The Rivian R1S has overcome a monumental challenge. The brand says the SUV is the first production electric vehicle to conquer the Rubicon Trail, one of the toughest off-road trails in the world.
Rivian’s test and development team left early on Monday, August 7, from the Loon Lake entrance south of Lake Tahoe, near the California-Nevada border. It then took them roughly eight hours to drive the Rivian R1S over a 12-mile stretch, driving over steep inclines, rocky obstacles, and boulders, to reach the Tahoma staging area.
The brand used a stock quad-motor R1S, with its 34-inch Pirelli all-terrain tires. Although there was some additional equipment on board, including front tow-hitch receivers, steel rock sliders, and a roof rack.
Rivian claims that the vehicle started the arduous climb with an 80 percent state of charge (SoC) and finished with “under 10 percent” of remaining range before plugging into a level two charger at the destination. Despite the short distance, the nature of the trail seems to have drained the battery quite severely.
The R1S used roughly 75 percent of the total pack energy to complete the challenge, similar to three gallons of gasoline, said the company.
The trail isn't just tough, it's also isolated. Mobile network doesn't reach 99.9 percent of the route and visitors have to use radios to communicate, as per the Rubicon Trail Foundation which is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the popular tourist site.
The trail demands exceptional driving skills and precise vehicle control. Drivers need to navigate tight turns, handle off-camber sections, and manage obstacles that require careful tire placement and rock crawling techniques.
In a video shared by Rivian on Twitter (embedded below), we can see a dusty R1S make water-splashing noises as its crosses a river, slide and slip while navigating large rocks, crush the smaller stones under its wheels, and occasionally bottom out and hit its rear skid plate as it snakes around the trail.
The electric SUV wasn’t alone during this excursion. Two quad-motor pre-production R1T electric trucks and a modified Jeep Wrangler were present for support. Rivian claims no mechanical damage or tire changes during the drive, but the R1S got some “cosmetic bumps and scrapes.”
Rivian has advertised both its passenger EVs as adventure-focused vehicles. The R1S has a maximum ground clearance of 14.9 inches, with over three feet of water-fording capability. Its approach, departure, and breakover angles are 35.6, 34.3, and 29.6 degrees, respectively.
In comparison, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon has a 12.9-inch ground clearance, with approach and departure angles of 47.4 and 40.4 degrees, respectively. Its maximum water-wading height is 2.8 feet, according to Jeep.
That said, Rivian’s production and deliveries are ramping up. In the first half of 2023, CEO RJ Scaringe-led brand produced 23,387 EVs (up 236% year-over-year) and delivered 20,586 units (up 262% year-over-year).