More than a decade after its founding, Rivian is finally just about ready to produce.
Electric vehicle startup Rivian has had a long road to production. Founded back in 2009 by CEO Robert "RJ" Scaringe, who holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from MIT, the company has yet to sell its first EV, subsisting largely on sizable cash injections from Ford Motor Company and Amazon.
That's set to change later this year, when Rivian finally starts production at its Normal, Illinois plant - formerly operated by Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi. Pilot builds will start in the third quarter of 2020, Motor Trend reports, with full production of the Rivian R1T electric pickup truck launching in earnest this December. The Rivian R1S - a heavily related electric SUV - will follow about three months later. This is the most definitive timeline that's so far been reported.
It's been a long time coming for the electric vehicle startup, which has generated a lot of publicity in its more-than-a-decade of existence. Scaringe has expressed his wish that he could move production up, but the CEO is cognizant that automobile production is a complicated thing; rushing things often ends in tragedy.
In that way, Scaringe arguably stands in stark contrast to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is well known for grand, optimistic promises on which Tesla often fails to deliver.
Rivian's Illinois plant will have an entire line dedicated to producing the "skateboard" chassis that will underpin all of its battery-electric vehicles for the foreseeable future, including the luxury SUV it will build for Ford and the Prime-branded delivery vans it's agreed to build for Amazon.
The concept of the "skateboard" chassis, which packages together the battery pack, drive motors, suspension, and other components, is nothing new; General Motors toyed with a similar idea back in the early-2000s. It provides a compact, ready-made platform onto which any number of different automotive body styles can be grafted, cutting development costs and leveraging economies of scale to keep EV prices controlled - at least in theory.
According to Motor Trend, a separate line at Rivian's Normal, Illinois plant will assemble the company's range of three different battery packs. Two more lines - one "high-content" final trim-assembly line to handle assembling the Rivian- and Ford-branded vehicles, and a "low-content" one to assemble the Prime vans - will also occupy the factory.
In short, look for the first production Rivian R1T pickups to hit the road right at the tail end of 2020, and Rivian R1S SUVs a couple of months into 2021. Timing for the launch of Ford's luxury electric SUV is still TBA.