I spent a fair amount of time deliberating over many questions on the way to buying a Rivian R1T. Below, I have pulled a few snippets together of the thought process for us that unfolded over the last 4-5 years.
First off, why an EV truck at all?
In the “before EV times” for our family, we had a combination of true SUV (90’s Nissan Pathfinder) and small car for many years, then later moved to one CUV (Subaru Forester). Later, we needed a 2nd car again for commuting, so we went back to another combination of CUV and small car again (but this time electric, the Leaf!) Even when we had two vehicles, we hadn’t ever seriously looked at trucks, because we find the covered/heated (or cooled) storage space more useful – bikes could fairly easily go on the right rack, and the odd time we needed garden soil (etc), we borrowed a trailer.
The CUV was just big enough that with some creative packing and using our backpacking gear, we were also able to go car camping for 1 to 2 weeks at a time with our biking gear. We even managed to fit (barely) into our Model 3 for similar trips, though we had to stop bringing some gear, and our options for getting off the paved routes became quite limited. Then, as noted in my most recent post, we decided to change course and we were back in the market – we looked at a CUV, SUVs, and trucks. Our starting point was to just keep our Leaf and Model 3, and perhaps just rent a vehicle periodically. This quickly provided to be impractical, as we were looking at rental costs being quite high given the projected usage (e.g. each year 2 – 4 weeks towing, 3 – 6 weekend trips for XC/DH skiing, several hiking days, several bike shuttle days), and all that money would be just sunk costs with nothing to show for it – not to mention the only option would be a fossil rental.
Determining we would need to sell one of our current EVs and buy something else, as usual, I made a spreadsheet to try to be objective about the decision of different combinations of vehicles we could choose, though there is an element of subjectiveness in this of course (how many categories have similarities, choice of weighting, the details that go into the score itself!)
Our requirements of course won’t look like yours, but perhaps viewing the above will give you some ideas.
Pretty early on, we realized the only CUV that would work for us at all was the Model Y, due to the combination of wanting to tow at least a 17′ ~3,000 lbs trailer and the fact that we have 2 rapidly growing kids. The towing capacity and payload of other CUVs simply isn’t high enough.
After going through the exercise of sorting out which combinations scored either y = yes, m = maybe, or n = no to each requirement and assigning points of 3, 2 and 1 respectively, we applied a relative importance weighting, and multiplied the two together to get the following matrix:
EV truck takes 1st! And it does so because of two things:
1. A pick-up is (generally) easier to deal with bikes, particularly during road trips with a trailer. Biking is a very large part of our family life (both when at home, cycle commuting and recreation, and away with primarily out mountain bikes), so it was weighted highly.
2. The covered storage component of (most) EV trucks. Before the advent of large frunks, covered storage with bikes in the box would be almost nil, and it would have scored a “n” for our matrix.
Simple then, buy the EV truck… except this matrix was created in 2021, and there were no EV trucks you could buy at the time. Life wasn’t sitting still, and in particular the kids were growing, so we hummed and hawed between a Model Y and a Honda Ridgeline, though the thought of having two bikes on the roof and two on the trailer, then dealing with moving racks around etc wasn’t appealing, and in the end we chose a trailer that the Model Y couldn’t reasonably handle when carrying a family of 4 and their gear, so Ridgeline it was – more details on 2 years of trips here.
In the meantime, we put a deposit down on 3 different EV trucks over the space of a few months.
Choosing a truck, and when to buy it
The order of trucks we put deposits on is a bit fuzzy now, but as I recall, we went with the Tesla Cybertruck, the Rivian R1T, skipped the Ford Lightning (largely due to a bias at the time against conversion of ICE equivalents), and later the Chevy Silverado EV.
This choice was harder and easier, all at the same time. There were a few considerations that really drove our decision:
- Size of the vehicle – we really are not fans of full-size trucks; in our opinion, they just feel too big in general, and for our region specifically; check R1T
- Ability to power our trailer – initially the Ford seemed the obvious winner here with it’s amazing inverter and outlets, but after two summers in our trailer, we realized we only used the 120V/30A at a campground once to test out our air conditioner; other than that, 120V/15A power is fine. No clear winner here for us.
- Aesthetics – the Cybertruck was a big turn-off for us – I actually kept hoping that the unveiling was a sort of joke and that they would use the skateboard platform for a different body. Check R1T.
