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Why climbing star Alex Honnold says his electric pickup is like driving a spaceship: 'Once you experience that, it's really hard to go back'

The "Free Solo" star says his truck is "faster, silent, and cheaper to maintain" compared to gas-powered options.

The "Free Solo" star says his truck is "faster, silent, and cheaper to maintain" compared to gas-powered options.

Photo Credit: The Cool Down

"This is by far the best truck ever." 

That's Alex Honnold's succinct review of his Rivian R1T, the electric pickup he's been driving around his hometown of Las Vegas over the last few years.

The celebrated rock climber and star of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Free Solo" was eager to give The Cool Down team a test drive of the fastest electric truck on the market — which goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in roughly three seconds — when we visited his home to learn about how he's living more simply and sustainably. (Rivian gave him the truck as a brand partner.)

Most of The Cool Down crew had never been in a Rivian, and we quickly realized just how fast Alex drives — and the truck accelerates. Are you surprised that the guy who scales some of the world's most dangerous rock walls without a rope likes to get some speed?

While the Rivian R1T technically gets about 300 miles to the charge (newer models get 400), Honnold told us he gets a little less mileage driving in sports mode, but he doesn't mind. 

"I live in the hills, and I drive in sports mode all the time, which is quite fast," he said. "That's a personal choice because it's so fun to drive that way, and I'm never driving that far."

Watch now: Alex Honnold test drives his new Rivian

As a startup and the first EV truck to market, Rivian is challenging industry incumbents like Ford with their best-selling F-150 Lightning and EV leader Tesla, whose Cybertruck is just now beginning to roll out to buyers. Ram, Chevy, and Toyota also have electric pickup trucks now on sale in the U.S., with more coming later this year.

For Honnold, it's the versatility of the truck for day-to-day city driving and off-roading that holds huge appeal for his adventurous lifestyle. 

"Living in Las Vegas, the electric truck is incredible, because I drive a lot of highway miles around town, but I always have to four-wheel-drive to get to the climbing, so a truck like this is amazing," he told The Cool Down. 

The Rivian can pull that off with four electric motors powering each wheel and making a combined 835 horsepower. 

Honnold also showed us the solar panels on his home's roof that power the Rivian and charge his in-laws' plug-in hybrid (they also live on the property). While electricity coming exclusively from coal power would still make an EV cleaner for the environment once it is used enough, managing to charge an EV entirely from the sun takes the value to another level. 

"Two households are running their primary cars off electricity, and it's all off solar," Honnold said. "It's not like we're off the grid, but we're producing as much power as we use, so it nets out to zero."

Because not every EV owner has the solar setup that Honnold's family does, Rivian is also working to make electric charging cleaner, partnering with The Nature Conservancy and renewable energy company BrightNight to convert a coal plant in Kentucky to a solar farm that will power over 170,000 households every year, with construction beginning in 2025.

TCD also got a look inside Honnold's new RV, which he bought after wrecking the original van he lived in during his "Free Solo" climb. Even though the new van has solar panels and an induction oven, it still runs on gas — so, he said the Rivian "feels like a spaceship in comparison." Maybe his next RV will be electric, too? 

While EVs continue to become more popular due to lower maintenance and usage costs, as well as lower pollution, there is still the issue of the mining required to extract the precious metals needed for EV batteries, which comes with its own pollution and labor safety concerns

Several battery developers have made promising steps to reduce precious metal use and are promising cleaner options in the near future, providing optimism toward significantly addressing these concerns. 

But despite the current battery drawbacks and mining safety concerns, Honnold and many experts say the overall benefits that EVs offer do outweigh those concerns since they must still be considered against the massive drawbacks of everything that comes with oil and gasoline.   

At the end of our day with Honnold, he threw the keys to one of our cameramen, "Free Solo" filmmaker Samuel Crossley, challenging him to test out the truck's acceleration.

It didn't disappoint. "When I first got to press the pedal down on a clear stretch," Crossley said, "it was like getting the thrill of a roller coaster taking off without waiting in line for an hour."

For Honnold, the switch to an EV was a no-brainer. It's also one way that he's living his values. Honnold invests one-third of his income in climate solutions through the Honnold Foundation, which supports community organizations focused on increasing access to clean energy. 

"Once you get used to it being faster, silent, and cheaper to maintain, everything about it is just better," Honnold said. "Once you experience that, it's really hard to go back." 

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