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Rivian CEO dishes on R2's massive efficiency level-up, big pre-order numbers: 'Excitement that even exceeds our own expectations'

The R2 and the two surprise new R3 models boast features that will make Rivian SUVs among the most sustainable on the market.

The R2 and the two surprise new R3 models boast features that will make Rivian SUVs among the most sustainable on the market.

Photo Credit: Rivian

Rivian surprised the market this week with the launch of not one but three new mid-sized vehicles — and in an exclusive interview with The Cool Down, founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said the company is seeing "an inbound level of excitement that even exceeds our own expectations and hopes." 

The company said they had received over 68,000 pre-orders for their new R2 less than 24 hours after the announcement — and news that the vehicle will be less expensive to manufacture is driving their stock price up, too. Surprising with the "one more thing" announcement of two versions of a smaller crossover R3 model, the R3 and R3X, didn't hurt either. 

Rivian told The Cool Down exclusively that the R2, shipping in 2026, will have at least a 25% lower lifetime carbon footprint than their flagship R1 truck. Not just because it's smaller than the R1, but because of increased efficiency to build and especially to operate, with efficiency gains across the vehicle such as the drivetrain and thermal system engineered to maximize range and thus further lower pollution. Yet its $45,000 starting price point might be the biggest factor delivering sustainability. 

"By bringing the price point down meaningfully, it allows us to really go after the breadth of the market," Scaringe said. "If you were to look at the average selling price of a new vehicle in the U.S., it's just under $50,000. … The opportunity to bring in new customers, to take not customers from the 7% of buyers who are EV owners but from the 93% who are buying combustion vehicles and translate them into an EV experience with Rivian, that's what we're really excited about."

Scaringe said lack of choice and options in the SUV category has "created a constraint for how fast the world can electrify." 

"If you want an SUV form factor, if you want something that's highly functional and capable off-road, there's just not something in this price category that's EV," he said. 

Behind the basics — 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds, 300-plus miles of range on a charge, 10% to 80% charge in under 30 minutes — the R2 and the two surprise new R3 models boast features that will make Rivian SUVs among the most sustainable on the market. 

"We've looked at the full lifecycle of all the components that go into it," Scaringe told TCD. "If you were to look at the headliner, it's 100% recycled plastic, half of which is coming from the ocean. If you were to look at the floor mats, again recycled plastic. The wood in the dash is recycled birch from the furniture industry. It looks beautiful the way it stacks together, but the reason we're using it is because it gives us access to a much broader set of recycled materials. 

"And as we look across into the battery, a huge amount of focus has gone into the efficiency, the design, to make the battery very long life but importantly, to make the battery something that its upstream supply chain really fits the way we're approaching our business, in terms of workforce and how the mines are operated."

The R2 will also be less expensive to manufacture than the company's two R1 models, the R1T truck and R1S SUV — which will help the company answer critics who point to the fact that Rivian loses thousands of dollars on every vehicle it makes.

"We're rapidly working toward getting toward positive gross margins; we've talked about that happening late this year. That's the absolute focus for us as a company," Scaringe said. "What R2 represents is a step-change in volume and really a deep set of learnings collected together that are going into the design of R2 that make it easier to manufacture to design the supply chain to ramp more quickly."

Here's what you need to know about the R2's sustainability features:

  • Minimum of 40% recycled content in the steel and aluminum
  • Target of at least 20% sustainable plastic content, including innovative ways to source from ocean plastics
  • Floor carpet aiming to contain at least 50% sustainable content
  • Tires with 45% sustainable content from a blend of recycled materials and biomaterials in active development
  • 100% recycled backing in the seats
  • Hood requiring 20% less raw materials to build, by manufacturing multiple parts in one process 

While EV sales are still growing and rose by 31% last year over 2022, only 9% of new vehicle buyers are choosing electrics, and the growth rate dropped from a more booming 60% increase in 2022. So what does Scaringe say to EV skeptics? 

"I always describe it as a one-way door," he said. "Once you try an EV, it's nearly impossible to go back. The driving experience, the refinement, the ease of use, make it really enjoyable and make it really hard to imagine going back to something where you have the noises, the shifting, what feels like you're operating from a generation ago of technology." 

With range anxiety and access to charging top of mind for customers, Rivian's expanded charging network, Rivian Adventure, and compatibility with Tesla's supercharger network will add confidence for EV buyers — even though most charging happens at home.

"The part that's rarely appreciated is, more than 90% of your charging events are happening in your home," Scaringe said. "That means you never need to go to the gas station. It's like having a gas station in your home. That's a really nice lifestyle shift, and that's what we're seeing."

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