Rivian Primed For Liftoff In 2020

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Rivian took the world of adventure vehicles by storm with the launch of the fully electric R1T truck and the fully electric R1S utility vehicle at a star-studded event adjacent to the Los Angeles Auto Show. Since then, the company rebuffed funding from General Motors while raised billions of dollars in funding from the likes of T. Rowe Price, Ford and Amazon.


Both investors later committed to partnering with Rivian through vehicle purchases and technology sharing, ensuring a healthy queue of orders when Rivian was finally ready to start cranking out vehicles from its factory in Normal, Illinois. Ford’s luxury brand Lincoln even announced a new fully electric vehicle it is bringing to the market based on Rivian’s products.

The news from Rivian has been a constant flow of jaw-dropping announcements that together, embody much of the current state of the electric vehicle market. But do you really know who Rivian is? Did you know Rivian was founded 11 years ago, with most of that time being spent operating in stealth? In a new video, Rivian dialed back the clock to shed light on why Rivian exists. Who started Rivian? What are they passionate about? Why trucks? Let’s jump in.

Early Days

Rivian was founded by RJ Scaringe. Just RJ. He’s apparently that kind of guy. After graduation from the prestigious MIT with a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, RJ decide that at age 26, he was going to start a car company. He had a love for cars from an early age and struggled to reconcile that passion with the reality that fossil fuels were destroying the very planet he loved.

The collision manifested itself in a car company bent on developing an electric sports car. After 2 years invested in developing a prototype, building a team, and getting pumped about the product, RJ was not sold on the idea that their product would have a big enough impact. So they pivoted. Towards what, they weren’t sure, but he wanted something that would have the maximum impact and 9 years later, they have a fully baked, fully electric utility vehicle that is redefining what is possible in the category.

Rivian R1T Truck and R1S utility vehicle
The Rivian R1T Truck and R1S utility vehicle in the company’s Normal, Illinois factory. Image courtesy: Rivian

Rivian’s utility vehicles are first and foremost functional. They bring immense power and over 400 miles (643 km) of range per charge, decoupling fun in the vehicle with the incessant need to recharge. For an off-road vehicle, extra range is even more important than for urban assault vehicles, as mountainous terrain can gobble up far more range per mile than the casual jaunt down to the corner store.

RJ knew the road to finalizing the product, and then to production, would be difficult. “Your first dollar of revenue comes after spending $3 billion,” he said. The number represents a far more realistic estimate for starting up a new electric vehicle company and bringing it to production than the $1 billion many spoke of just a few years ago. Too many aspirational electric vehicle companies have risen on the hopes and dreams of a few, only to sink back into the ashes months later.

The team at Rivian are clearly passionate about not just off-road vehicles, but about electric vehicles and the promise they embody for future generations. “It’s simply not a choice to move off fossil fuels,” Scaringe said. Rivian is building a vehicle that lets them play the same way as they do today, but with a better future waiting for them at the end of the dirt road. Rivian’s vehicle let owners, “drive the vehicle [they] want and oh, by the way, this has a path to carbon zero.”

Rivian R1T
The Rivian R1T wailing down a trail. Image courtesy: Rivian

It is an imposing task for even the most visionary of entrepreneurs, but by all accounts, Rivian is poised to take the automotive world by storm later this year. The company has two lucrative products of its own, the R1T electric truck and the R1S electric utility vehicle built on its skateboard platform. The R1T is expected to start rolling off production lines of its factory in Normal, Illinois later this year, with the R1S following close behind.

Soon after its investment in Rivian, Amazon partnered with Rivian to develop 3 bespoke last-mile delivery vehicles and proceeded to dropped a massive order for 100,000 vehicles.

Rivian’s goal might have been a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (the elusive BHAG) when RJ took the first steps to create the company back in 2009, but today, Rivian has established itself as one of the few serious contenders in the western world of electric vehicles. Its trucks and utility vehicles offer drivers in middle America vehicles that will blow their pants right off with electric-powered performance with a nice sprinkling of technology to keep it interesting for suburban soccer dads hauling the kids around town.

Check out the video below to get a look behind the scenes at Rivian and to tap into what’s really fueling the company: a passion to make the world a better place with vehicles that give owners a real path towards zero emission driving without compromise. As a Rivian employee talks about in the video below, Rivian’s vehicles let owners rip along off road and the only thing you’ll hear is the dirt flying around and the wind on the car. That doesn’t sound too bad to me.


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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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