Rivian R1T – What Can It Tow?


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Before 2018 Rivian was an electric vehicle brand very few people even knew 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 is set to release its first vehicle the R1T in the summer of 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 will be rated to tow up to 11,000 lbs.

Rivian R1T
The Rivian R1T will be rated to tow trailers up to 11,000 lbs: Image – Rivian.com

Key Rivian R1T Specs

  • Official Towing Capacity – 11,000 lbs
  • Availablility – Summer 2021 – 2022
  • Price – Starting $67,500 (Explore) > $75,000 (Launch Edition/Adventure)
  • Estimated Range – 300+ miles (Rivian Claim)
  • Estimate Towing Range (50%) – 150 miles (Based on Rivian Claim)
  • Maximum Charge Rate – Unconfirmed (potentially up to 300kW)

Rivian R1T HP & Torque

  • Yet to be confirmed.

Rivian R1T Towing Capabilities

While the R1T is yet to be tested by automotive journalists and it won’t be in the hands of customers until the summer of 2021, the Rivian R1T will likely be the first electric truck available to the public. The Tesla Cybertruck is not predicted to be available until late 2021 at the earliest, the same is true for the GMC Hummer EV. Other electric trucks from Bolinger Motors and Lordstown Motors will be sold to commercial customers first, with vehicles offered to the public potentially later on.

While Rivian maybe a start-up which has yet to sell any of its products to the public, there is good reason to take Rivian seriously in their electric vehicle efforts. First off as stated above, they have been developing the 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.

Will that Amazon electric delivery truck deal take time/effort away from getting the R1T to market on time? Maybe, the release date of the R1T has been pushed back previously, but that was likely due to the impact from a certain virus. Furthermore, the electric delivery trucks, the R1T pickup and its sister R1S SUV all share the same motor/battery skateboard platform. Anyway, enough with all that, what will the R1T be able to tow when it gets released? Well, an 11,000 lb towing capacity will make the R1T the most capable electric tow car/truck since the Tesla Model X.

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 are taking the towing capabilities of the R1T seriously with some extreme weather testing in Death Valley.

Rivian hot weather towing test with the R1T and a 30-foot trailer weighing 11,000 lbs

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 could 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, until we see some more towing tests with the R1T with specific test result data we will not know how efficient the R1T is while towing.

R1T Mysteries Remain (Charge Rate/Power/Battery Capacity)

While we now know pricing for the R1T for its release version and cheaper Explore version coming in 2022, there is still a lot about the Rivian R1T which has yet to be confirmed, and all have an impact on the towing capabilities/practicality of the vehicle. For instance, Rivian has not stated the horsepower or torque figures. However, that doesn’t concern me at all, any pickup truck which can accelerate to 60mph in 3 seconds is not lacking on power for towing. What interest’s me more from a towing perspective is the lack of specifics on the maximum charge rate and battery capacity.

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 the Rivian 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’.

Quick video on the upcoming Rivian Adventure Network for remote fast charging

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 can really charge 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 on 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 manufactures 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 180kW battery pack and go 400+ miles. Well, the launch version is set to go 300+ miles, hence, I don’t think it actually features that 180kW battery. It looks like that 180 kW battery pack is coming in later versions. But what about a removable auxiliary battery pack?

Rivian Auxiliary Battery Pack
Will Rivian be offering a removable auxiliary battery pack for the R1T?: Image – thedrive.com

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.

From a towing perspective, if Rivian can provide 300kW charging at their Adventure Network charging stations, potentially with some auxiliary battery pack options that could really help to reduce range anxiety concerns when towing. After viewing the hot weather testing video above and the general specifications of the Rivian R1T I’m pretty convinced it will be a highly capable electric tow car. I have more concerns over its sister SUV the R1S, though I’ll get into that in its separate article.

Chris

Hi, I’m Chris. I own and write all the content on ElectricTowCars.com. The content above is purely my own personal thoughts/opinions/research and should not be treated as professional advice. I hope you find the content above useful to help you find your future ideal electric tow car or truck.

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