Ford is all set to invest $500 million in automotive startup Rivian in a “strategic partnership” that will see both the Michigan-based companies work together to develop a Ford-branded all-new battery electric vehicle using the startup’s flexible skateboard platform.
Calling it a “strategic partnership,” Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe said that it “marks another key milestone” in the company’s endeavor to expedite the “transition to sustainable mobility.”
“Ford has a long-standing commitment to sustainability, with Bill Ford being one of the industry’s earliest advocates, and we are excited to use our technology to get more electric vehicles on the road,” he said.
“We are excited to invest in and partner with Rivian,” Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.
“I have gotten to know and respect RJ, and we share a common goal to create a sustainable Future for our industry through innovation,” he added.
“As we continue in our transformation of Ford with new forms of intelligent vehicles and propulsion, this partnership with Rivian brings a fresh approach to both,” said Jim Hackett – president and CEO of Ford.
“At the same time, we believe Rivian can benefit from Ford’s industrial expertise and resources,” he added.’
Meanwhile, Ford North-America Product Communications manager, Mike Levine, said in a tweeted statement that the Rivian investment was “in addition to Ford’s previously announced $11 billion investment in Evs,” adding that the company had “already confirmed two key fully electric vehicles: a Mustang-inspired crossover coming in 2020 and a zero-emissions version of the best-selling F-150 pickup.”
Having maintained a low profile for almost a decade, Rivian announced its all-electric 5-passenger pickup truck, capable of clocking 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds in its top configuration, as recently as November 2018.
Established in 2009, Rivian had since been surreptitiously developing its line of electric vehicles, officially launching its first two products – the R1T pickup truck and the R1S SUV – at the 2018 Los Angeles auto show.
To give you an idea of the company’s expertise in developing EVs, and what it can develop together with Ford, let’s take a look at what the startup has already achieved with the R1T.
At 215.5-inch long and 79.3-inch wide, the R1T is a tad larger than a Honda Ridgeline or a Nissan Navara, with a generously spacious cabin that comfortably accommodates five passengers.
Futuristically designed, the vehicle has a full-width LED light bar on the front, it’s continuity broken by two vertical sets of round LEDs housed inside oval “stadium lights.”
In the absence of a traditional grille, the truck looks pretty neat and flat front-on, with just a skid plate and a couple of recovery hooks at the lower edge.
As Rivian was a relatively unknown entity in the industry, it was imperative that the vehicle’s design stood out to give the brand the desired recognition, which it seems to have done, considering the recent announcement.
“We don’t have history, we are a new brand,” Jeff Hammoud, Rivian VP of vehicle design had said at the time.
“You’ll be able to describe this [truck] to your friends quite easily,” he added.
As is the current trend in so far as electric vehicles are concerned, the R1T sits on a “skateboard” platform, but what Riviana has done differently is that it has integrated four compact – yet powerful -electric motors.
Each motor has a 147 kW power output or 197 horsepower, which translates to a combined output of 788 hp, vindicating Scaringe’s claim of “nearly 800 horsepower.”
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that, as the R1T is being offered in three battery-pack configurations of 105-kWh, 135-kWh, and 180-kWh – each offering a different “input to gearbox” power of 300kW, 522kW and 562kW and a range of 230+, 300+ and 400+ miles, respectively.
The 105-kWh model is rated 402 hp and 413 pound-feet of torque; the 135-kWh version should give 754 hp, plus 826 pound-feet of torque; while the 180-kWh R1T will be rated 700 horsepower and 826 pound-feet of torque.
Post-purchase, online upgrades will allow buyers to “unlock” more power, somewhat along the lines of Tesla’s “Ludicrous Mode” upgrades via software.
The RT1 also boasts a payload capacity of 800 kg and a towing capacity of 5,000 kg, in addition to a plethora of other features.
“The R1T’s lockable Gear Tunnel aft of the cab, which extends from one side of the vehicle to the other, provides more than 350 liters of space for hauling gear of any size, whether it be snowboards, golf bags or strollers,” claims Rivian.
The company also says that the R1T will be equipped with an extensive array of sensors for autonomous highway driving, including “camera, lidar, radar, ultrasonic and a high precision GPS coupled with high definition maps.”
According to the automaker, the R1T is expected to hit the roads sometime in the last quarter of 2020.
Rivian is doing a Tesla here by releasing the higher versions first – much like the Palo Alto-based company did with the Model 3.
This means, we can expect to see the 400+ and 300+ miles range versions at launch, while the 230+ miles base version will release “within 12 months of the start of production.”
The R1T will sell at a starting price of $69,000, which is not cheap by any stretch, however, it does offer fantastic value for all those dollars – at least on paper, for now.
Coming back to the Ford-Rivian tie-up, Wednesday’s press release said that Rivian would continue to remain an “independent company,” with the investment being “subject to customary regulatory approval.”
As part of the deal, Ford’s president of Automotive, Joe Hinrichs, will join the startup’s seven-member board once the investment formalities are over and done with.