Before 2018 Rivian was an electric vehicle brand very few people knew even existed. The reason being, Rivian had been operating in ‘stealth mode’ since 2009. Yes, while Rivian is technically a start-up company, a lot has been going on behind the scenes for over a decade. Rivian delivered the first R1T vehicles to employees in late 2021. Essentially an electric pickup truck, or as Rivian refers to it, an ‘adventure vehicle’ the R1T has some impressive specs. For instance, the R1T is rated to tow a trailer up to 11,000 lbs.
Key Rivian R1T Specs
- Official Towing Capacity – 11,000 lbs
- Availablility – Now
- Price – Starting $67,500 (Explore) > $73,000 (Launch Edition/Adventure)
- EPA Range – 314 miles
- Estimate Towing Range (50%) – 157 miles
- Maximum DC Charge Rate – 190kW (Currently)
Rivian R1T HP & Torque
- AWD with 835 HP & 908 lb-ft of torque
Rivian R1T Towing Capabilities
While Rivian maybe a start-up that has only just started its first vehicle deliveries, there is good reason to take Rivian seriously with its electric vehicle efforts. First off as stated above, they have been developing their skateboard platform the R1T is based on since 2009.
Furthermore, Rivian has some serious investment behind them from the likes of Amazon as you can read about here. Part of that Amazon deal is for Rivian to produce 10,000 electric delivery trucks to be on the road by 2022 as you can read about here.
Impressive Extreme Weather Towing Tests
If you have read my articles on the likes of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Jaguar I-Pace you will know I get very disappointed with manufacturers not considering towing as a functionality of their vehicles.
However, with Rivian as you can see below they have taken the towing capabilities of the R1T seriously with some extreme weather testing in Death Valley.
If you want the full details on the R1T towing test I would recommend reading the full Rivian blog article. Below I’ll just quickly run through how the test was conducted and how the R1T performed.
So right at the start of the video you hear the Rivian guys talking about “1,500 amps for a minute or two straight“. The point their making is towing, and especially towing in those extreme conditions really puts the battery and its cooling system to the test.
Rivian conducted the towing test in the R1T over the Davis Dam Cycle which is effectively the test to prove the towing credentials of a vehicle. The test was not only to see how the battery management/cooling system held up but to see if the car at the same time maintain a reasonable cabin temperature.
Rivian even tested how the R1T would perform towing over the Dumont Sands. I don’t believe many people would/should try towing with any vehicle over-sand. However, its good to see that Rivian is really trying to test the R1T to its limits to see what its actually capable of in the real-world.
R1T Towing Consumption/Range Figures
Within the Rivian towing test video above there are no specifics on battery consumption per mile or detailed range figures while towing. However, within the blog article, it is stated that “We generally see about a 50% reduction in range when towing at full capacity.“
That 50% range reduction is to be typically expected when towing with an EV, though it can be more or less depending on the specific trailer in terms of its weight/aerodynamic profile and also the terrain/elevation changes.
If Rivian did record a 50% range reduction with that particular 30-foot/11,000 lb trailer in those extreme hot weather towing tests I find that very impressive. That boxy cargo trailer has pretty much the worst aerodynamic profile you can have on a trailer.
Hence, factor in the high temperatures, just a 50% range reduction would actually be very efficient. However, below we now also have our first example of real-world towing with the Rivian R1T.
Rivian R1T Real-World Towing Example
In late 2021 Rivian started their first deliveries of the R1T to employee reservation holders. One of those employees relocated from one side of the US to the other and I decided to take their Mustang along for the ride.
Below is a video from the Fast Lane Truck summarizing the journey from Instagram posts that were made. The total weight of the trailer with the Mustang on the back appears to have been around 6,500 lbs.
The owners towed with the R1T a total of 2,700 miles using the Electrify America rapid charging network, hence this was an extensive test of not only the truck’s capabilities but also a test of the rapid charging facilities.
It appears the owners were driving around 100 miles between rapid charging sessions. While the Rivian from full to empty can likely tow closer to 157 miles, you wouldn’t use the truck that way. The couple were stopping at around 16% charge and leaving the rapid charger at around 80% charge.
