It’s difficult for automakers to keep their prototypes under wraps, as you can usually pretty easily tell what vehicle is hiding under the camouflage as it tests on public roads. But apparently, Plymouth, Michigan–based Rivian doesn’t have to worry too much about prying eyes. That’s because the automaker has been testing its vehicle hardware using old F-150 bodies.
Speculation about such mules has swirled, Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe has confirmed they’re testing regularly in the Detroit area. Why hide them as F-150s, though? Apparently, the wheelbase of the F-150 lines up well with Rivian’s skateboard architecture, which incorporates the battery, transmissions, motors, cooling system, and front and rear suspension into a complete module that can accommodate any type of body sitting on top.
“We need something to keep the weather out while we put a lot of miles on our skateboard, so they’re driving around in Detroit right now, too,” Scaringe told the Detroit Free Press. “They’re all over the place, but nobody knows. We’re very quiet about that.”
The Rivian R1T pickup is expected to arrive in late 2020. Specs released so far indicate each wheel gets an electric motor rated at 197 horsepower for a total system output of 788 horsepower; torque figures depend on the size of the battery pack selected. Rivian estimates a zero-to-60 time of just three seconds with the medium-sized battery. Range should max out at more than 400 miles depending on the model. The automaker also has an SUV called the R1S in the works.
Design and engineering operations take place in Michigan, but Rivian is developing its technology and batteries in San Jose and Irvine, California. It will build vehicles at the former Mitsubishi plant it owns in Normal, Illinois.
Scaringe says there’s no corporate connection between Rivian and Ford. But Amazon has just confirmed it’s the leading member of a $700 million round of investment in the company. In other Rivian news, the automaker applied for a patent on an auxiliary battery module intended to boost range. This extra removable battery would sit in the cargo area.