A blue Rivian R1T is shown driving on a dusty desert road.

Rivian Jump-Starts The EV Pickup Race

Even though the Rivian R1T all-electric pickup was first announced several years ago, well ahead of the models that are soon-to-be its competition, it was looking a bit dicey for this EV truck. There have been numerous delays for various reasons, and with the launch of the Tesla Cybertruck and Ford F-150 Lightning drawing ever closer, it seemed like one of them might make it to market first. Just recently, however, the first production R1T models have begun rolling off the factory line, and they’ll be heading out to customers soon.

This is a huge moment for Rivian for several reasons, not the least of which is that up to this point, they had never actually built a vehicle for customers. Sure, there were numerous test models, concepts, and previews, but up until very recently, you couldn’t say that Rivian had ever actually built a sellable vehicle. That’s all set to change, however, as their first trucks have not only been built, but they’ve received approval to sell their trucks throughout the US. This makes Rivian the first off the line in the race to see who will dominate the EV pickup market, but do they have the stamina to win the race?

What Is the Rivian R1T?

If you haven’t heard of Rivian or the R1T, then that’s not entirely surprising, though you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about them in the months and years ahead. Rivian is one of several startup auto companies looking to get into the EV market, hoping to rival the likes of Tesla. Although they’re not the only company that recently started, they’re certainly one of the biggest ones as they’ve already put together a deal with Amazon to build their all-electric delivery fleet.

The R1T is Rivian’s first vehicle: an all-electric pickup that has a familiar design, unlike the Cybertruck, but with enough unique touches and details to still set it apart. Since this is their first vehicle, a lot is riding on it, and they need a strong launch to help cement their place in the highly competitive auto industry. They need to hit the ground running, and the R1T is set to do just that. The launch edition has an EPA-estimated range beyond 300 miles from a full charge, with a 400+ mile version in development for release next year.

While the Ford F-150 Lightning has a dual-motor setup, and the Cybertruck can have from one to three motors depending on the model you choose, the initial R1T has a quad-motor (that’s four) system that lets it go from 0 to 60 in just 3 seconds and tow up to 11,000 lbs. Combine that with up to three feet of water fording capability, 14 inches of ground clearance, and goat-like rock crawling ability, and you’ve got yourself a truck that’s bound to get a lot of attention. Which it has – but not all of it has been for the right reasons.

The black interior dashboard and screens in a Rivian R1T are shown.

Plagued by Delays

So far, the story of the Rivian R1T has been that of a truck that’s been plagued by delays in its production and eventual release. Delays are frequently part of any new venture and certainly not uncommon in manufacturing, but this could be a bit of an “over-promise” situation, where they announced optimistic goals that they just weren’t set to realistically achieve. This is their first vehicle, after all, so there are undoubtedly a lot of growing pains to get through.

At least one of these delays was caused by issues with production, in particular with difficulties getting components for their trucks. I’m reminded of the problems that Ford has run into with their all-new Bronco and how the roofs are taking longer than expected to manufacture, slowing down delivery. Even a legend in the industry that’s been around for more than 100 years can run into these sorts of unexpected delays. On top of that, Rivian was undoubtedly impacted by the microchip shortage that has been borderline disastrous for the entire industry and that likely slowed down their production even further.

In addition to this, you can’t just make a car and sell it to someone for them to hit the open road – the auto industry has a lot of rules and regulations for safety, emissions, and other standards. Even though the Rivian R1T is an all-electric model, it still needed approval from the EPA to be sold in all 50 states here in the US. Similarly, certification from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also required for vehicles. Just last month, Rivian reported they had finally received all necessary certifications and approval in the US, which was a huge milestone that helped them finally begin production of the R1T.

Production Models Are Finally Coming Out

So, in September, Rivian’s employees celebrated as the first production model rolled off the factory, ready for sale to their customers. This was a huge moment for them for numerous reasons, not the least of which being that it marks the first R1T, and the first Rivian vehicle period, that can be sold. Support from investors, partnerships with other corporations, and stock sales are all great – but none of that really matters until you actually have a product you can sell, and now Rivian does.

The other major thing to consider here is that this means the Rivian R1T will start being delivered before any of their major competition hits the road. Since the R1T was first announced and Rivian has been going through all these growing pains to get it made, other companies like Tesla, Ford, and Chevrolet have announced and/or revealed their own all-electric trucks. While the R1T looks fantastic, there’s no denying that going up against an EV F-150 adds just a bit more pressure to the situation than they originally faced.

Of course, the Rivian R1T isn’t the first electric truck to ever be available – Ford made an EV version of the Ranger that was available from 1998 to 2002, while Chevy had the all-electric S10 for sale in 1997 and 1998. Those aren’t particularly long life spans, however, so while they may have been the first EV trucks in recent memory, they didn’t really make much of a splash or leave the impression that Ford and GM were serious about an EV pickup.

But in the modern race for EV truck domination, Rivian is now the first off the line, getting the jump on their competition. This is huge since they’re a startup that doesn’t yet have the kind of recognition that brands like Tesla, Ford, and Chevy have. There’s still a long road ahead for Rivian, especially since they haven’t yet delivered any of their models to customers, but this is a strong start.

A blue Rivian R1T with surfboards in the bed driving is down a road in a forest.

What Does This Mean for the Competition?

Will this head start give Rivian the advantage it needs to go up against the likes of Tesla, Ford, and others? Right now, it’s too early to say, but it will certainly help them carve out a part of the market that would’ve been a lot more difficult to claim in another six months or a year. There’s no denying that a lot of people are specifically interested in the Cybertruck and the F-150 Lightning rather than any other EV pickup. But folks who’re considering getting an electric truck without any particular brand loyalty yet will certainly be impressed by what the R1T has to offer. This head start could make the difference regarding which one they choose.