A couple days ago, I came across an interesting tweet by Rivian Updates. The company asked its fans whether they think Rivian should make its Rivian Adventure Network accessible to all EV drivers. At present, it’s only open to Rivian vehicles, but the stations tend to sit empty a lot.
What should Rivian do? #rivian
— Rivian Updates (@rivianupdates) November 22, 2022
As you can probably see, a majority of those who responded to this non-scientific poll said they think it should be made public, and let all EV drivers charge at them. Roughly 33% of the respondents disagreed, saying they think it should stay private or that it should be a mix of public and private. So, there’s still a significant number of people out there who don’t think making all Rivian locations public is the best idea.
We can only really speculate on why people took each position, but educated guesses aren’t a bad thing.
Why Are People Thinking Like They Do?
For the people who think the stations should be public, the answers probably lie with either the common good of all EV drivers (current and future), or with self-interest. If more stations are open to the public, this makes EVs more useful. When EVs are more useful, more people will buy them because they can drive an EV more places. This is great for EVs, the environment, and the industry. On a personal level, it makes sense to want this because not everyone can afford a Rivian, and it would be nice to have a few more charging stations, especially in rural areas.
But, if you’re a Rivian owner (or a future Rivian owner), there are reasons to oppose this. Existing public charging stations that are available to all EV drivers can get super crowded. Having some stations that only Rivian drivers can use means there’s a better chance that you don’t have to wait in line or worse, end up relying on a broken or out-of-order station.
For Rivian itself, having Rivian-only stations means that Rivian vehicles get an edge over the competition. If you’re debating whether to buy a Silverado EV or a Rivian, having more rural stations for outdoor adventures makes the Rivian a more valuable proposition than the Silverado or the Lightning. So, Rivian has good reason to leave them only accessible to Rivian owners.
One Way To Sort Of Please Everybody
I think that with modern computer and EV technology, there’s room for answers that lie between completely public and completely private. It’s entirely possible to please people who take all of the above positions. I think it makes a lot of sense to allow other vehicles to charge at Rivian Adventure Network stations, and for the reasons described above, but I don’t think this necessarily has to come at the expense of Rivian or the people who drive a Rivian.
There are two ways to make it open while also still giving Rivian drivers the advantage.
First, let’s remember that pricing doesn’t have to be even across the board. There’s nothing stopping Rivian from providing free or cheaper charging sessions to Rivian owners while charging the owners of other vehicles a higher rate. This would make the stations available to other drivers who really, really need it, but would encourage them to go elsewhere if possible. I don’t think the rates should be exorbitant, but charging 10-20% over the normal market rate for DC fast charging in a given area would be enough to discourage without flying people the bird.
On top of giving Rivian owners an edge on pricing, Rivian could also allow Rivian owners to reserve time at a station while they’re on the way to it. This would be frustrating for non-Rivian drivers who arrive only to be told “No” by the charger, but it would make sure that Rivian drivers get first dibs at charging. This would basically give the Rivian owners the same benefits of a closed network, while still allowing other drivers to get a charge when it’s not busy, or at least let them charge in 20-30 minutes instead of never.
This Policy Wouldn’t Have To Be Set In Stone
My idea above is based on current conditions. DCFC stations are still relatively scarce, and in many places, Rivian will be the only girl in town. But, we have to keep in mind that things are going to change quite a bit over the next 5-7 years.
This is already happening. Charging stations built with #Dieselgate money are still being put in, even in 2022 and 2023. That alone will make a big difference in some places. Then, there’s the infrastructure bill’s requirement to install 150 kW DCFC stations every 50 miles along interstate highways. And, in the years following that goal’s accomplishment, the infrastructure bill will cover many other highway corridors extending well into most rural areas.
When these stations are all online, it would make a lot of sense to close the Rivian stations up again in most places, because EV drivers will have plenty of alternatives.
A semi-closed experience also wouldn’t have to be put in place at all Rivian stations. In some places, it might make more sense to just open them up. In others, it might make sense to keep them closed, even today, because there’s already a good alternative nearby. As the situation changes in a local area, Rivian can easily adjust their guest charging policies and pricing on a case-by-case basis.
Another Good Option: Sharing Locations
Another thing that Rivian could do is just install some extra capacity and wiring at its Adventure Network sites. If they left one or two stalls and a few hundred kW of power open, the company could partner with companies like EVgo, ChargePoint, or Blink to host stations for non-Rivian vehicles.
With another company (and its customers) pitching in to cover demand charges and paying for most of the equipment costs, this would keep Rivian from having to shell out resources for the competitors. This would both lower Rivian’s costs and give Rivian drivers an extra station or two they could use when nobody else is there and the Rivian stalls are full.
Featured image provided by Rivian.
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