A recent tweet by Rivian shows that it is making progress on its plans for the Rivian Adventure Network, a set of both slow and rapid chargers that would help the company’s EVs go to a lot more places than the competition. One of the most exciting things is that it has released a map that shows roughly the places it is considering, but it looks like it could do a lot better.
The Rivian Adventure Network is bringing DC fast charging to routes across the US and Canada — like along California’s Hwy 395 — with over 3,500 fast chargers at more than 600 sites by end of 2023. Visit our blog for details on all our charging solutions. https://t.co/nKBAZyeN7k pic.twitter.com/LuoTpgRATb
— Rivian (@Rivian) March 18, 2021
If you click on the link in the tweet, you can see a lot more detail about the network, including the map at the very top of this post.
If you view it on a desktop computer, you can get a much closer look at where they’re looking at building stations, so if there’s an area you’re looking at, be sure to view it on the biggest screen you can.
Much of the network is going to be on interstate highways. If you can’t get a Rivian to the trailhead, there’s really no point in putting in stations at the trailhead. Also, if you’re towing a camper or ATV along, expect to lose a lot of range, so more interstate stations would be useful.
To make a comparison and learn more about what Rivian’s strategy is, I put its map on top of a Plugshare map of Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of surrounding states.
From what I can see, in some places it is opening stations in the same places as Electrify America stations, so it is not really giving its vehicles much of an advantage. In other areas, it is filling in some gaps in the Electrify America network and helping. In a few cases, it is building away from interstates entirely to help its vehicles travel out into the hinterlands.
Good & Bad Things I’m Seeing
Here are a few interesting ones I noticed:
- It is building a station near the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and that would allow the vehicles to not only go to the Guadalupe Mountains, but also reach Carlsbad Caverns and the nearby Otero Mesa.
- It is building one near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. That would greatly help, because there are currently no stations along I-25 south of Albuquerque.
- On I-10, it is building stations near Willcox and San Simon, AZ. That helps a lot because there’s a big gap for CCS vehicles along that stretch, and there’s a big hill climb going up Texas Canyon from Benson, AZ to Willcox.
- It has a marker at Holbrook, AZ. That would fill a gap in the infrastructure along I-40, and make it easier to visit the Petrified Forest National Park.
- It appears to be building a station near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Filling in these gaps seems like it would make a big difference in the Southwest, but it seems like the company could do a lot more and make it a real “Adventure Network” if it wasn’t duplicating Electrify America’s station locations so much. For every station that gets doubled up like this, there’s a place that could really use a station that isn’t getting one.
For example, instead of doubling up chargers on I-10 and I-20 in Texas, it could be adding in another charger or two on I-25, and that would make it so its trucks could make it through New Mexico. The Panhandle of Texas could also use some love, as could eastern New Mexico. For what it is spending now, it could be giving its vehicles a lot more room to roam.
Even if the goal is to beef up interstate travel on major interstates, it would make a lot more sense to stagger its stations with existing ones. For example, between El Paso and Dallas there are some big gaps that an EV towing a big trailer would struggle to cross. Worse, there’s a big gap between El Paso and Van Horn that would wipe out many vehicle’s batteries. If it were to skip putting in a station at Van Horn (where Electrify America already has one), it could put one at Sierra Blanca or Fort Hancock, or at this little truck stop called the Flying Tiger near the top of the hill (bonus: it’s popular with hunters).
I’m sure readers will have ideas on how Rivian could improve the network in their parts of the country or in Canada. Please let us know about these in the comments. Hopefully somebody from Rivian will take advantage of our local knowledge.
The Biggest Problem
I get why it would only want to allow Rivian vehicles to use a Rivian charging station. Like Tesla, it would give them a big advantage over other EVs, but that’s not actually why Tesla built its own network. For those who followed the history of the Supercharger Network, the reason Tesla had to build its own stations is because there weren’t any stations at all in 2012 except for a few Nissan dealers in cities. To have a network at all, Tesla had to build one.
Rivian faces a very different set of challenges. The government forced Volkswagen to build Electrify America, and those stations are spread out all over the country. They’re available for Rivian drivers to use. It makes next to no sense to build chargers in the same small towns along interstates as Electrify America did.
What would make a lot more sense would be to build charging stations in new places, and let other companies’ cars use them. That way, everyone building EVs benefits and Rivian drivers get the most bang for the buck.
There’s also the problem of learning curves. The last thing emerging EV automakers can afford to do is further confuse potential customers. They’re having a hard enough time understanding how to buy and operate an EV, and it’s already an intimidating switch for many drivers to make. If everyone starts building proprietary networks, it’s going to be a totally chaotic experience for all the new drivers. This should be avoided.
If the idea is to get a competitive edge, set it up in the software so that Rivian drivers can reserve a charging station along the way. That way, its drivers get first priority, but the stations will both make Rivian some money and help other drivers when there’s not a Rivian truck needing it. This would both maximize the benefits of an Rivian while also helping Rivian drivers get to more parts of the country.
Finally, there’s the issue of rural sales. If you want a farmer in Roswell, New Mexico to consider buying a Rivian instead of a gas-powered Ford or Chevy, it would help a lot if there were some stations along those rural US highways instead of having twice as many stations further down the road in Pecos and Fort Stockton.
Rivian people, if you’re reading this, please consider doing not only that which helps yourself more, but helps everyone at the same time by putting the stations where they’re needed.