In 2016, when Rivian was still hiding in the shadows and quietly building the world’s first electric off-road vehicles, Larry Parker, creative director for the brand, got inspired by outdoor adventure photographer/filmmaker and author Ben Moon. Parker liked the feel of Moon’s surfing and climbing images, and he liked Moon’s personal story and his relationship with his dog, Denali, in the viral film by the same name. So Parker reached out to Moon on Instagram to gauge his interest in working for Rivian. Months later, they met at the Dawn Wall premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, where Moon introduced Parker to Alex Honnold. The two have since become ambassadors for the brand and star in film shorts featuring the Rivian 2021 R1T truck with Moon surfing and Honnold climbing.
“We’re all about getting out of the city and going where you want,” Parker says. “Most people think of electric vehicles for going to work, not traveling on the weekends.”
Outdoor Business Climate Partnership reports that the outdoor recreation business sector, representing climbers, anglers, mountain bikers, skiers, and more, is an $887 billion industry with jobs for 7.6 million people. Rivian is entering this outdoor space by making the world’s first electric four-wheel-drive vehicles.
“The outdoor industry is massive now; it’s no longer a fringe market,” Moon says from his house on the coast of Oregon. “When I was first climbing (more than 20 years ago), it was a fringe thing.”
Moon’s Climbing in Tahoe video, above, shows Honnold and his fiancée Sanni McCandless using the R1T truck to access vertical granite in Lake Tahoe, California. “With Rivian, I can use an electric vehicle in the way I need it,” Honnold says. “And it’s silent. All you hear is the crunch of tires and nothing else. Plus, it has instant torque.”
“They sponsor me as an athlete because I’m right in the sweet spot of who they’re focusing on,” Honnold adds. “They also sponsor the Honnold Foundation. I think that’s the beauty of the partnership.”
The Honnold Foundation provides solar energy solutions worldwide. The Power of Second Life Batteries video shows the nonprofit working with second-life Rivian car batteries to power a micro-grid in Puerto Rico.
The R1T truck, starting at $69,000, is equipped with a 750-horsepower motor and can haul 11,000 pounds, can go 400 miles on a charge, climb a 45 percent grade, and has an adjustable ride height from 8 inches for highway driving to 14.4 inches for off-road. Plus, it can drive through three feet of water, has ample storage in front and back, and has a gear tunnel that can hold a snowboard, short surfboard, or optional camp kitchen, pictured below. The vehicle automatically levels out when parked, perfect for car camping and tailgate parties. It also has crossbars for holding bikes and ski gear and has 12 cubic feet of lockable storage space.
The R1S SUV, starting at $72,500, can tow up to 7,700 pounds. These vehicles are designed for use on the road, in the dirt, on the beach, and deep in the mountains.
“The off-road capabilities are massive,” says Moon. “To have my dog jump in and not worry that he’s going to break anything is nice. I also don’t have to worry about getting sand in it. I’ve seen so many (other) trucks caught on the beach here. With Rivian, when you have a motor in each wheel and no differential and a smooth composite panel and this smooth bottom—there’s no exhaust or rear differential—so you don’t get stuck.”
Rivian’s two flagship models were due out in the second half of 2020, but the COVID-19 shutdown caused delays in its supply chain, forcing the manufacturer to close its factory in Normal, Illinois. The new release date is expected sometime in 2021, but Parker did not provide a specific month.
These semi-autonomous vehicles are available for pre-order on Rivian’s website with a refundable deposit of $1,000.
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