Electric truck maker Rivian scores $500 million investment from Ford

Rivian R1T

Rivian is working to get an all-electric pickup truck into production, and it’s getting help from the company that makes the best-selling pickup truck of all time: the F-150. Ford will invest $500 million in Rivian, and will use the company’s “skateboard” platform for a future electric vehicle. As part of the deal, Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of automotive, will join Rivian’s board.

Rivian turned heads at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show with its R1T electric pickup truck and R1S electric SUV. Both will be offered with multiple battery-pack options, but the biggest, 180-kilowatt-hour pack will offer 400 miles of range and 700 horsepower, according to Rivian. The company plans to build both vehicles at a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois, and deliver the first ones to customers in 2020. Pricing will start at $69,000 for the R1T, and $72,500 for the R1S.

Both vehicles are built on a so-called “skateboard” chassis, with all mechanical components housed within the chassis so that different bodies can be easily dropped on top to create new vehicles. General Motors coined the term for its early 2000s hydrogen fuel-cell concept cars. Because no mechanical components protrude above the floor, the skateboard setup frees up more space for passengers and cargo. The R1T and R1S feature large front trunks (as in a Tesla) where an engine would normally go, and the R1T has a pass-through built into the body.

Ford said it will use Rivian’s skateboard chassis for a new electric vehicle, but did not offer any other details. The automaker previously confirmed plans for two all-electric models: a “Mustang-inspired” crossover, and an all-electric version of the F-150 pickup truck.

Rivian has taken a different approach to other electric-car startups, which tend to focus on luxury sedans or sports cars in an attempt to emulate Tesla. That was originally Rivian’s plan as well, CEO R.J. Scaringe told Digital Trends at the 2018 reveal of the R1T and R1S, but the company changed course because Scaringe felt more rugged vehicles would make a greater impact. Rivian was founded in 2009, and development of the pickup truck and SUV started in 2011.

Investors seem to like Rivian’s focus on off-road vehicles. In addition to Ford, Amazon announced earlier this year that it would invest $700 million in Rivian. General Motors was also considering an investment, and wanted to use Rivian’s chassis for its own electric truck, reports Bloomberg, but negotiations between GM and Rivian broke down.

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