A few days ago, we reported on rumors that General Motors & Amazon were contemplating investments in Rivian, the electric truck and SUV startup headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan. Today, we learned those rumors were at least half right. Amazon has indeed taken the lead in a $700 million funding round involving it and several other investors, including some current investors who are increasing their stake in the company.
In a press release, Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said, “This investment is an important milestone for Rivian and the shift to sustainable mobility. Beyond simply eliminating compromises that exist around performance, capability and efficiency, we are working to drive innovation across the entire customer experience. Delivering on this vision requires the right partners, and we are excited to have Amazon with us on our journey to create products, technology and experiences that reset expectations of what is possible.”
The company says it is intent on developing vehicles, technology, and services that inspire people to get out and explore the world. It employs more than 750 people at development centers in Plymouth, Michigan; San Jose, California; Irvine, California; and Surrey, England. It will build its vehicles at the former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. Mitsubishi ceased producing vehicles at the 2.6 million square foot factory in 2015. Rivian says it will launch the R1T and R1S in the US in late 2020, with sales in other countries slated to begin in 2021.
The Rivian R1S electric SUV was a huge hit at the Los Angeles Auto Show last December, as was its corporate cousin, the R1T electric pickup truck. Both have a claimed range on a single battery charge of over 400 miles, far surpassing any other vehicles on the market. Except for the unfortunate over/under headlight design that echoes the “sucking on a lemon” look of the 1958 Edsel, the vehicles are handsome in a rugged, go-anywhere, do-anything sort of way — precisely the kind of in-your-face insouciance that someone with $80,000 to $140,000 to spend on an electric truck should find appealing.
Each wheel has its own 197 horsepower motor. Combined torque is in the neighborhood of 14,000 ft⋅lb. That should be enough to haul a few 2×4’s from Lowe’s on the way home. The vehicles will be offered with three battery sizes — 105, 135, and 180 kWh. The smallest battery will become available about 6 months after production begins.
“We’re inspired by Rivian’s vision for the future of electric transportation,” says Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO of Worldwide Consumer. “RJ has built an impressive organization, with a product portfolio and technology to match. We’re thrilled to invest in such an innovative company.”
We all know what comes next. Production hell followed by delivery hell. There’s no question the Rivians will be expensive baubles for the wealthy to add to their virtual charm bracelets. Who wouldn’t want an electric panzer that can flatten any vehicle that gets in its way? Whether these trucks actually move the electric car revolution forward in any meaningful way remains to be seen.