Just What Are Ford & Rivian Up To?

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Ford has invested $500 million into Rivian, an electric vehicle startup that purchased the former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois. Rivian showed off two large electric vehicles at the Los Angeles auto show last year — the R1T pickup truck and the R1S sport utility vehicle. Both deliver nearly 200 horsepower to each wheel and have a combined torque rating of nearly 14,000 Newton-meters. Those are awesome numbers.

Rivian electric SUV
Credit: Rivian

“The beauty and elegance of our quad-motor setup isn’t just about brute power. This architecture provides instantaneous torque with extremely precise control at each wheel, which is completely game-changing from a dynamics perspective both on- and off-road,” says Mark Vinnels, executive director of engineering and programs for Rivian.

In an interview with Motor Trend, Ford CEO Jim Hackett said, “Rivian is a really special thing that’s teaching us about merging not only the powertrain but the architecture that the electronic control unit and other things connect to. So think of it as architecture for the operating system of the vehicle.”

The big, brawny Rivian R1T would seem to be the perfect platform for the electric F-150 that Ford is working on, but Hackett cautions not to be too quick to assume that is the case. “You shouldn’t go down the path of assuming it’s a pickup,” he told Motor Trend. The speculation is if it’s not a pickup, it must be an SUV. Whatever the two companies are working on, Hackett suggests the work is progressing nicely. “At the senior levels it’s pretty close. I think a lot of that has been settled, but not ready to talk about.”

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Ford has declared it will bring 40 electrified vehicles to market by 2022. Of those, 16 will be fully electric and some of those will be built on the Rivian skateboard. In fact, Hackett says the former Mitsubishi factory is perfectly satisfactory for manufacturing whatever the two companies are working on.

The rest of those 40 electrified models will be either conventional hybrids or plug-in hybrids. In addition to engineering its own electric vehicle architecture, Ford will use Volkswagen’s electric vehicle platform to expand its European lineup, the first major manufacturer to accept VW’s offer to share its new MEB electric car chassis.

If you are keeping track, Ford is actively pursuing at least three different paths to electrification — a partnership with Rivian, another partnership with Volkswagen, and its own internal electric vehicle platform. Will such a collection of strategies be successful in the long run? Jim Hackett certainly thinks so.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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