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Amazon-backed Rivian says Australia a target for all-electric utes

Written by Bridie Schmidt / The Driven / 19 February 2019

CEO and founder of electric vehicle startup Rivian, RJ Scaringe, has said that he considers Australia is an important market for his EV company, firming up reports of the company’s intention to create a right-hand drive version of its rugged all-electric SUV, the R1S, and the R1T ute.

The comment, which was made on Twitter in response to a query from Tim Washington, the CEO of Australian-Based EV charging company Jet Charge, follows news that internet giant Amazon is investing $US700 million ($A980 million) in the EV startup.

As Washington points out, Australia is a perfect fit for Rivian’s EVs which are what it calls “the world’s first electric adventure vehicles”.

And so it seems, does RJ Scaringe:

It’s not just idle talk either; Washington believes a real opportunity exists for Rivian in Australia, where made-to-last, rough-and-tumble vehicles form part of the country’s psyche.

“We’re really excited to see a company like Rivian considering coming to Australia,” Washington tells The Driven.

“Our two best sellers are the in Australia are Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, both of those being dual cabs. Amarok, Navarra, Triton are all staples …. which means Australia has a love affair with dual cabs,” he says.

Washington draws a comparison between Rivian’s R1T pickup (ute), and says that the fact that Rivian are offering their all-electric vehicles with up to 800kWh batteries and 600km range is significant.

“Rivian’s story is all about electric adventure, and almost one of the final barriers to mass EV uptake [in Australia] is the Australian dream to drive where ever you want, we want to go camping and go offroad,” he says.

“We have this perception of a big brown land and freedom associated with motor vehicles, more so than other countries – we are more like the US in that regard.”

The dreams of freedom and adventure that are embedded in a brand like Rivian could be a game-changer for Australians that want long range electric vehicles – but the size of the batteries also fills other needs, such as powering camping kit such as kettles, lights and so on.

“Rivian will have 180kWh batteries (which would need to be kept charged at campsites) – you don’t need a big campervan or trailer, you can just use your car,” Washington says.

Of course, that’s where companies like Jet Charge come in – for Washington, the prospect of a company like Rivian bringing EVs to Australia highlights the need for ultra fast chargers.

“With the first 350kW units are starting to go in, it comes at the perfect time,” he says.

“We want Rivian to consider having Australia as one of their first markets.”

With distinctive oblong headlights and no-nonsense solid design, the R1S and R1T that Rivian says boast an incredible 370-660km range depending on battery option (105 kW, 135kW or 180kW battery packs are on offer), and good torque that starts at 560Nm for even the lowest spec’d model.

Add to that a 5000kg towing capacity for the R1T ute and 3,500kg for the R1S SUV – plus a wading depth for both of 3 feet – and you have a pretty good setup for some offroad adventuring right there.

The Rivian R1S. Source: Twitter/Rivian

While Rivian is still a little known name for many, it does look like big things are on the horizon for the company which first hit the media spotlight last November when it launched its electric SUV and ute (referred to in the US as a pickup) at the 2018 LA Auto Show.

The deal with Amazon brings Rivian’s total fund raising to date to around $US1.15 billion ($A1.6 billion), and will enable the EV startup to cement strategic relationships that will be valuable as it works towards a scale-up.

“We will bring on additional partners, but less because of capital reasons and more because of a need to have strategic relationships as we scale towards our broader vision,” said Scaringe, per Bloomberg.

Rivian are also in talks with GM reportedly, although further details about that are under wraps until an agreement is reached – if this happens, it could balloon Rivian’s value to $US2 billion, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg.

The Rivian R1T. Source: Twitter/Rivian

When will Rivian make it here, though? Washington says that while pre-orders for Australia were supposed to open last year, this still has not eventuated on the Rivian website.

Both are still for the moment available for pre-order in the US, and only (of course) in left-hand drive – there is no firm pricing yet for either vehicle.

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