Rivian overhauled the R1S and R1T to lure new buyers ahead of cheaper R2 launch

Rivian has changed 600 parts of its R1S SUV and R1T pickup in an effort to reduce production costs while improving the performance of its flagship vehicles.

The end goal, which will be realized in the coming year, is existential. Rivian lost about $38,784 on each vehicle it delivered in the first quarter of 2024, according to its earnings report. And the automaker won’t have the new, cheaper R2 SUV on the road until the first half of 2026.

That leaves Rivian with one route: sell more R1S and R1T vehicles without losing money.

The clock starts now. Rivian recently started production of the second generation R1T and R1S, with the first deliveries starting as early as this week.

The result of Rivian’s second-generation reboot is an all-electric truck and SUV with improved ride quality, more powerful powertrain options and other bells and whistles, including an electronically tinted sunroof and a so-called “launch mode” that can catapult the new one. The R1T quad motor trims from a standstill to 100 kilometers per hour in less than 2.5 heart-pounding seconds.

But you wouldn’t know any of this if you just looked at the second-generation EVs.

Rivian has left the exterior of the second-generation R1 line largely untouched – with the exception of a new lighting feature that offers a charging status bar on the front, Storm Blue paint color and wheels – a decision that executives told TechCrunch was intentional.

Rivian next-gen-r1s-r1t
Image credits: Kirsten Korosec

Instead, Rivian has focused its efforts on reworking the guts, changing everything from the battery pack and suspension system to the electrical architecture, interior seats and sensors. There’s even a redesigned software user interface that offers detailed illustration-style graphics using Unreal Engine and deeper integration with Apple and Google.

“Some changes are small, some changes are big, but every aspect of the R1 experience will improve with this platform,” Rivian’s software head, Wassym Bensaid, told reporters in a media briefing ahead of the official launch.

Vertical integration is the underlying theme here. Rivian still has suppliers. But the engineers, designers and factory workers are responsible for making more parts of the R1 EVs than ever before.

Rivian, for example, now designs, engineers and manufactures its engines in-house. The company is also responsible for redesigning a heat pump-based thermal system to improve rider temperature comfort and range savings, and for developing a new electrical architecture and computing platform that increases the number of electronic control units (ECUs) reduces that used to drive the vehicle. 17 different ECUs in the first generation up to seven. This new zonal architecture allows Rivian to cut more than 1.5 miles of wiring from each vehicle – a weight savings of 44 pounds – and build its vehicles faster, said electrical systems director Kyle Lobo.

Rivian says it even developed internally the eleven new high-resolution cameras that, along with five radars, form the perception stack and support the safety and advanced driver assistance system.

Rivian next-gen-r1s-interior-cargo
Image credits: Rivaans

Powertrains and batteries

The second-generation Rivian R1 series has four primary configurations: dual motor, high-performance dual motor, triple motor and quad motor. Once a customer moves beyond the powertrain, there are an array of battery options and other features that push the price tag higher and higher. Rivian has also redesigned the battery modules in the large and maximum battery packs, making them easier to build and maintain, according to executives.

Both the dual-motor and performance dual-motor powertrains can be configured with three different battery packs. The base version, the dual motor with a standard battery pack, starts at $69,900 for the R1T and $75,900 for the R1S. Notably, this version features a lithium iron phosphate battery that offers an EPA-estimated range of 275 miles.

From here, battery range and prices increase with the dual-motor large pack and dual-motor max pack trims. The R1T dual motor and high-performance dual motor with a maximum package will have a range of 680 kilometers. In a similar configuration, the R1S can travel an estimated 400 miles on a single charge.

Rivian has expanded the options by adding a triple-motor powertrain – available only with the maximum battery pack – that uses two motors at the rear and one at the front. This combo produces 850 horsepower, 1,103 pound-feet of torque and a 0 to 60 mph time of 2.9 seconds. The maximum three-motor package, which has an estimated range of 380 miles, starts at $99,900 for the R1T and $105,900 for the R1S.

Rivian rounds out its offering with a quad-motor max pack trim, which delivers an eye-watering 1,025 hp, 1,198 Nm of torque and an acceleration time of less than 2.5 seconds to 100 km/h when using the so – the so-called “start mode” function.

Rivian next-gen interior lighting
Image credits: Rivaans

Google, Apple and autonomy

Rivian has made efforts to develop and improve its own software stack, which includes everything related to real-time operating systems (RTOS) that control the car, such as thermal dynamics, ADAS and safety systems, as well as another layer related to the infotainment system.

Engineers use free RTOS and secure RTOS as the basis of the vehicle control operating system.

Meanwhile, Rivian’s infotainment system has two operating systems. QNX is the host operating system, used only for safety features, and an open source version of Android Automotive for everything else. Bensaid said the company is moving from QNX to Linux-based software.

In terms of autonomy, Rivian uses a combination of Linux and free RTOS software.

“It’s really been a continuation; Since day one we have been very conscious about owning our own ECUs, our own computers and our own software,” said Bensaid, describing the company’s long-term approach. “Gen one was ramping up internal knowledge to achieve a domain-based architecture. And now that we have that foundation, we can move to a zonal architecture, which is much more challenging from a technical point of view.”

Only two companies – Rivian and Tesla – have a true zonal architecture, Bensaid claimed.

“These are what the industry calls software-defined vehicles – a term that is absolutely misused,” he added.

The company has also developed its own middleware software that communicates with the real-time ECUs, the infotainment ECUs and the cloud.

These in-depth details matter because theoretically, Bensaid explained, Rivian could port every function in the infotainment system to a mobile phone or a third-party application. In other words, this allows customers to have a connected car and indicates that Rivian could develop its own app store while maintaining security.

All these efforts demonstrate Rivian’s extreme interest in controlling the entire experience. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Rivian’s second-generation R1 line doesn’t offer the popular smartphone projection features of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And that will probably never happen, according to Bensaid.

Instead, Rivian is working with Google and Apple to integrate the products customers crave most: music, maps and messaging. For example, Rivian owners can now use car keys in Apple Wallet on iPhone and Apple Watch, or on select Google Pixel devices, to unlock and start their vehicles or share keys digitally.

Rivian is also launching a new subscription service called Connect+ that gives customers access to more Apple and Google products for $14.99 per month, or $149.99 per year. Later this summer, Connect+ customers will be able to stream video (while parked) via Googlecast, including 3,000 apps and access to Apple Music. Rivian also partnered with Apple to bring its Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos to the car.

Connect+ subscribers also get access to Spotify, Tidal and Alexa and can share their WiFi hotspot with up to eight devices.

Rivian said it also plans to integrate voice assistants Siri and Google Assistant into the vehicles.

The company has taken a similar internal approach for its ‘Rivian Autonomy Platform’, which comes standard on all second-generation R1 vehicles and includes eleven cameras, five radar sensors and a computer that is ten times more powerful. than the previous system.

Rivian may use the word “autonomy,” but its system is not self-driving, or even close. The advanced driver assistance system, which TechCrunch tested, requires the driver to remain alert with their hands on the wheel.

The system includes adaptive cruise control, which maintains speed and distance behind vehicles on the highway, and a highway assist function that automatically steers, brakes and accelerates on certain highways.

Rivian is also releasing a premium version called Rivian Autonomy Platform+, which will be offered free for a year to second-generation R1 customers. Later this summer, the system will roll out an on-command lane change feature, which will automatically move the car to another lane when the driver activates the turn signal.

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