- Functionality of box & covered cargo – the Lightning, Cybertruck and Silverado boxes aren’t big enough to displace the use of a utility trailer in a number of cases (e.g. getting loaded with gravel), and that extra size can’t be covered in our scenario (ie bikes in the box). The Cybertruck has those angled sides – the small ones on the Ridgeline were annoying enough, the CT would be even worse. The R1T however trades in a bit of box size for the “gear tunnel“, basically a 2nd frunk worth of covered storage space, with a door that double as a seat, a way to get in the box easily from the side, and to access things on the roof. Check R1T.
- Mix of tech & practicality – the Lightning (and likely Silverado) have a bit of buttons where need, and touch UI to feel like they are part of the future. They still have quite a few unnecessary buttons for little-used features, so don’t look as clean as we like after getting used to our Model 3 over the last few years. So you might think the Cybertruck would win us over; however, they went a bit too austere, and then decided to go too far (in our opinion) in removing the stalks and even showing the truck with a yoke instead of steering wheel! We’ve already had our fill of Tesla reinventing things just to be different (door handles on our 3, useless camera-based auto-wipers, and worst of all, frameless windows that NEED to roll down in the winter to get the doors open or closed but tend to freeze closed [and yes, the CT inexplicably has these windows too, despite being “utilitarian and practical”]), so all these additions (or subtractions I should say) moved the Cybertruck down the list. The R1T however fixed our annoyances with the 3 (the door handles present so you can easily grasp them, but also work manually unlike the Model S; the wipers not only work in auto, they have a dedicated button on the stalk to operate them manually!, the windows are NOT frameless, and the doors have a solid feel consequently). There are some minor things that the R1T is missing, such as text capabilities that the Model 3 has, but given it can be implemented in software, I wasn’t concerned. Check R1T.
- Bonus touches – the Ford has a pretty slick way to convert to a ‘mobile office’ (the area between the driver and passenger), but given the times I need one, I likely have a much better mobile office attached behind me, this didn’t sway me much. The Chevy has a folding rear ‘door’ between the bed and the cab, which seems interesting, but when I haul long things, I usually just put them on a roof rack, and my canoe isn’t going to fit in there anyways. The Chevy and Cybertruck reportedly have rear-wheel steering as well, which should make manoeuvring better. An edge of the Cybertruck could also be used as a beer opener I guess? And maybe the stainless steel panels will resist scratching so I could run down narrow bush roads with impunity… but the jury is still out on that one. (I know it’s different steel than my SS appliances, but still, those show scratches etc just as bad as paint!) Both the Tesla and Rivian have a built-in security camera/alarm system. The R1T has a few more clever touches too – the “gear tunnel” mentioned above, a slick roof rack system you can move easily to the truck beds if you want, a 1000 lumen flashlight in the door, a goose-neck hinge on the tailgate that extends the bed length to 7′ when opened (enough for typical sheets of plywood & basic lumber) which keeps the truck smaller for parking but larger when you need it, and lastly a compressor built-in to the truck. For our preferences, check R1T.
- Driving feel – since the Cybertruck and Silverado EV aren’t being sold yet, no one really knows, though we can guess some of it. The Lightning was too soft for our liking, though rides better than a regular version due to the independent rear suspension (and reportedly tows better too). None of them hold a candle to what the R1T (and R1S) can do though with both adjustable air suspension and hydraulic roll control – the variety of ride modes and motor control (particularly in the Quad motor with torque vectoring) changes the feel of the vehicle substantially. It’s like having 3 or 4 vehicles in one as far as driving dynamics go! Check R1T.
- Company values – Chevy ‘killed’ the first real modern electric car, which I don’t think they’ll live down in my mind, though they do seem to be putting in an honest effort these days. Ford seems like any other car corporation to me – they’ll get dragged into electrification, but don’t appear to be leading in anything in particular. Tesla of course really demonstrated what an EV could be and jump-started the movement, but I’ve had a hard time getting over the poor corporate governance and essentially letting it be a 1-person show, and when that 1-person generates a substantial amount of baggage, I sometimes don’t want to be associated with the car we own, even though as a product on its own, it is a good one. Rivian hasn’t been around very long yet, so the jury is still out, but they seem to be doing the right things on the ESG front and really mean it and demonstrate it – I feel good about supporting them and their mission.
