Rivian Preparing to Build EVs for Ford, Amazon, and Itself – New Partnerships Emerging


Tesla and Rivian are both modern automakers dedicated to producing only electric vehicles. Both bought mothballed conventional assembly plants to build their new vehicles. Both have reconfigured those facilities as they grapple with how to disrupt manufacturing as their vehicles have aimed to disrupt the auto industry.

One difference: While Tesla CEO Elon Musk spent nights in a sleeping bag at the end of the assembly line at the plant in Fremont, California, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe has the good sense to sleep in his own bed while overseeing the developing manufacturing process at his company’s plant in Normal, Illinois.

Rivian bought the Normal plant from Mitsubishi in 2017 for $16 million and is preparing it to make an interesting assortment of vehicles. So far, all Rivian prototypes have been built at the Plymouth Engineering and Design Center, but pilot-build vehicles will go down the plant line in the third quarter, with full production of the Rivan R1T five-passenger electric pickup starting in December.

About three months later, the Rivian R1S electric SUV, which has more content and a third row of seats, will roll off the same line. Scaringe says he wishes he could pull production forward but is mindful of the complexity. Also to be added to the factory’s mix: an electric luxury SUV for Ford and a fleet of large electric commercial delivery vans for Amazon, to be branded Prime.

The factory will have one line dedicated to building a skateboard chassis that all three brands will share—skateboard EV chassis bundle the battery pack(s), suspension, electric motors, and other hardware in a vertically short package so that various bodies can be attached. There will be another line tasked with assembling the three different battery packs Rivian will offer, and it will feed those directly to the skateboard-chassis line.

The Ford And Amazon EVs

Ford is designing its own so-called “top hat”—an EV-specific term for the vehicle bodies that use the skateboard architecture—for its high-end electric SUV, but since it will ride on the common architecture, features such as the company’s unique infotainment system must be designed to run on Rivian’s electrical systems. Scaringe would not say when Ford production begins, but design and engineering are locked in and ready to roll. “It’s a very different product from our own SUV, but it’s still in the SUV space,” Scaringe says. While Rivian is going after the adventure market, Ford will pursue luxury buyers, which leads us to deduce it will be sold as a Lincoln. Scaringe would not confirm this supposition, as it’s Ford’s announcement to make, he said. He did say the Ford SUV is “an impressive product, to say the least.”

The Amazon Prime vans will have access to the same three battery packs, and use the same electrical architecture and some drivetrains, as well as share some engine control units. To finish vehicles so wildly different in mission, there will be two separate final trim-assembly lines at the Normal plant. One will be a high-content line handling the Rivian and Ford products, while a second, low-content line will finish the Prime vans, which are essentially big, empty boxes to be filled with parcels.

Musk has said he wants to revolutionize the way vehicles are manufactured. He raised eyebrows with experiments such as his self-admittedly ill-thought robot he called the “flufferbot,” which proved to be more of a hindrance than a leap of efficiency in its attempts to place fiberglass mats atop battery packs. His firm also started building the Model 3 in a tent in 2018 to increase production. But with those experiments behind Tesla, production has normalized, and the automaker delivered a record 112,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Rivian’s Plant Plans

Scaringe is not necessarily trying to reinvent car building, but he says he has spent a lot of time thinking about how assembly should be done to meet the unique needs of the varied vehicles his company will build. Out of necessity, he’s mapping out the way the former Mitsubishi small-car plant should be laid out to handle its new disparate needs.

The original Mitsubishi plant was 2.6 million square feet, and Rivian has added another 400,000 square feet. Some aspects of the plant are still usable, including some stamping presses, but they needed modifications to handle the steel and aluminum used in the bodies of the delivery vans and the mostly aluminum bodies of the R1T and R1S—the latter need to be picked up via suction cups, not magnets, for example. Presumably, the Ford SUV will feature an aluminum body, as well, given that the company has embraced that strategy with its pickups and large SUVs.

The partnership with Ford has been helpful in this regard, Scaringe says. Ford spent billions revamping its plants to switch the current generation of F-Series pickups and large SUVs to aluminum construction, and the Dearborn-based company now makes about 1 million aluminum-intensive vehicles a year. Ford employees have been generous with their time and expertise in helping Rivian.

The existing paint shop at the Rivian plant had to be scrapped; designed for littler cars, it was many sizes too small. Scaringe could probably sell tickets to watch the new e-coating process that dips vehicle bodies to prevent corrosion.

