Normal, Ill., may soon be the home of a very unusual vehicle.
Startup automaker Rivian has unveiled the electric pickup it plans to build at a former Mitsubishi plant in the Land of Lincoln starting in late 2020. The Michigan-based company has collected a team of industry veterans and a half-billion dollars in funding so far to bring the project to fruition.
The midsize truck features a conventional pickup shape that’s wrapped in sleek contemporary bodywork echoing the technology underneath it. Its oval headlight clusters and full-width running light giving it a particularly sci-fi look.
As is becoming an increasingly common approach to electric vehicle design, the R1T is built on a “skateboard” chassis that houses the battery pack, drivetrain components, and everything else that makes it go. It will also form the basis for an SUV, with the two trucks being targeted primarily at premium “lifestyle” buyers, rather than commercial customers.
Battery sizes of 105 kWh, 135 kWh and 180 kWh will be offered, all of which are larger than anything available on a retail electric vehicle today. Rivian projects that they will deliver ranges of over 250 miles, 300 miles and 400 miles per charge, respectively, and be able to be recharged to the tune of 200 miles worth of electricity in 30 minutes at public fast-charging stations.
An electric motor for each wheel provides the R1T with all-wheel-drive and a combined output between 400 hp and 750 hp, depending on the model. Rivian claims the fastest of them will be able to accelerate to 60 mph in a supercar-quick 3 seconds, while all will tow over 11,000 pounds.
A computer-controlled air suspension increases ground clearance from approximately 9.5 inches to 14 inches for better off-road capability, or lowers it to less than 8-inches to make the vehicle easier to enter and load. Since there’s already a compressor onboard, Rivian installed an air pump valve in the bed, along with power outlets and a security camera system to monitor anything stored in it.
Even with all of the important electronics riding low in the truck, it’s all fully-sealed and the R1T can wade through a meter of water.
The flat-pack chassis layout also allows for some unique storage opportunities, including a “frunk” under the hood, a cubby beneath the bed floor that can either be used as a trunk or a spare tire carrier, and a “Gear Tunnel” between the cab and box that can accommodate long items like skis. The doors for the tunnel double as stools, and the tailgate can be released to fold down 180-degrees to offer closer access to the bed.
The cabin features a digital instrument cluster and a large central display for the infotainment system. It’s trimmed in a mix of authentic wood and synthetic upholstery inspired by sports equipment to give the whole thing a premium feel that you don’t mind getting dirty, according to CEO. R.J. Scaringe.
Scaringe also promises that the R1T will be equipped with all of the cameras, sensors and positioning technology needed for Level 3 self-driving functionality, which allows for autonomous control in certain locations and situations.
Prices will start at $69,000 and reservations are now available for a $1,000 deposit, but only high-end models will be available at launch. If it hits its target date, Rivian will likely beat Tesla and the Big Three truckmakers to market with an all-electric pickup by months or years.