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Ford buys its way into Rivian - Update!

Remember the electric start-up with big ideas? Ford does - to the tune of Β£386m

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UPDATE - 24.04.2019

Ford has announced its intention to invest $500 million (£386 million) in electric off-road manufacturer Rivian, bringing the company’s total investment to over $1.5 billion. That figure includes $700 million (£544 million) already invested by tech giant Amazon and ought to go a long way to helping the US firm in its fight for EV dominance with Tesla. 

The scale of its speculation is all the more remarkable when you consider that Rivian has not yet brought a car to market - and doesn’t intend to before next year. So far all we’ve seen are some impressive looking concepts, including the pick-up which is covered in greater detail below. 

It is that model though - the R1T - which is likely to piqued Ford’s interest; along with the all-electric ‘skateboard’ architecture underneath it. Effectively, Ford’s money has bought it access to the modular platform and Rivian’s electric powertrain. The potential for both is considerable - not least as an SUV - but Ford’s enormous success with its F-Series of mid-size trucks will surely take precedence. The F-150 in particular has been the United States’ best selling vehicle for over three decades, and its best selling truck for more than four, so remaining ahead of the competition as the fossil fuel era draws to a close will be of the utmost importance to the Blue Oval.

Should that be the case, Rivian could well end up following in the footsteps of Czech hypercar manufacturer Rimac, which used its own Concept One as a showcase for its ability, attracting investment from Porsche and leading to the use of its platform in Pininfarina’s upcoming Batista. It’s still set to produce its own vehicles on the side though, and with an SUV scheduled to follow the R1T pickup into production early next decade, don’t expect the start-up to fade from view.

ORIGINAL STORY - 26.11.2018

Most startup car makers, particularly those hoping to cash in on the boom in electric cars, have been archetypal examples of over promising and under delivering. For every Tesla, there's been two dozen or more Faraday Futures.

But here's one that might just be worthy of a second glance: Rivian. It has revealed the first of its two launch models, a pick-up truck called R1T, which has been engineered by no less a figure than Mark Vinnels, the man behind the first wave of McLarens.

Rivian is actually offering something quite different too, because each of its cars will be a true off-roader, not some me-too blob-like SUV. If Tesla is a rival to the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, then Rivian is targeting Land Rover.

The R1T is built on a new, modular 'skateboard' platform, with an electric motor for each wheel and the battery pack mounted in the floor. And if you're wondering why you should care about Rivian, the answer lies in a combined output of 765hp and 826lb ft of torque, which it claims will make the pick-up good for 0-60mph in 3.0 seconds and a 0-100mph time of less than 7.0sec. As for range, the R1T is good for 230-miles in its standard 105kWh capacity, 300-miles in a 130kWh capacity, or up to 400 miles with the 180kWh 'mega pack'.

If that weren't ambitious enough, Rivian is talking up the Porsche Cayenne Turbo for an on-road performance comparison, and Land Rover-plus in the rough. It says the independent wheel control offered by having the four electric motors allows it to realise such claims.

When the going gets particularly tough, it boasts a 34-degree approach angle, 30-degree departure angle and 26-degree breakover angle. There's also a wading depth of up to one metre, at which point buoyancy is the only thing to stop it going deeper. The air springs can also be raised to provide even greater ground clearance. As for its pick-up credentials, the payload is 800kg and the towing capability up to five tonnes - which Rivian says is conservative.

While any new car maker can come along with such claims, the difference with Rivian is that the R1T is fully designed, engineered and production-ready, with funding in place and a US-based factory already on hand to build it.

Moreover, the fledgling manufacturer is actually quite a seasoned hand in the start-up world, as it was formed way back in 2009. Rather than go public with its plans then, or at any point in between, it has waited until the moment as its first model is ready to go.

North America will get the R1T first at the end of 2020, priced from around $70,000 (£55,000). It bought Mitsubishi's old factory in Illinois to build the R1T, alongside an SUV sibling that is due to be revealed later this week. There are plans for a UK launch, too, which will happen around a year later when the pick-up will be made available in right-hand drive.

Mark Tisshaw

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