Picture: Rivian.
Picture: Rivian.
Picture: Paul Sancya / AP Photo.
Picture: Paul Sancya / AP Photo.
The Rivian R1S is an SUV version of the R1T. Picture: Newspress.
The Rivian R1S is an SUV version of the R1T. Picture: Newspress.

Detroit - Ford is sinking a half-billion US dollars (R7.2bn) into electric vehicle startup Rivian in a deal that will see the companies working together on a new Ford electric vehicle based on Rivian's innovative skateboard-like architecture.

The deal will see Ford becoming a minority partner in Michigan-based Rivian, which recently unveiled a new electric pickup truck and a related SUV that will go on sale late next year.

Although Ford has yet to detail its Rivian-related product plans, a bakkie, SUV or both would be the likeliest options.

Rivian would build the platform, which would be sent to Ford for final vehicle assembly.

The tie-up is another sign that carmakers and tech companies are pairing up to share the huge capital costs of developing electric vehicles and even those that drive themselves. Ford and Rivian executives both said there's room for the partnership to grow and for the companies to share expertise.

"We are learning a great deal from this wonderful company and its leadership," Ford CEO Jim Hackett said Wednesday. "We're open-minded to its fresh approach to electric vehicles."

Rivian CEO and founder RJ Scaringe said his company will benefit from Ford's manufacturing and lightweight vehicle expertise. 

Rivian's innovative R1T bakkie

Set to go on sale Stateside in late 2020, the R1T pickup has an electric motor on each wheel - something that should prove particularly handy when tackling off-road trails (remember, no diffs and driveshafts to get in the way of obstacles) - and it's said to be capable of rushing from 0-60mph (96km/h) in just three seconds, putting it squarely in supercar performance territory.

Under easier throttle loads, however, the battery-powered pickup has a claimed range of more than 644km on a single charge.

The double cab seats five occupants and also has an innovative retractable bed cover as well as a frontal boot (or 'frunk') where the engine would normally have been. 

Other novelties include a fully digital dashboard, a 'gear tunnel' for storage between the rear seats and rear wheels, a flexible crossbar system for securing items above the load bed, and three 110V outlets for your tools.

The vehicle also has an 800kg payload and 5000kg towing capacity, according to Rivian.

Furthermore, it will offer Level 3 autonomous driving capability (eyes and hands free) on highway routes. 

It's not going to come cheap though.

While pricing has yet to be finalised, Rivian has stated that the basic version with a 370km range should start at under $70 000 (R1 million), while the aforementioned longer range flagship is likely to sell for $90 000 (R1.3m).

However, the company's CEO RJ Scaringe said Rivian has plans for lower-cost vehicles in the future, and both companies said they likely would have products that compete for buyers.

IOL, Reuters & AP