Back in 2019, there was a lot of excitement about the Tesla Cybertruck. While I was personally shocked at the design decision, it looked like it was going to be the first electric pickup truck, which would have been pretty cool. But now, almost four years later, Tesla still hasn’t delivered. They’re getting close, and have “release candidate” trucks testing on the road, but it turned out to be harder to build a truck the way Elon Musk wanted to.
So, other manufacturers, taking a more traditional approach to manufacturing, ended up delivering first. It started with the Rivian R1T, and then the F-150 Lightning. Cybertruck production may end up ramping fast enough to outbuild Rivian, Ford, and the other manufacturers, but the first place spot still belongs to Rivian.
While the R1T is fully electric, making it more environmentally friendly and reducing carbon emissions, it’s still pretty normal. It’s got a traditional four-door truck layout, with a normal hood, no sail panels, and a structure that’s a lot more similar to normal body-on-frame trucks (as opposed to an exoskeletal design like the Cybertruck). The interior is likewise pretty standard, with a normal steering wheel, stalks, and even some buttons.
In terms of performance, the R1T is truly impressive, even compared to the faster gas-powered trucks. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3 seconds, showcasing its power and agility. Additionally, it offers a high towing capacity and exceptional off-road capabilities, making it a versatile option for various users with diverse needs and preferences.
But, one area where the R1T and other electric trucks falls short is range and charging. With a large battery pack, the R1T can travel over 300 miles on a single charge. This makes it a viable option for long-distance journeys without worrying about range anxiety or the need for frequent charging stops, but towing large loads makes for some long charging stops and many places that you can’t reach.
Despite this one big shortcoming compared to gas-powered trucks, the Rivian R1T has garnered positive reviews from critics and customers alike. Its overall performance, build quality, and innovative features have been commended. This positive reception underscores the R1T’s position as a groundbreaking truck in the electric vehicle market, and sets the stage for other electric trucks (including the much-anticipated Cybertruck) to thrive in the market.
Not many people have modified the Rivian R1T yet. For almost any gas-powered pickup truck, there are numerous pre-built parts available to do almost anything to it. Some people lower their trucks almost to the pavement. Others lift their trucks to ridiculous heights and put giant tires on them, making for an interesting aesthetic, but fairly limited actual off-road performance, especially on trails where such a truck won’t fit.
Depending on what you want to do off-road, there are some sweet spots between stock and such extremes, though. Reasonable lifts of just a few inches, tires between 33-40″, and some underbody protection from scrapes and slams won’t result in a truck that looks like something you’d watch in the stands on SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!, but can give you excellent off-road performance in most normal trail conditions, plus maybe some mild rock crawling.
While we haven’t yet seen a ridiculous clown monster truck Rivian yet, a company known for wild trucks recently did a more normal off-road build on theirs. With a decent lift, some 38″ tires, and fabricated underbody protection for the vehicle’s drive units (which appear to have been lowered to prevent destruction of CV joints), the off-road capability and aggressive looks of the truck have been greatly enhanced.
While this video does give some bad numbers and has pretty janky audio, it does give us a good look at the truck:
One thing everyone (at least in the off-road community) probably wonder is how the truck performs with those taller tires. For those unfamiliar, the tires are the last gear in a vehicle’s drivetrain, and the overall ratio of engine/motor speed to revolutions of tire on ground gets changed when you change the size of the tire. With taller tires comes an overall higher gear ratio, and thus less torque multiplication.
For gas and diesel trucks, the solution is usually to get inside the differentials and put in lower gears to make up for the larger tires, but there are no kits to swap gears out inside a Rivian drive unit, at least not yet.
But, despite the taller tires, the truck still held its own against a Dodge Ram TRX, a high performance off-road truck known for its power and speed, so the Rivian’s motors still put plenty of torque to the wheels to make up for the change.
While Apocalypse, a company known for its wild 6-wheel-drive trucks, hasn’t take it off-road for video testing yet, they’re not done with the truck. Like their other truck builds, they plan to swap out and add to the body panels to give it a much wilder appearance. So, we probably won’t recognize the truck as a Rivian when it’s done and we finally see some footage of it conquering obstacles, but it’s still going to have a Rivian heart at its core.
Why This Matters
Honestly, this truck is probably not going to end up being what most people aim for in an off-road truck by the time they’re done with it. Apocalypse’s “Jeep angry eyes, but make the whole truck angry” look appeals to some people, many others just want some more clearance, grip, and control to conquer trails on the weekend.
That having been said, it’s still an important small step in the electric truck story. It shows that there’s plenty of interest in modifying and upgrading electric trucks to do what gas and diesel truck owners already do. This means not only a bright future for Rivian’s fans, but also every other electric truck, including the Cybertruck.
This, in turn, will strengthen the electric pickup market, making for more EV sales and less gas. So, even if you’re not into off-roading or mall crawlers, that’s something to be happy about.
Featured image: a screenshot from the embedded video.
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