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Startup Rivian exits stealth mode with a bold promise to electrify off-roaders

By Ronan Glon

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Rivian design studio

A startup automaker named Rivian is preparing to make its entrance on the American stage. Founded in 2009, it has finally announced details about its future lineup and what it plans on doing with the former Mitsubishi factory it purchased in Normal, Illinois.

35-year-old Rivian founder RJ Scaringe initially wanted to build a super-efficient internal combustion engine. He changed course several years ago to focus on electric vehicles. Tesla currently dominates the segment, and well-established car companies like Audi, Jaguar, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz will soon join the tussle. Instead of dropping its name in the luxury EV hat, Rivian boldly aims to apply the Tesla model to the world of off-roaders.

Website Engadget learned the firm currently plans to launch two models called A1T and A1C, respectively. Both will use battery-electric powertrains and offer level three autonomous capabilities. The A1T will take the form of a pickup truck closer to the Honda Ridgeline than to the Ford F-150, but with an ultra-rugged design that offers a clean break from the conventional notion of a truck. The A1C nameplate denotes an SUV that will share over 90 percent of its components with the pickup model. Beyond that, details are few and far between.

Rivian’s project brief impresses — at least on paper. The A1T needs to safely drive through 3.6 feet of water, offer over 14 inches of ground clearance, and be capable of climbing 45-degree inclines. If it can achieve these benchmarks, it will, in theory, put a Jeep Wrangler to shame. And that’s just one of its personalities. Rivian promises the truck will handle better than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo and log a supercar-beating zero-to-60-mph time of 2.8 seconds in its most powerful configuration. It will offer up to 450 miles of driving range, too.

We’ll learn more about Rivian’s plans to electrify the off-roader segment when it reveals its first two vehicles this fall at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Production will kick off in 2020, according to Engadget. Pricing will range between $50,000 and $90,000 before government incentives enter the equation. It’s not too far-fetched to assume the company will launch a Tesla-style reservation system after it unveils its future models.

Rivian already faces stiff competition. New York-based Bollinger Motors revealed an off-roader named B1 last summer that fills roughly the same niche as Rivian’s upcoming SUV. It’s built on an aluminum chassis that weighs just 295 pounds, according to Green Car Reports, and it offers dual electric motors with full-time four-wheel drive. Details about pricing and availability aren’t solid yet.

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