Tesla’s Model X gets a rival as Americans flock to trucks and SUVs

f Americans won’t ditch trucks and SUVs even in the face of disastrous climate change, maybe it’s time those vehicles went electric.

That’s what Rivian Automotive is working on. The company revealed its all-electric R1S SUV on Tuesday; a boxier, more rugged-looking alternative to Tesla’s sleek Model X.

Rivian has actually been around since 2009, but its founder, 35-year-old MIT grad RJ Scaringe, flies a little further under the radar than Tesla’s superstar CEO Elon Musk.

The seven-passenger R1S, starting at $65,000 after the federal tax credit, certainly sounds good on paper. The base model features a range of more than 240 miles between charges, over-the-air software updates, and Level 3 autonomy, which means you can take your hands off the wheel on the highway. (Rivian claims the highest-end model will have a range of more than 400 miles.)

Rivian also unveiled its five-passenger R1T pickup truck, which has a similar range, but starts at $61,500. Both are manufactured in Normal, Illinois, and are expected to ship in “late 2020.”

They’re coming at the perfect time. Once again, Americans are flocking to SUVs and trucks, thanks partly to lower gas prices. In fact, when General Motors announced it was cutting 14,000 jobs in North America, CEO Mary Barra said the move was meant to adjust to the “realities of the marketplace” in which people are ditching sedans in favor of trucks and SUVs.

And while mileage has improved since the heyday of the Hummer, SUVs still don’t travel as far on a tank of gas as sedans and compact cars.

That’s not encouraging in the wake of a dire new report from 13 U.S. federal agencies warning of fire, drought, floods, and a 10 percent hit to the American economy if nothing is done to combat climate change.

If Americans are going big again, at least they have some new electric options. Of course, EVs are only as green as the power grid they charge from, but these are good first steps.

The success of companies like Tesla and Rivian could push more established automakers to make their own electric SUVs — hopefully at more accessible price points.

If more people buy electric vehicles, you just have to convince world leaders like Donald Trump (who said he didn’t believe his own government’s climate change report) to move away from coal and toward renewable sources of energy. And then, finally, you might be able to feel good about driving a SUV.

Leave a Reply