- Ok, but what about that elephant in the room, charging network?! It’s true – as of
2021 20222023, the public DC fast-charging network is still a hot-mess. It has dramatically improved and densified since 2014 when we first started driving EVs, but when you look at what Tesla has accomplished with the Supercharger network in the same amount of time, the difference is pretty astounding. In our Model 3, so long as we stay within the network (which is pretty easy for most of North America now), we simply do not have to worry about charging – the car navigation sorts it out our charging stops for us, takes us to each charger, we plug in, we charge up quickly, and off we go again. Tesla bills my credit card automatically. It is easy and simple, and it has worked EVERY single time we have used it over the last 4 years of owning our Model 3. By this point in our decision making, we’d pretty much settled on the Rivian, but the lack of Supercharger access was a real concern. I’m pretty sure we could do most of the trips we want to even with the chargers as they are today, but I’m willing to dig into the trip planning and come up with back-up plans and contingencies. I’m also pretty sure the public network is going to get dramatically better. But when different car companies started adopting NACS, followed by Rivian, that sealed the deal for us. (Having said that, just because the connector is different doesn’t mean the connection of cars other than Teslas to Superchargers will be seamless – I’m sure there will be growing pains as Tesla learns to support other car hardware and has to deal with the myriad of variants that the public system has been struggling with the last decade.)
Ok so we decided we preferred the Rivian R1T – but when to buy one? Enter another spreadsheet!
You are looking at a colour-coded matrix comparing a few different purchase timing options against various scenarios. Green is cheaper over 10 years, while red is more expensive (on the order of $50k difference in total). The base scenario includes about 7,000 km of local driving in a year, between 3,000 to 6,000 km of towing per year, towing fast-charging cost of about $18/100km, local driving regular charging cost of about $3.50/100km, towing gas cost of about $45/100km, and local driving gas cost of about $30/100km.
Note that pricing is very dynamic right now, and the pricing I had available when I made my choice is likely different, and potentially substantially so, then you would have – for this reason I did not include specific values, but instead am only showing the general trends.
My general conclusions from the above:
- Except for one Option, reducing the km’s driven each year influences the 10 year conclusion quite dramatically in favour of prolonging petrol truck ownership when only considering cost
- Purchase price of the EV strongly influences overall outcome
- For us and our pre-order pricing, it made much more sense to buy an R1T Quad Motor with Large Pack ASAP then to wait around for another year of gas burning + depreciation so we could get a Dual Motor with Max Pack
After reviewing what I thought was the likelihood of a given scenario occurring, and looking at our first two years of driving habits with truck + trailer, we were pretty comfortable choosing to get an R1T sooner!
We had largely made this decision in the spring, but ironically didn’t receive access to the R1T Shop until the week before we left for our big vacation in June. Too bad, as we would have saved almost $2,000 in gas on just that one trip alone… but we have it now, and are really enjoying it, and are happy we are back to an all-EV family!
Addendum – why a Quad/Large instead of Dual/Max
We originally had a Quad/Max pre-order, which later changed to a Dual/Max when Rivian decided they couldn’t (or didn’t want to) make the Quad/Max; once we had R1T Shop access, we more closely evaluated getting a Quad/Large instead. I’m including this section because I suspect the question will come up from other people considering this question – for us, it came down to a few factors:
- Depending on when we could have taken delivery for a Dual/Max, the additional cost would have been anywhere from $12 to 15k (accounting for additional depreciation and gas costs).
- The difference between range of the Dual/Large and Quad/Large is not very much when you put the Quad in Conserve mode, and since the only time I really need more range is on the highway, manually selecting Conserve, instead of the Dual going to front-wheel drive automatically, is no issue.
- The difference while towing would be immaterial because both Dual and Quad are forced to use AWD in Tow Mode.
- Lines of evidence suggest that the usable capacity of the Max is only around 20 kWh more than the Large pack; so while towing, this equates to about a practical increase in range of about 30-40 km. (Edit Nov ’23): newly released EPA docs suggest the difference is closer to 14 kWh; so 20-30km only)
- Using A Better Route Planner, for the trips we have planned over the next few years, there are only a few edge cases where the Max pack makes a trip possible where it otherwise wouldn’t be, and that is assuming you wouldn’t just drive a bit slower with the Large pack to extend your range.
- Charging time is likely to be improved for a Max pack, simply because you wouldn’t need to charge to as high of a SOC as for a Large pack to cover the next leg of your journey, but this will be on the order of tens of minutes.
- Quad motor has a bit longer warranty and more drive modes/functionality – we might not use the latter to their full extent, and hope not to need the former!
At the end of the day, the cost in our specific situation didn’t make sense for the trade-offs. As always, YMMV!