amazon and EV Batteries

In 2019, Rivian made big news worldwide when Amazon invested $700 million on top of an order for 100,000 all-electric delivery vans that were developed specifically for Amazon by Rivian. Those who live in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas have already seen these EV vans in use on the streets. The company will produce 10,000 of those vans this year as well as its consumer vehicles. The vans have rolled out to 16 U.S. cities this year.

Rivian is creating and expanding on its own charging infrastructure known as the “Adventure Network” beginning with charging stations in every state park in Colorado. Used as a test bed for further expansion, we may soon see chargers in state parks across the country.

The company also has plans to open retail hubs so potential customers can get all “touchy, feely” with the new vehicles. The first of these is now open in Venice, California. Not limited to sales in America, Rivian is currently in negotiations for a facility in the United Kingdom. It is investing in hiring battery experts to develop its own solid-state battery packs and is planning on building a $5 billion factory in Georgia for further expansion. Find more of the latest EV news here.

A young couple admiring the forest and trees next to their RAV4 Hybrid

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