In the world of electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla sucks most of the oxygen from the room. It’s the brand every other EV maker aspires to be in terms of fame and profile. Every EV’s range is measured against those of Tesla’s vehicles, like the Model S and the Model X. That, however might change in a year or two when the Rivian R1T Truck and the R1S SUV arrive on the market. With vehicles capable of towing up to 11,000 pounds and traveling more than 400 miles on a single charge, Rivian has already captured the imagination of the EV world. The fact these big vehicles will surge from 0-to-60 miles per hour in an estimated three seconds only adds to the anticipation.
At the heart of Rivian’s EVs, though, are its battery modules. Where carmakers used to try to one-up each other in the cup-holder and USB-port counts, today’s EV builders want bragging rights to the longest ranges. If the R1T and the R1S deliver on the 400-plus-mile range, that will leave the 289-mile range of the Tesla Model S in Rivian’s dust.
Can it be that Rivian has managed to unlock the secret of creating a 400-mile battery array that’s affordable and available? Well, Rivian hasn’t set pricing yet, but predicts the price of the R1S equipped with the 400-mile battery module will ring the register at about $90,000. Good for you if that falls into your definition of affordable, but in the arena of luxury SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne, 90 grand isn’t unreasonable.
Writing for the Teslarati website, Christian Prenzler got a close-up and personal look at Rivian’s California battery-development facility where the battery modules are being perfected.
Creating all the excitement, the 180 kilowatt-hour (kWh) "megapack" battery module stores 80-percent more energy than the battery pack in the already mentioned Tesla vehicles. In fact, Prenzler reports, the megapack holds enough energy to power a typical U.S. household for two weeks. This is the module delivering the estimated 410-mile range.
Also available are more affordable 105 kWh and a 135 kWh modules getting an estimated 240 miles and 310 miles respectively. Apparently Rivian has developed algorithms that use constantly monitored input, such as weather conditions, navigational data and the driver’s habits to optimize battery life.
The flat, watertight modules bolt to the vehicles’ frame, meaning they take no space from either the cabin nor the cargo area.
To date, Rivian has been tight-lipped about its sourcing of battery cells. What it has indicated is that its cell supplier is fully capable to meet Rivian’s current demand, as well as its growing future needs. With its supply of battery cells secure, the issue becomes manufacturing enough modules. Currently prototype modules are assembled at the Irvine, California facility. Eventually, however, module production will move to its permanent home in Rivian’s 2.6 million sq-ft plant in Normal, Ill. There module production will occupy roughly 300,000 sq ft.
Look for deliveries of the R1T and R1S electric vehicles late summer of 2020.