American EV startup Rivian has begun cold-weather testing for its newest R1T all-electric pickup truck. Situated far north near the Canadian border in Baudette, Minnesota, the R1T is seen frolicking in the largest cold-weather testing facility in North America across acres of ice, snow, and forest, where temperatures regularly dip below -30 degrees Fahrenheit during the cold season.
The test facility is a former radar base of the United States Air Force and offers up to 25 road courses, including autocross ice test tracks, steep grades, a slush pool, and a combination of surfaces to “capture winter weather at its worst,” said Rivian.
In the process, the automaker has revealed a few tips and tricks to maximize EV battery efficiency during harsh winter months. Batteries typically prefer operating in moderate temperatures and are affected by both extreme hot and cold. According to Rivian, leaving your EV plugged-in or charging in frigid temperatures provides energy to warm the batteries to maximize range and performance.
In the Rivian R1T, leaving it charging at night offers minimal compromise to battery performance even when the vehicle and battery pack is cold-soaking overnight at negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. “In extremely cold conditions we use some battery energy to keep the cells in our battery above 14-degrees Fahrenheit to provide controlled vehicle performance,” added Laura Ochsner, Controls Integration Engineer at Rivian.
Unlike other modern EVs with electrical heaters that add weight, cost, and consume a lot of energy, the Rivian R1T has a unique thermal management system that utilizes the inverter and motor to generate heat when the vehicle is parked or stationary. Meanwhile, the system recovers waste heat to warm the batteries while the truck is running.
“Even while stationary, our traction system can generate substantial heat for the battery, and we use that heat to warm the battery to the point where it can deliver full performance,” said Ochsner. “Our battery is uniquely designed to operate in super cold conditions, all the way down to an ambient temp of -40 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The Rivian R1T pickup truck (and R1S SUV) is riding on top of the automaker’s breakthrough skateboard platform. The first to arrive in June 2021 is the R1T Launch Edition. With base prices starting at around $75,000 before federal and state incentives, the R1T Launch Edition has the ‘Large’ 180 kWh battery pack, four electric motors, 20-inch all-terrain wheels (or 22-inch Sport wheels), and up to 400 miles of range.