A recent post in an electric trucks Facebook group sheds light on something I’ve had trouble understanding about the Rivian R1S: its size. Yes, measurements are available. Images aplenty, as are videos of the prototypes running around in the real world. But there’s something about seeing a vehicle in a parking space that gives you a size reference in a way nothing else really can.
Brad Johnson, a member of the group, said he saw the vehicle parked and charging at an Electrify America station in a Walmart parking lot. As you can see in the photos, it does a pretty good job of filling the parking space, not unlike a Chevrolet Tahoe or a Ford Explorer. It has some things that set it apart from the general gas-powered SUV world (especially the somewhat avant-garde headlights), but its general shape and form are a lot more like what most people would consider an SUV, and it doesn’t look like the Tesla Model S or Model Y.
Yes, a more streamlined shape would give better range numbers, but there are reasons SUVs tend to be big and blocky. Having more interior room is a nice luxury, but it’s also great for those times that you want to take a bunch of junk along on a camping or glamping trip. Lopping the back of the roof off and making the back of the vehicle more aerodynamically efficient would be great for city driving and hotel-based road trips, but where would you put a tent, food, a camping stove, and everything else 5 to 7 people want to take along on a camping trip?
Instead of going for what’s best for an EV, Rivian went more toward what’s best for an SUV and the needs of its owners. Some of those needs are utilitarian, and some of those needs are superficial, of course. Who wants an electric SUV that looks like a chonky electric sedan? Tesla’s sales tell us that many people do, but there are also many people who wouldn’t.
The question a picture can’t answer is whether Rivian’s early entry into this market segment (ahead of the big players like GM, Ford, and Dodge). While GM and Ford both have electric pickups on the way or already here, the only thing even close to the Rivian R1S available until 2024 is the GMC Hummer EV. We give the Hummer EV plenty of crap here at CleanTechnica, largely because it has a massive battery and weighs 9000 pounds, and it doesn’t have interior room for 7 or room to stow a big stack of camping gear. So really, the Rivian is going to enjoy the market by itself for at least a year.
But, once that year is up, will buyers go for a more familiar option, like a Blazer EV or a hypothetical Explorer Lightning? For people thoroughly sick of the big automakers, tired of dealers, and wanting to stick with something new, they’ll keep going for the Rivian. For people who like to play it safe, though, expect them to stick with the familiar.
What we don’t know is who will fall into which group in 2024. That will be the big question for the future of Rivian.