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One of them is simplicity of the Rivian design. Unlike Tesla's Cybertruck, the Rivian R1T is very traditional. Other reasons:

Now comes Rivian, another EV automaker from California (Southern California). They are going to enter this market with their own line of electric pickup trucks. The most noticeable difference with Tesla is the exterior design. Rather than an unconventional look, Rivian looks like your traditional pickup truck. From a consumer price point, the Rivian follows the same strategy Tesla used with the Model 3. You pre-order for $1,000 and pay the rest later. The final retail cost is a bit pricey ($69,000.00 USD) compared to traditional pickup trucks. That factors in the cost of the EV production, with the benefit of saving the costs for gas or diesel. The price is about right when compared to Tesla, but the Cybertruck has lower cost tiers for its single and dual motor models. The higher end Cybertruck is a tri-motor AWD model.

The Rivian’s pickup truck line R1T, introduce quad-motor all wheel terrain with independent air suspension and hydraulic roll control. It has a high capacity 180 kWh battery which was developed in-house. It has got a maximum towing capacity of 11,000 lbs., which actually still falls behind more powerful gas engine pickup trucks. The Ram Heavy Duty 3500, named Motortrend 2020 Truck of the Year, can tow 35,100 lbs, with a Hemi V8 engine. The best for towing though is the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD which can tow up to 35,500 lbs. with a Duramax diesel V8 engine. The Rivian units are still in prototype and expected for delivery around June 2021. That is plenty of time for things to develop and also for more competition.

Rivian is also making the R1S which is an SUV. It is the counterpart to the Model X, though it seems that R1S is more capable of heavy duty action. This is the market Rivian wants to capture as well, though there are already competing electric and hybrid SUV in the market from the likes of Audi and Jaguar. A full electric model though, is more the advantage of Tesla since the other automakers have released hybrids. This is what the R1S will be up against.

The Battery

We cannot talk about EV without discussing the battery. It’s well known that Tesla has the best proven battery technology for EV. They have a sophisticated cooling and management system BMS (Battery Management System), that is standard on Tesla’s models. While some automaker’s overheat, Tesla production units have performed very well. Tesla has plans for its “Million Mile Battery” which could further disrupt the auto industry as it pushes for more efficient battery design that can increase the range of existing batteries with less charging times.

Rivian’s battery uses a BMS to optimize cell performance and extend battery life. This would implement a form of machine learning model to allow the BMS software to learn how driver’s use and charge the pickup. They also place emphasis on all terrain driving by providing a proprietary underbody protection for the battery to prevent damage. This is a feature that will appeal to pickup truck enthusiasts because at times they drive off-road on rough terrain. This is your typical scenario on a ranch, farm or country road where a pickup truck is preferred because of its utility.

The 180 kWh battery can provide significant range. On Rivian’s website, the claim is a 400+ mile range for their battery. That is about 55.5 miles/ 25 kWh at a 400 mile range. Compared to the Cybertruck, which has a 250+ mile range. The superior range is advertising at best, but in reality there are many factors that can affect or limit the range. 400+ miles does give an idea of what the battery’s highest range is capable of. Anxiety range has been one reason car buyers reconsidered purchasing an EV, but now batteries are providing longer ranges and more availability of charging stations.

Charging Stations

The good thing about Tesla is they provide an international charging network for their customers. Rivian does not have that robust infrastructure yet, which they are still developing. They will have time before the 2021 launch to start building, because this is an essential part of an EV system. Rivian owners will not likely be able to charge at Tesla’s charging facilities because there is a difference between their models. They don’t follow a “plug-and-charge” standard quite yet or maybe never.

There are connector specifications for EV when it comes to chargers. Rivian uses CCS (Combined Charging System) for their EV, so it has a different connector from Tesla. It uses a Combo 1 and Combo 2 connector that can provide up to 350 kW for charging. Having the correct cables and connectors with a compatible charger is important for drivers to have, otherwise they won’t be able to charge their EV.

Rivian users can still charge their EV at home, but that takes longer than a fast charging station. Typically it would take hours using conventional AC outlets (110/120V). It gets a little faster at 220/240V, but is not as fast as that from a charging station. There are existing CCS charging stations Rivian owners can use, providing 150 kW to 350 kW in some places. At 150 kW charging, the battery can reach full at an estimated time of 1.2 hours. At 350 kW, the battery charging time is estimated at 30.8 minutes. Charging times do continue to improve with battery design, so these estimates can fall further.

Self-Driving Features

When you think pickup trucks, what usually comes to mind is mean, lean, towing machine capable of heavy workloads and reliable performance. The new generation of electric pickups offer even more. It brings the digital lifestyle to the pickup truck as well. Tesla can offer limited self-driving features (upgradeable to full SAE Level 5) along with various intelligent sensors that traditional pickup trucks don’t use. The Autopilot is coming standard with the Cybertruck.

The Rivian provides SAE Level 3 self-driving features. It has yet to be tested in the real world. Tesla’s Autopilot is not itself error prone, since it has had its unfortunate taste of accidents and even fatalities. Level 3 allows an intelligent system to take control with “conditional automation”. That means the driver can override the system and take control when they need to. With Level 3, the car can actually drive itself so the driver can take their hands off the steering wheel. The driver can then take back control by placing their hand on the steering wheel.

Rivian self-driving system is similar to Tesla, but more refined. Unlike Tesla, Rivian uses a sensor fusion that combines cameras, radar, GPS and ultrasonic sensors with LIDAR. Tesla does not use LIDAR on any of their line. The LIDAR allows the car to see in dark conditions using lasers. If Rivian proves their self-driving system meets the highest of standards in safety, then it reassures consumers.

Final Thoughts

The appeal to your average pickup truck user is the simplicity of the Rivian design. It looks familiar and not out-of-this world like the Cybertruck. We must not forget that we cannot judge a car by its exterior alone. Both electric pickups have advanced features that bring the power of electric motors and a more digital electronic system to the pickup truck. However, they have a long way to go to match up against traditional pickup trucks in terms of towing capacity and utility. More serious car buyers who really need to use a pickup truck for work purposes may still stick to the gas or diesel engine variety until electric pickup trucks have proven their value.
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