What is also discussed in the video above is the current issue with DC rapid charging stations not being designed for an electric car/truck to use when towing (blocking other chargers). This issue needs to be resolved at all DC rapid charging stations to provide longer drive through charging bays.
R1T Mysteries Remain…
While the first versions of the R1T with its 130kW battery pack are now in customers hands, there are still questions about how fast the R1T can charge at under ideal conditions and also potential battery upgrade rumours.
Maximum Charge Rate of 180 or 300kW?
First, let’s discuss the maximum charge rate. As an electric tow car/truck generally loses half its range when towing, getting power back into the battery pack when charging is more important than under normal driving circumstances.
Back in 2019, Motortrend compared the Rivian R1T and Tesla Cybertruck stating the R1T would support a 160kW charger, which would be quite a bit down on the Cybertruck supporting a 250 kW+ charging system.
However, InsideEVs reported in June 2020 that a patent has suggested the Rivian R1T will support up to 300kW charging, making it much competitive to the Cybertruck.
Though, even if some versions of the Rivian R1T can charge at up to 300kW it may be hard to do so for several years after the R1T launches. Rivian owners will be dependant in most cases on the public charging network. However, Rivian is also developing its own charging network called the ‘Adventure Network’.
Now, from the details known about the Rivian Adventure Network its not intended to be as vast as the Tesla Supercharger Network. Maybe in the future, who knows. The main emphasis appears to be to place these fast chargers in remote locations close to National Parks etc where existing public charging is currently limited at best.
Therefore, if the Rivian R1T and R1S end up being able to charge at up to 300kW I would expect Rivian to be including those chargers in their Adventure Network. Hiring previous Tesla employees who have worked on the Supercharger network is a smart move on Rivian’s part.
Expandable Battery Capacity?
So you may have noticed in the key vehicle specs for the R1T and any electric tow car I write about I don’t specify/emphasize the battery capacity.
This is not an oversight, its deliberate, and I’ll be writing a future post going into detail as to why. But quite simply, its not a good idea to compare electric cars on battery capacities.
Why? Well for a couple of reasons. First, the stated capacity is not always ‘usable’ capacity. Second, the efficiency of electric vehicles varies between manufacturers and models.
Some electric cars consume more electrons than others (Audi E-Tron cough, cough). Hence, battery capacity is not a good indicator of range, I prefer to reference EPA test figures once available for range instead.
Having said all of the above, the battery capacity of the Rivian R1T is getting interesting. First, back in 2018 when the R1T was first announced it was stated to have a 180 kWh battery pack and go 400+ miles in some versions.
Well, the launch version is set to go 300+ miles, hence, it appears its fitted with a 130 kWh battery. It looks like that 180 kWh battery pack is coming in later versions. But what about a removable auxiliary battery pack?
Thedrive.com reported about the patent that Rivian has secured for a removal auxiliary battery pack originally filed in 2019. This removable battery pack would sit in the rear bed and not only link up to the battery management systems but also the cooling system for the main battery pack within the R1T.
Interesting stuff, and could definitely come in handy to help address range concerns when towing. Who knows, Rivian might even be considering auxiliary battery pack swaps/renting at their Adventure Network stations?
My Thoughts On The Rivian R1T…
I think the Rivian R1T has a lot of potential to be an excellent electric car/truck, but particularly as an electric tow car/truck. Yes, the R1T will face tough competition from the Tesla Cybertuck in many regards which will potentially be cheaper, have a higher towing capacity and have access to the widely available Supercharger Network.
However, not everybody wants to own a Tesla, and many people are not fans of the looks of the Cybertruck. Therefore, the Rivian R1T is good competition, it will appeal to those who are interested in a more ‘normal’ looking’ electric truck that is still very capable, especially when it comes to towing.
Yes, the current version of the Rivian R1T as shown in the real world example video above currently needs to stop for charging around 100-130 miles, but that was with a pretty heavy trailer. Longer range Rivian vehicles are already set to be coming which should push the towing range closer to 200 miles.
What is going to be interesting is to see how the Ford F-150 Lightning compares to the R1T when it comes to real world range and towing range. Though, it should be noted the Rivian is a smaller/lighter truck, so they are not directly comparable on size.