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Rivian CEO blasts misleading coverage of EVs in winter, says Rivians perform better than gas cars in cold: 'The desire to tell a negative story was so strong'

"Once you try an EV, it's nearly impossible to go back."

"Once you try an EV, it’s nearly impossible to go back."

Photo Credit: Rivian

During a wide-ranging exclusive interview with The Cool Down following his announcement of three new mid-sized vehicles, Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe was outspoken about what he calls "a very unfortunate negative media dialogue around electric vehicles" — including recent coverage of how EVs operate in cold weather. 

"I think uniquely in the United States somehow we've found ourselves in a world where sustainability and certainly electric vehicles are trying to be politicized … which is so unfortunate," Scaringe told TCD. 

"We really work to stay out of that noisy fray and talk about, hey, electric vehicles are incredibly fun to drive, they make for a really nice lifestyle in terms of being able to charge at home, charging infrastructure is being built out very rapidly. Certainly for our vehicles, they perform extremely well in cold weather, better than a combustion vehicle, but those are messages that take time to deliver, it takes time to shift mindsets, and there's a lot of misinformation that's being put in the world as well." 

He shared a personal story of a Rivian customer he said had sent a picture of himself in his Rivian, in a parking lot full of combustion vehicles, none of which could start in the cold weather, and the customer's Rivian was the only vehicle that could drive out that day. 

There have also been accurate news stories about some EVs not starting in the cold, a problem that reportedly is only likely to happen if the car's battery is already very low, but the point is that traditional gas-powered cars not starting in the cold is not news, and thus making a big deal out of some Teslas not starting in the cold doesn't mean the problem is more widespread. 

After all, all modern cars need a battery to start. 

"The number of stories that talked about EVs that weren't operating properly in that time was staggering," Scaringe said. "There wasn't a single story about the thousands and thousands of combustion vehicles that didn't start that morning because of the cold weather."

While EVs have gotten a bad rap when it comes to cold weather, a recent study showed the challenges that EVs face from extreme cold weather are actually less than those encountered by gas-powered cars, concluding that EVs are "almost twice as good as fossil cars in the cold." 

"The desire to tell a negative story was so strong and so surprising to me — it was so biased," Scaringe told TCD. "All we can do is continue to try to balance the story with the facts and a true story."

With the launch of their more affordable R2 and R3 vehicles — which start at $45,000 — Scaringe is on a mission to accelerate the adoption of EVs across the country. While Scaringe told us California is the company's largest market, he is bullish about finding customers in middle America. 

"A lot of our customers are, in fact, in the middle of the country, and they're experiencing their first time in an EV, with Rivian," he said. "… There's this perception that no one buys electric cars, but if you were to go to St. Louis or Kansas City or Minneapolis, you'd see lots of Rivians still. So we're beginning to really see that shift."

While EV sales rose by 31% last year over 2022, only 9% of new vehicle buyers are choosing electrics, a figure many skeptics harp on. But Scaringe sees a bright future for EV sales.  

"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." 

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