The best car we saw at CES 2020

Rivian R1TMark Matousek/Business InsiderThe Rivian R1T.

The unveiling of Mercedes-Benz’s futuristic “Avatar”-inspired concept car kicked off this year’s edition of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but many of the passenger vehicles on display are production models, or at least look like they could hit dealerships without major modifications.

The most exciting of them, like Byton’s M-Byte electric SUV and Rivian’s R1T electric pickup truck, split the difference between a concept and production vehicle, combining a few head-turning features with road-ready design and engineering.

The R1T gets a slight edge by promising more impressive capabilities, though the electric-vehicle startup will have to prove it can make them a reality.

According to Rivian, the R1T will have over 400 miles of range, 11,000 pounds of towing capacity, and the ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph in three seconds. The vehicle will also be able to rotate 360 degrees from a stationary position. Essentially, Rivian is saying that, with no prior vehicle production experience, it will be able to combine the capabilities of a sports car, a pickup truck, and a tank.

Rivian R1TMichael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesRivian R1T seen at the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre in New York.

That’s a compelling proposition, and one that could persuade electric-vehicle sceptics to abandon their gas-powered Ford F-150s and Ram 1500s. One of the many possible reasons why electric vehicles have not captured more than a sliver of the US market is that many of them have been sedans and compact cars, while Americans increasingly opt for SUVs and pickup trucks.

Along with Tesla’s Cybertruck, and upcoming electric pickups from Ford and General Motors, the Rivian R1T will open a new segment of the electric-vehicle market.

All of that comes with a big “if.” Rivian will only realise the R1T’s potential if it can manufacture the vehicle in significant numbers without running out of money, creating quality issues, or sacrificing its gaudy specs. Investments from Amazon, Ford, and T Rowe Price suggest that Rivian has the potential to join Tesla as the only electric-vehicle startups to avoid early bankruptcy, but its ability to fulfil that promise will become clearer when it starts producing the vehicle during the second half of this year.

Are you a current or former Rivian employee? Do you have an opinion about what it’s like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected]. You can also reach out on Signal at 646-768-4712 or email this reporter’s encrypted address at [email protected].

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