Like BMW does at its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant, Scaringe wants vehicles to enter the tank and flip, end over end, four times, to prevent air bubbles that could lead to rust—picture that body ballet with a 30-foot-long delivery van. The plant ceilings aren’t high enough for this, though, so to solve the problem Rivian lowered the floor, digging an eight-foot pit with giant moorings to house dip tanks that stand about 33 feet tall. Scaringe thinks this makes it the world’s largest dip-process setup.

Rivian was founded in 2009 and has since grown to more than 1,800 employees. It could reach 2,500 or more by year’s end as hiring ramps up for the plant while the development team has continued to expand. The Plymouth headquarters is bursting at the seams. The cafeteria area is filled with desks until more office space on a mezzanine level is ready to house more workspace.

At the Normal plant, assembly will be on a single shift initially, but some areas, such as battery lines, will run a second shift.

The two Rivian models have 90 percent shared content—they are identical from the B-pillar forward—and were designed to have an identical build process for ease of assembly.

Normal has the capacity to make 264,000 vehicles a year. The Amazon contract is for 100,000, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said will be filled by 2024. The rest of the capacity is for Rivian and Ford vehicles. On the Rivian side, Scaringe thinks there will be greater demand for the pickup initially, but eventually, orders will be equal for the truck and SUV. And the Rivian lineup will expand.

Rivian – Electric Adventure Vehicles – For Those of You Who Wanted to See a Little More Why Amazon & GM are Considering Investing (MV $1B – $2B) – Video| Fully Charged


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Automotive startups always need to be viewed with a little caution, but as Jonny Smith (Fully Charged) discovers, Rivian have presented a very convincing launch. A large SUV and pick up truck at the LA motor show. Most impressive. (And probably why, Amazon and GM are considering investing in the EV SUV and Truck Start-Up – See Article Below)

Rivian is developing vehicles and technology to inspire people to get out and explore the world. These are their stories about the things they make, the places they go and the people they meet along the way.

 

Amazon, GM eye investment that would value Rivian at $1 billion to $2 billion, Reuters reports

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Rivian Automotive, which plans to build the nation’s first electric pickup trucks along with SUVs in Normal, is in talks about an investment from Amazon and General Motors that would value the company at between $1 billion and $2 billion, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The two companies may receive minority stakes in the Plymouth, Mich.-based startup in a deal that could be concluded and announced this month, Reuters reported, citing sources that asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

The sources noted the talks may fail to reach a deal, Reuters reported. But the Chicago Tribune is reporting “talks are progressing” and a deal could be announced as soon as Friday, citing an unnamed source. 

Amazon, General Motors and Rivian did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters. Normal (Illinois) Mayor Chris Koos and Mike O’Grady, interim CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday night. 

 

Rivian, which plans to hire as many as 1,000 employees to manufacture the “electric adventure” vehicles in the Twin Cities, unveiled a five-passenger pickup truck — the R1T — and the R1S SUV in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The vehicles are due in showrooms in late 2020.

 

“We’re launching Rivian with two vehicles that re-imagine the pickup and SUV segments,” Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe said in a statement at the time of the vehicles’ unveiling. “I started Rivian to deliver products that the world didn’t already have — to redefine expectations through the application of technology and innovation. Starting with a clean sheet, we have spent years developing the technology to deliver the ideal vehicle for active customers.”

The pickup, starting at $61,500, is expected to travel between 250 and 400 miles on a single charge, depending on the model, and is expected to tow up to 5,000 kilograms, or more than 11,000 pounds. The SUV, starting at around $70,000, can travel up to 400 miles on a single charge, said the company, and has a towing capacity of 3,500 kilograms.

Rivian, which received performance-based incentives from state and local governments, paid $16 million for the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant on Normal’s west side in 2017.

Town officials said in November that Rivian had already exceeded its benchmarks for a full property tax abatement at the plant for 2018, investing $10 million and employing 35 people. The plant had 60 workers at the time. Rivian had about 600 workers at the time across not only Normal but also facilities near Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

The company was required to hire 500 locally and invest $40.5 million by the end of 2021 to receive hundreds of thousands in local tax breaks, plus a $1 million Normal grant, and plans to hire 1,000 locally over a decade to receive about $50 million in state income tax credits. Koos said in November the company may employ 500 when it reaches full production in 2020. “It will never be as populated as the Mitsubishi plant, but it’ll certainly be high production,” said Koos.

 

Mitsubishi employed about 3,000 in Normal at its peak. The plant had 1,200 employees when it ceased production in November 2015.

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Learn More About Rivian Here: Video Presentation

 

 

 

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