How Rivian's Batteries Will Beat Tesla

Electric Car / Comments

The fledgling carmaker is taking a fresh approach to improving battery energy density.

Of all the myriad obstacles getting in the way of broader EV adoption by the motoring public, the low energy density of lithium-ion battery packs - especially relative to a tank full of gasoline - is perhaps the biggest. Electric motors are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, but that only gets you so far when an EV battery pack can contain just a small fraction of the amount of energy held by your average fuel tank.

It's a big deal, then, that electric vehicle startup Rivian has managed what might well be the industry's best battery energy density by volume. The key to that superior energy density, it turns out, is how Rivian solves the problem of battery cooling.

Rivian
Rivian
Rivian
Rivian

Rivian's Vice President of Propulsion, Richard Farquhar, recently explained the company's unique approach to Charged EVs, revealing that each of Rivian's standard battery modules has two layers with a cooling plate sandwiched in-between.

"That allows us to control the cooling of those cells... axially," he says. "We pull the heat out of the cell through its center, which is the most efficient way to do it, as opposed to radially. It allows us to pack those cells really close together," as there's no need to leave space for cooling channels between the cells.

The result, says Farquhar, is what Rivian believes is the most energy-dense EV battery module in the world. "It's about 20 to 25% greater energy density in watt-hours per liter compared to anything on the market today."

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Rivian
Rivian

Granted, while it's great for volumetric energy density, less clear is the impact that Rivian's battery module design has on energy density per unit mass. Even still, it's an impressive - and important - feat.

Each of Rivian's standard battery modules contains an impressive 21,700 cylindrical cells, tallying up to 15 kWh of total energy per module. Nine modules make up a "standard" 135 kWh battery pack, and twelve modules constitute a "premium" 180 kWh pack, "which gets us over 400 miles of range" on a single charge, Farquhar says. That's significantly more mileage than the current longest-range EV on the market, the Tesla Model S Performance, which is rated at 335 miles. And when it comes to the electric pickup truck wars, this could put Rivian at an advantage over the Tesla Cybertruck, as well.

Rivian plans to start production of its first pair of battery-electric vehicle offerings - the Rivian R1T pickup truck and Rivian R1S SUV - in late 2020.

Rivian
Rivian
Ross Martin

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