Until the infrastructure can catch up—and well beyond then, if you’re talking about go-anywhere electric trucks like those from Rivian—big batteries will be a necessity for getting more people switching to EVs. 

Rivian has accepted that from the start with its R1T electric pickup and R1S electric SUV, with battery packs that start at 135 kwh and run to an almost-unheard-of 180 kw (think more than twice the capacity of the Audi E-Tron)—intended to produce a driving range topping 400 miles.

Rivian R1T electric pickup concept

Rivian R1T electric pickup concept

Even with skateboard platforms specifically designed for EVs—where long, wide, flat battery packs can be mounted low—packing enough cells into the subfloor space, while also allowing enough space for cooling, without interfering in cabin space or ground clearance, is a serious engineering challenge—one that Rivian appears to have taken very seriously.

The company’s VP of propulsion, RIchard Farquhar, recently revealed to Charged that it’s managed to fit what he claims is up to 25 percent more energy density, by volume, than any other current electric vehicle—including those from Tesla.

Rivian electric car platform

Rivian electric car platform

Rivian’s modules each come loaded up with two layers of 21700 cylindrical cells—the format used in the Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y. Each module packs 15 kwh of capacity, and while the 180-kwh pack has 12 of these, the 135-kwh pack has 9 modules. 

A cooling plate, a thermal component in the liquid-cooled system, runs horizontally through the middle of each module. That, according to Farquhar, is “the most efficient way to do it, as opposed to radially,” and it allows Rivian’s pack to go without coolants, phase-shifting forms, or other material to help stabilize temperatures between the cells. 

Various other battery details have been revealed since the trucks’ reveal more than a year ago. Rivian told Green Car Reports that Its pack has been designed with a future 800V (or higher) upgrade in mind. It’s also confirmed a plan for auxiliary batteries and the capability for truck-to-truck charging

Rivian, now with funding from Ford, Amazon, and others, is due to start making its R1T later next year at a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois. 


[Note: This story originally pointed to cell sourcing from LG Chem; Rivian hasn't yet announced a cell supplier.]