The fully electric 2021 Rivian R1T midsize pickup won’t go into production until at least next summer, but a preproduction model has just completed the off-road Rebelle Rally. Driver Emme Hall’s review proclaims the truck to be nothing short of game-changing.
While I’m going to spotlight a few of the technical details revealed in the first review of the 2021 Rivian R1T over on Roadshow, I encourage you to read the article in full. Hall’s complete and thorough impressions from a week with the truck were forged in some entertainingly harsh conditions.
Rivian entered a preproduction R1T pickup equipped with the optional 135-kWh battery pack, which is claimed to be capable of a 300-mile range (when the production trucks are meant to hit the streets next year). There are four electric motors, two at the front and two at the rear, capable of spinning the 34-inch Pirelli Scorpion tires with a combined 754 horsepower and 826 lb-ft of torque. Ground clearance maxes out at 14.5 inches with a 34.8 degree approach and 29.3 degree departure angle; the breakover angle is 25.7 degrees. As Hall points out, that geometry outclasses the current Ford F-150 Raptor and the new Ram 1500 TRX.
But the thing was heavy. The total weight of the Rebelle R1T fully stacked was at least 6,400 pounds, according to Hall. The truck started at 5,886 pounds and was decked out with camping gear for two, five liters of water, tools and a jack, two spare wheels with tires, and other spare parts. Maxtrax recovery boards for the shitfights were tucked in the “bed tunnel” that offers 11.7 cubic feet of storage. All of that definitely added some weight. The front trunk adds another 11.1 cubic feet of storage, and there’s a 4.5-foot bed hanging over the back.
Here’s how the Rivian’s air suspension — a potentially controversial option for an off-roading truck but perhaps necessary for such a heavily laden electric vehicle — managed the 1,200 mile, 10-day journey:
It’s worth mentioning that I’m usually a little wary of air suspensions during serious off-roading as I’ve seen them fail out in the wild more than once. But Rivian’s done a great job here. Full disclosure, though: Attacking some whoops a little too fast results in me bending a rear control link. Rivian assures me this truck has preproduction parts that aren’t fully dialed in, though. Swapping the part out takes less than two hours.
While we’ve tried to argue many times that electric range anxiety is not a big deal, and that most people don’t need more than 100 miles for the vast majority of their commutes, it’s a bit different when you’re in the middle of a 100-degree F desert and the electrons just ain’t flowing. From Hall:
Fortunately, there are times when I can use gravity to my advantage. On a number of downhill sections, I put the truck in Neutral and allow it to coast — free range, baby. Once the truck gets up to higher speeds I can drop it into Drive and tap the brakes to put some regenerative energy back into the battery. On one instance, I’m able to feed 19 miles worth of range back into the 135-kWh battery. On another stint, I recapture 10 miles. Going over the 17-mile-long Monitor Pass in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains only ends up costing me 8.6 miles of actual range. Sweet.
The regen braking setup is also handy in seriously dire situations because it enables the ability to tow-charge the R1T back to life by dragging it behind another vehicle and getting some electricity back in the battery.
Considering the extent of this “road test” and the limitations on charging infrastructure, uh, off-road, it was necessary to have a specialized support network just for the R1T. The Rivian was met along its journey at planned stops by a Power Innovations Mobile Energy Command semi truck. Capable of delivering a recharge at up to a 130 kilowatt rate, it replenished the battery to 80 percent of full in “about 30 minutes.” You can read more about how that worked in this breakdown from Hall on Roadshow.
A quick note on how charging off-road could work in the future:
Yes, I realize that Rivian drivers will not have a semi truck full of batteries following them around the desert for charging, but the automaker is planning to release its own charging infrastructure, called the Rivian Adventure Network. A quick search on plugshare.com shows that there are CCS charging stations near off-roading hot spots in California like Pismo Beach, Barstow, Lone Pine and Baker, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada.
I have cherry-picked a few of the finer details and extrapolations, specifically concerning some of the off-road capabilities of the Rivian R1T. If you want to read about what it’s actually like to drive over specific surfaces — like how it handles whoops at speed or Oldsmobile Hill, “one of the steepest climbs in Glamis” — give Roadshow your time. Hall is also completely forthcoming about the issues that plagued her journey, including an overactive seat heater. You’ll also find detailed notes of real-world range results from the trip. Spoiler: Off-roading EVs in a hot desert is not going to get you all of the 300 miles you were promised. Read more on Roadshow.