When I left for Michigan last Friday, I was not expecting my electric vehicle advocates meeting to remind me how important trucks are to American culture. The conference provided the opportunity to tour the Ford Rouge Factory and Rivian, the new “electric adventure vehicle” maker. Funnily enough, both experiences centered around pickup trucks. On the surface, trucks don’t exactly seem like the electric vehicle advocate’s dream, but perhaps we needed this conversation to help us think about really reaching the masses with electric vehicles.
Ford Rouge Factory Tour
The Ford Rouge Factory produces the iconic F-150. No photos during the tour were allowed, so I can’t share too much, other than that it was a fascinating experience to see the manufacturing facility in full swing. Workers literally put trucks together while we watched. Someone on the tour with me described it as “a ballet” of workers and machinery, each going at the exact correct pace to keep up with the production schedule and snap vehicles together seamlessly.
What struck me was the size of the vehicles. On the day we went, the factory produced extended cab trucks. They were giant! It was amazing to watch these cars roll off the line (every 53 seconds!). I highly recommend visiting Rouge Factory if you find yourself in Southeast Michigan.
In January, Ford announced plans to make an electric version of the F-150. I don’t know when or where yet, but I hope I’ll have the opportunity to tour the factory where electric F-150s are produced, too.
Rivian is a start-up company that is developing “the world’s first electric adventure vehicles.” In February, Rivian announced a $700 million investment round, led by Amazon. They are working on a pickup truck and an SUV that are capable of taking you from the coast to the mountains and back on a single charge. Rivian’s cars look cool and have practical additions like the “gear tunnel” to give you even more space to store your adventure gear.
The first Rivian vehicle will be the R1T, an electric pickup truck. It’s expected to hit production in late 2020. Coincidentally, Rivian is testing its truck’s performance with a car that’s disguised as an F-150. There aren’t any ties between the two automakers*, Rivian just wants to test their technology without gaining attention, and the F-150 cab allows them to do just that.
Rivian’s Headquarters is in Plymouth, Michigan. You may remember from a previous blog that I grew up in Metro-Detroit – I actually went to Plymouth High School. It’s so fun to go home and see new companies combing transportation and technology in my old stomping grounds.
UPDATE: Ford Invests $500M in Rivian
Today (April 24, 2019), Ford announced a $500 million investment in Rivian. So much for my “no ties” statement above! Rivian and Ford will work together to create an all-new electric car, which will be sold under the Ford brand. Ford is developing more electric vehicles for the market and hopes to use the Rivian “skateboard” – the bottom part of the car that contains the drivetrain, batteries, and brakes – in addition to their current plans. The partnership should benefit both companies, and put more electric cars options on the market.
What are the chances I visit both companies just weeks before the big announcement! As a Midwesterner, EV-advocate, and Michigan-native, I am really excited to see two Michigan companies coming together in the name of electric cars. Stay tuned, I’m confident we will continue to see auto manufacturers announce commitments to further electrify their car offerings.
Things are Picking Up for Electric Pickups
It’s an exciting time for the auto industry and electric vehicle advocates. I think these tours highlight that the transportation landscape, and the conversation, is changing in ways we didn’t expect. Drivers want electric trucks, and manufacturers want to provide them. The surge in electric pickup truck options is evidence that electric vehicles aren’t just for the sedan-driving eco-minded consumer, they’re for everyone.
For more info on the number of electric vehicle options available soon, check out our infographic, Electric Vehicle Market Outlook.
*See UPDATE above.