Rivian Patents a Low-Range Gearbox for Electric Off-Roaders

The "mini gearboxes" would utilize a unique variable ratio and planetary gearset to match the low gearings of fellow off-roaders.

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A photo of an orange Rivian truck driving on a hill.
Classic Rivian, stuck without its low-range gearbox... for now.
Photo: Rivian

Are you one of the lucky people driving round in a shiny new Rivian electric pickup or SUV? Nice, aren’t they? While you’ve been driving it around town or heading out onto trails, have you wished for a bit more off-road performance? Well, Rivian might soon have an answer for you.

The EV startup is working on a new low-range gearbox for its future R1S SUV and R1T pickup truck models that could help improve your off-roading prowess whenever you wheels leave the tarmac. In Rivian’s current crop of electric off-roaders, this kind of party trick hasn’t been available to drivers. But, according to a patent unearthed by Autoevolution, the trick may come to Rivian’s cars one day soon. The site reports:

“Rivian designed a bolt-on mini-gearbox that attaches directly to every drive unit. Conveniently, it replaces the inner CV joints of the stock axles.

“Think of them as portal axles, only removable and with a variable ratio between 1.5:1 and 5.0:1. To offer such a high range, Rivian uses a planetary gearset and an actuator to engage or disengage the low range.”

A side view of a blue Rivian R1S electric truck.
Do you even off-road, bru?
Photo: Rivian

These mini gearboxes would allow the Rivian’s electric motors to run at a much lower speed, while also designed for advanced cooling to keep them running slower for longer. However, Rivian would need to fit one of these gearboxes to each motor, which would make the option potentially incredibly expensive for anyone looking to upgrade their quad-motor truck.


Of course, just because Rivian has patented the low-range tech doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to one day appear on one of their production trucks. But after Lexus alluded to a virtual gearbox for its EVs, and Rivian’s potential mini-gearboxes, the possibilities may seem endless as to where the gearbox will fit into the future of electric cars.