There are still concerns on how Rivian plans to develop its battery packs, but you can’t deny the company’s ambition

Electric vehicle start-up company Rivian made waves last year when it unveiled the Rivian R1T all-electric pickup and the R1S all-electric SUV. Today, Rivian is back in the news after revealing the 180 kWh battery pack it plans to use for both of its electric models. In so many words, this battery pack is huge. It’s so big that it’s been labeled the largest automotive battery pack…ever. The makeup of this battery pack includes a staggering 7,776 individual cells, and, according to Rivian, it should be able to offer a range of 410 miles, an extraordinary figure for any electric vehicle, let alone for a pickup and an SUV that are expected to be as large as they are heavy. In addition to the 180 kWh battery pack, Rivian is also developing a 105 kWh battery pack and a 135 kWh battery pack in what can only be described as a full-on flex to the entire industry.

Rivian Will Offer the Industries Largest EV Battery Pack

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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I don’t know what to make of this large battery pack because while there’s a part of me that thinks that Rivian can pull it off, there’s another part that has seen what happens when a start-up automaker calls its shot with its ambitious plans. We’ve already seen one too many stories of start-up brands make bombastic claims, only to fizzle out in the end. Faraday Future is one of the most recent cautionary tales of this, but it’s not just them, either. Countless of start-up automakers have walked down this road before, and while there are some success stories, by and large, a lot of these same start-ups are no longer around to tell their stories.

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Interior
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But, there’s something different about Rivian. Peel away all the skepticism and doubts about its future, and you’ll see a company that appears to be well-run, properly funded, and ambitious within reason. Automotive News painted a glowing picture of the company that makes you think that its plans are within reach if executed properly. Money, for example, looks like it’s flowing smoothly, thanks in large part to a $500 million investment from Ford and similar cash flows coming from other tech companies, including the biggest of them all, Amazon. If you’re a start-up automaker that’s looking to make a name for yourself in an industry of long-standing giants, you’re going to want to have companies like Ford and Amazon on your side.

Through these broad strokes, Rivian should have the resources to build the all-electric R1T pickup and RS1 SUV.

Executive leadership is also on stable ground as the company employs industry veterans with years of experience working for automakers like Ford, Jeep, General Motors, Lotus, and even McLaren. Most importantly, Rivian’s business approach of not overextending itself when it doesn’t need to is prudent and smart. At the very least, it’s the complete opposite of Faraday Future’s leadership, which made all sorts of promises without having the right infrastructure — and money — in place to see those promises through.

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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Still, as bullish as I am of Rivian, a 180-kWh battery pack is a huge promise, literally and figuratively. Consider this: Tesla’s 85 kWh battery pack contains 7,104 lithium-ion battery cells and weighs 1,200 pounds. Now, there are ways for Rivian’s engineers to address the weight of the battery pack, but we’re still talking about a battery pack that contains 7,776 cells, all of which are linked together. Suppose that Rivian can keep the weight of the battery pack to somewhere in the vicinity of 1,500 to 1,800 pounds, that’s almost a ton on the battery pack alone. The good news is that it’s not an impossible task. Let’s look at another all-electric SUV that just started production: the Mercedes-AMG EQC. The German automaker’s first-ever, mass-produced all-electric vehicle uses an 80 kWh battery pack that already weighs 1,377 pounds. That’s half the power of the battery pack that Rivian plans to use in its models and the weight difference isn’t as ridiculous as it looks. There’s also Audi and its e-Tron SUV, which uses a more powerful 95 kWh battery pack compared to the EQC. It also weighs over 1,500 pounds, which is one of the heaviest in the market today. Take it a step further and look at the Chevrolet Bolt’s 60 kWh battery pack. It’s a third of what the Rivian’s 180 kWh capacity, but it’s also not as light as you think with its 960-pound weight.

There’s a roadmap for Rivian to have its cake and eat it, too. It won’t be easy, but the automaker’s engineers would have to find a way to make weight-saving compromises somewhere else. It’d be easier to do in a sedan, but the R1T is a pickup, and the R1S is an SUV. There’s only so much you can do to keep weight manageable without making the actual vehicle look cartoonish.

Pickups of the R1T’s size typically weigh anywhere from 5,500 to 6,000 pounds.

It would take an impressive amount of engineering know-how to keep the vehicle’s weight low, knowing that almost a third of the weight comes from the all-electric powertrain.

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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Weight issues aside, Rivian also has to ensure that the battery pack runs as intended without something going wrong. Remember, it took General Motors three years to test the batteries — there were only 288 of them — and battery pack’s thermal management system for the Chevrolet Volt before the electric car went on sale. Granted, knowledge of battery packs have grown exponentially since the start of the decade, but have they grown to the point that Rivian can develop, test, and stake its reputation on a 180-kWh battery pack — the biggest of its kind in the auto industry — in the timeframe — 17 months — it has set before production of the R1T commences.

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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Perhaps Rivian has something up its sleeve to address these concerns. It’s not just about the sheer size of the battery pack; Rivian’s claim that the R1T could also come with a 410-mile single charge range opens up a lot of questions on how the company plans to achieve that high mark. Outside of battery sizes and energy outputs, range is one of the most important aspects of an electric car since it determines how far you can travel on a single charge before your EV starts running out of juice. In this regard, Rivian is promising an extraordinary number, especially when you consider that potential rivals for the R1S offer inferior numbers. Audi, for example, expects its SUV to possess 250 to 300 miles of range. Mercedes expects similar numbers — 277 to 293 miles — from the EQC.

On that end, the company filed for a patent to expand the energy capacity of the R1T and RS1.

The patent specifically detailed an auxiliary battery that can be added to the truck’s bed after it’s manufactured. According to Rivian, multiple connections, including integrated cooling circuits, will be placed in the front of the R1T’s truck bed. The auxiliary battery pack could then be connected to increase the energy capacity of the truck, at least on a temporary basis. Is this auxiliary battery included in Rivian’s promised 410-mile range? At the very least, there should be a connection — no pun intended — between the two.

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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While I’d love to see Rivian carry out all of its goals and promises, it’s still too early to dump all of our eggs on this basket. It all sounds great on paper, and to Rivian’s credit, it has shown that it’s taking all of this seriously. But there remains a lot of unrealized ambition behind the company’s plans for its R1T and RS1 SUVs so it’s only natural to remain skeptical and adopt a wait-and-see approach before we can buy what the company is selling, or at least plans to sell in the next few years.

By the numbers

Rivian R1T/R1S

Powertrain: 180 kWh battery pack; electric motors
System Output: 750 horsepower
0 to 60 MPH: 3.0 seconds
Top Speed: 125 mph
Range: 410 miles

Mercedes-Benz EQC

Powertrain: 80 kWh battery pack; electric motors
System output: 408 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 5.1 seconds
Top Speed: 112 mph
Range: 277-293 miles

Tesla Model Y

Powertrain: 100 kWh battery pack; electric motors
System output: 762 horsepower and 791 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 2.7 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Range: 325 miles

Audi e-Tron

Powertrain: 95 kWh battery pack; electric motors
System output: 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 MPH: 5.5 seconds
Top Speed: 124 mph
Range: Over 250 miles

Further reading

You Won't Believe How Historically Large the Rivian R1T's Battery Pack Will Be Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Rivian R1T Pickup.

Source: Auto News

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