IDTechEx Research: Rivian Electric Truck Company Overblown?

Those desperate to invest in “The next Tesla” continue to pile into start-up Rivian, the latest $350 million coming from a media company. That takes investment up to the $2 billion level familiar at Tesla. The IDTechEx report, “Electric Vehicles 2020 – 2030” gives the full picture. 

To over-simplify, Rivian has demonstrated a pickup truck with exceptional handling due to four near-wheel motors and exceptional range due to a larger battery. It will sell pure-electric pickup trucks with Tesla and others close behind. So is it a Tesla killer?

Tesla-levels of advanced technology are not obvious in Rivian’s revealed product, though they may be in stealth mode. Volkswagen has said that it does not have the full technical repertoire of Tesla yet. Ian Collins, director of development at Polestar UK, a Geely company, says of Tesla “They are far ahead of everyone else”. So do the tear-down experts.

In part, Tesla are global leaders because Mercedes, Jaguar, Audi and others did not choose aspects they could easily incorporate in favour of conventional design, such as lowest drag factor shapes. The revealed Rivian design does not appear to be low drag factor either.

Not having the best powertrain efficiency (power electronics, wireless board signals, highest efficiency motors etc) compounds the problem for existing car makers, so range and performance for a given price is usually not competitive. No one pretends any more that Mercedes, Jaguar or Audi have Tesla killers on offer yet.

But is Rivian leapfrogging what Tesla will eventually achieve in pick-up trucks? Axial flux in-wheel motors for highest power-to-weight ratio and, with solar bodywork, longer range with less battery? Well no. That is the new Light year One car with its Tesla beating drag factor (though Lightyear has a cost problem).

Automotive startup Rivian

Rivian’s battery pack is housed in a unique structural shell made from carbon composite that reduces weight and is sealed to be completely waterproof. Once the pack is installed in the chassis, the vehicle gets an additional full-length skid plate designed to prevent the intrusion of foreign objects into the pack. Rivian has the massive 100,000 Amazon delivery truck order and it is still planning on putting its truck into production in 2020 with the SUV to follow shortly after, initially with only the largest 180 kWh battery pack. Such a huge battery gets the exceptional range instead of low drag factor, better light-weighting, motor efficiency etc. This makes Rivian highly exposed to battery cell supply shortages.

Chairman of IDTechEx Dr Peter Harrop says, “We are not negative about Rivian. Like everyone else we wait to hear what defendable on-going uniques it possesses. Global car sales declined for the first time since the economic crisis last year, yet Tesla is capturing business at the $20 billion level in 2019 and growing. Equally impressive, BYD of China has taken leadership in pure-electric buses worldwide and pure-electric cars in China, making its own batteries, something Tesla is planning. Given the perfect storm coming in cars it is important who wins in buses and full trucks more than pickup trucks. Rivian has chosen a good starting point from a US point of view.”

IDTechEx is the only analyst company in the world following the electrification of 100+ electric vehicle segments. Looking beyond the battery-electric car movement, it is our position that an equally inevitable transition is taking place, not only with alternative vehicles, but also with alternative forms of powertrain.

 

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