Spyshots are the bane of car manufacturers. All it takes is a single freelancer with a telephoto lens to ruin a new model’s debut, and give away design elements to the competition.
So how do you hide the world’s first ever electric pickup truck from prying eyes? Simple: you disguise it as a normal run-of-the-mill rig.
In the case of Rivian, the electric startup chose the most prolific pickup truck from the world’s largest manufacturer as its disguise: Ford’s venerable F-150.
For several months now, eagle-eyed spotters in Detroit have been reporting curious cases of F-150s plugging in to electric chargers. At first it was thought these were test mules for Ford’s future electric F-150, due no later than 2020.
However, a recent Detroit Free Press story shows that some of the trucks were actually hiding Rivian guts underneath. In an interview with Rivian founder and CEO RJScaringe, it was revealed that the company uses F-150 bodies to test their “skateboard” style platform, which happens to fit within the wheelbase of a 5.5-foot bed extended cab.
One such prototype was spotted testing in California by our friends over at Autoblog late last year. While it looks like your run-of-the-mill Raptor (complete with Ford badges, natch), some of the giveaways include a higher ride height and independent suspension at each corner, to accommodate the skateboard battery pack beneath the chassis.
Scaringe admitted as much in the interview:
“(Rivian) 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. They’re all over the place, but nobody knows. We’re very quiet about that.”
The Detroit paper also caught a glimpse of some of the mules, which included other SUVs from different brands, but it seems the F-150 was most prolific:
In a back room at the headquarters, sections of not just F-150s but SUVs from other companies and the parts that should provide the extra capability Rivian is promising, such as quad motors to power the wheels, were on display. That area, however, was off limits for cameras.
Since the stock Ford undercarriage is not designed for hundreds of pounds of batteries, it’s most likely that the F-150 is just a shell. Underneath the body lies Rivian’s own frame, drivetrain and suspension, and of course the 4 a47kW motors and batteries to propel the faux-150.
The Rivian R1T is expected to enter production in 2020, with a base price of $69,000 before incentives. The Amazon-backed pickup truck has a 0-60mph time of 3.2 seconds, and deliver a sedate but instantaneous 826 lb-feet of torque for the top-end model.