The sheer spectacle of Tesla’s Cybertruck unveiling, from the severe angles to the smashed windows, will go down as the biggest news in electric pickup trucks this year.
But a rival startup that has yet to deliver a single vehicle arguably had a more monumental 2019—and, in the end, may do more to create a market for these vehicles.
On Monday, Rivian announced it had raised $1.3 billion in its fourth funding round of the year, led by T. Rowe Price, bringing its total for 2019 to nearly $2.9 billion. Meanwhile, the company struck deals to produce 100,000 delivery vans for Amazon and provide technology that Ford will use to develop its next-generation electric vehicle. Both of those companies were also among Rivian’s major investors this year.
Rivian has been quietly developing vehicles for a decade, but it seized the industry’s attention in late 2018, when it unveiled a pair of eye-catching, high-end electric trucks. The R1T pickup and R1S SUV promised to be all-electric versions of what American consumers like: big, tough-looking trucks (but not necessarily postapocalyptic ones like Tesla’s). They’re built to handle off-road conditions and supposedly will run for more than 400 miles with an add-on battery. (Initial deliveries are slated for the end of 2020.)
But Rivian is pursuing a much bigger play here. The company’s own vehicles, as well as Amazon’s and Ford’s, will all be built upon the company’s so-called “skateboard” chassis. It packages together the battery, suspension, braking system, and mechanical components all below the height of the wheels, lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity. That improves handling and increases storage space, the company says.