Upstarts In The American Electric Automotive Industry Continue To Rev Up

Today, auto industry stalwart Ford announced a partnership with Rivian Automotive, an electric vehicle company headquartered in the greater Detroit, MI metro area. As part of the deal, Ford is making a $500 million equity investment in Rivian. The “companies have agreed to work together to develop an all-new, next-generation battery electric vehicle for Ford’s growing EV portfolio using Rivian’s skateboard platform,” according to a press release posted to Ford’s website.

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Rivian has already designed two vehicles of its own, which the company plans to roll off assembly lines in 2020. It’s R1T all-electric pickup truck will feature a 400-mile range and can reach 60 miles per hour from a standing stop in three seconds. Its R1S SUV features similar specifications. That’s because they share the same underlying infrastructure, called a “skateboard” chassis, which unifies energy storage and the electric vehicle drivetrain in a platform which looks kind of like a skateboard.1

The cash infusion brings Rivian’s total equity funding raised to $1.2 billion. In February, Crunchbase News reported on a $700 million equity round raised by the company; Amazon led that deal. Prior to the deal with Amazon, though, Rivian had raised $200 million in debt financing from Standard Chartered Bank in May 2018. Crunchbase data has records of other, much smaller, debt financing events stretching back to 2011. Rivian Automotive was founded in 2009.

The half-billion dollar rounds hits a few trends head-on. First, the growth in corporate venture activity that Crunchbase News has tracked for some time (more here, here, and here). And it lands in the middle of the automotive revolution that is being fought by upstarts like Nio, middle-age players like Tesla, and incumbents like Ford.

You can’t turn on the game in 2019 without seeing ads for electric cars that lack a Tesla badge. No automaker wants to get left behind. So expect more of this sort of action in the future.

Illustration Credit: Li-Anne Dias

  1. In December 2018, CNet covered the emerging trend of skateboard-inspired chassis design in new electric autos.

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