Electric vehicle brand Rivian is giving its truck buyers a second choice of powertrain, and Newsweek’s Autos team was one of the first publications allowed to get behind the wheel.
The Rivian R1T electric van was created with a configuration with four motors (one for each wheel). The new R1T Dual-Motor and R1T Dual-Motor Performance models will offer more range and almost the same power.
These powertrains will also form the basis of Rivian’s next series of products under the R2 name.
“The dual motor is really a big step for us because it’s where we fully integrate all aspects of driving. With the quad motor setup, we built the power electronics, the inverter, as well as the gearbox and the complete assembly, but we purchased a rotor and stator,” said Tim Fallon, vice president of manufacturing operations at Rivian. News week.
“But with the enduro, it’s just one drive unit per axle. And that represents an opportunity for us to not only cut a lot of cost, but more importantly still deliver a lot of performance and efficiency.”
The Rivian R1T, on sale since September 2021, is smaller than full-size trucks like the electric Ford F-150 Lightning and the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV. Still, those considering the Rivian, at a base price of $73,000, will almost certainly buy the $50,000 Ford option. If they’re buying the R1T as a lifestyle vehicle, they might also consider the more expensive ($108,700) GMC Hummer EV.
The new twin-motor transmission will be built at the normal Rivian plant in Illinois (formerly a Mitsubishi plant), purchased in 2017 for $16.5 million. It now employs 7,000 people working on its truck, R1S SUV and electric delivery van.
The Dual-Motor R1T is built in 620,000 square feet of expansion space. Rivian says it can now produce 150,000 vehicles a year, the same as the new Lotus assembly plant in Wuhan, China.
The normal plant’s solar charging farm provides 738 kilowatts (kw) and a new wind turbine adds 2.8 megawatts, which means that each twin-engine (and quad-engine) truck will leave the factory with a battery full of clean energy.
The Rivian Dual-Motor R1T (starting at $73,000) will offer three battery sizes, including Standard (270-mile range), Large (352-mile range), and Max (410-mile range).
These mileages are very slightly dependent on tire choice and the standard battery is not available in the Performance model.
The R1T can charge at speeds of up to 200 kilowatts and can regain up to 140 miles of range in 20 minutes on a DC fast charger. A Level 2 home charger adds about 25 miles per hour of charge.
“The most important thing is that we have a dynamic disconnect in the drive unit. What that allows us to do is operate in a more efficient single-axle driving mode. So when you are on the highway or when you are cruising at 40 miles per hour (mph) the rear unit actually shuts off it does this dynamically which is different from what we have in our Quad engine where you select the Conserve drive mode to enable single-axle cruise,” Fallon said.
The R1T twin engine delivers a total of 533 horsepower (hp) and 610 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. Dual-motor performance bumps that power up to 665 hp and 829 lb-ft and cuts the zero-to-sixty time from 4.5 seconds to 3.5. These numbers are only slightly lower than the Quad-Motor version, but with more efficiency.
Currently, Rivian doesn’t offer a software upgrade to the Performance model ($84,000), but hasn’t ruled out the possibility.
News week took the wheel of the truck on the test track behind the hub in Rivian, Illinois. There are a few routes on the property, including a paved loop and an off-road loop, both designed to test the handling of the R1T and R1S.
The R1T Dual Motor’s performance, both when stopped and when starting, seemed only marginally faster than the Quad-Motor version, which was also available for testing. Around that cobbled oval, at 40mph and in single engine mode, staying on the throttle caused the R1T to hiccup for a split second before the rear engine fired up and carried it away in a woosh .
The Quad-Motor basically does the same thing but without that split-second problem. Speeds weren’t fast enough on the test track to dynamically test the Dual-Motor Performance R1T, but it has the same weight distribution as the faster variant, meaning it stays level even in the turns.
On the off-road course, the R1T Dual-Motor Performance has been set to off-road driving mode, which increases the ride height (it has a minimum of 7.9 inches and a maximum of 14.4 inches) and prepares the traction control for dirt. It also has Snow, Tow, All Purpose and Sport modes. The Dual-Motor comes with the same except for no Sport mode.
In this off-road mode, the R1T easily cleared some concrete tubes buried in the dirt from different angles. He showed off his comfort of articulation when the truck was twisted through undulating terrain and was nearly unstoppable on the 25-foot climb.
The hill was composed of broken concrete and foot-high rocks. The twin-motor Rivian scratched the broken surface with ease. It stops periodically to determine which tires to send power to, but as long as the driver slowly adds pressure to the throttle, the truck climbs for as long as its tire grip allows.
The Quad-Motor version is impervious to terrain, clearing obstacles with a little tire slip but no braking noise. The dual-motor R1T varies rear torque via the brakes; the Quad-Motor controls each wheel independently.
The interior of the Dual-Motor R1T is identical to that of the Quad-Motor, i.e. two main screens including a 12-inch driver cluster and a main 15-inch infotainment screen (with navigation settings , air conditioning and comfort). The leather steering wheel has redundant buttons and the digital instrument panel shows cars and people on the road around the driver like a radar.
The dashboard features wood accents with vegan seats and floor mats that can be hosed down. It has a ton of USB-C ports and 12-volt chargers, plus a few 110-volt outlets. Alexa and Spotify are standard. Every Rivian comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot and a Camp speakerphone that can be removed from the system and used via Bluetooth.
The Ford F-150 Lighting offers more utility than the more expensive Rivian, but the R1T offers more power and a chic, modern look. It’s also a little smaller, allowing it to fit tighter trails, and it has better reach, at least in some variants.
Among the intangibles is the prestige (some might call it the “stigma”) that comes with owning a vehicle from an automaker new to the game.
More buyer options and new product offerings will help make Rivian increasingly competitive and worthy of consideration for new car buyers.
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