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L.A. Auto Show 2018: Start-up Rivian carves new niche for electric pickup trucks

L.A. Auto Show 2018: Start-up Rivian carves new niche for electric pickup trucks
The Rivian R1T pickup (Ben Moon / Rivian)

If you had the chance to design a new off-road ready pickup truck from scratch, what would you come up with? A U.S. start-up thinks the answer is obvious — make it electric and fit it with four torque-happy electric motors, one at each wheel.

The R1T pickup is one of two vehicles that Rivian plans to bring to the market in 2020. The other is a seven-passenger SUV.

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Rivian has its headquarters in Plymouth, Mich., and technology outposts in San Jose and Irvine. The vehicles will be assembled at a former Mitsubishi Motors factory in Normal, Ill., near Peoria – 20,000 a year for the first two years, and ramping higher after that, the company said.

In “stealth mode” since its founding in 2009, Rivian is headed by 35-year-old R.J. Scaringe, graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Automotive Laboratory.

Rivian says it will pack the truck with “up to” 180kWh’s worth of battery power, for a claimed range of more than 400 miles. Doing without a big internal combustion engine will provide more lockable storage space and more room for passengers.

A dedicated motor for each wheel creates “precise torque control for everything from low-speed rock crawling to high-speed cornering,” according to company marketers.

Prices will start at $62,000.

Electric vehicles have yet to prove themselves, even though all the big carmakers are jumping into the market, largely driven by government incentives and mandates in Europe, China and California. Tesla’s Elon Musk said the company is thinking about selling a pickup truck, but that’s still at the concept stage.

If Rivian stays on schedule, it’ll have a head start in the electric adventure niche, hoping to take full advantage if that customer segment proves large enough.

9:35 a.m.: The base price of the pickup truck was updated.

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