Rivian Sent Two R1T Electric Pickup Prototypes on a 13,000-Mile Trip From Patagonia to LA

Can't beat that real-world data—especially when crossing 13 different countries.

Rivian R1T
Rivian | YouTube

In late 2019, photos and videos started popping up showing a strange sight: a Rivian R1T, the hotly-anticipated electric pickup truck from Rivian, all the way down at the bottom of South America in the Tierra del Fuego region looking properly dirty. Well, we finally know what the automaker was doing in the southern hemisphere—using prototype R1Ts as support vehicles for the third installment of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's motorcycle travel series titled Long Way Up, premiering next month. But Rivian's now released a teaser video of their involvement that doubles as the most extensive footage of the R1T in the real world so far.

The first two installments, Long Way Round and Long Way Down, followed McGregor and Boorman on BMW motorcycles traveling around the world for thousands of miles at a time, soaking up the sights and smells along the way. Long Way Up, documenting a 13,000-mile trip from Patagonia to Los Angeles, sees the pair hop on a set of Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles for the journey.

An electric support vehicle would make sense, given the nature of the mission this time. But looking at the punishing terrain between those two points, producers weren't about to order up a couple of Tesla Model X's to accompany them.

Instead, they got in touch with Rivian in early 2019—undoubtedly intrigued by the idea of having the R1T's vehicle-to-vehicle charging capabilities in remote areas of South and Central America—and asked if the company might be willing to help. Rivian, which hasn't engaged in large-scale public testing yet, saw it as a golden opportunity to put its R1T through the wringer in 13 different counties over 13,000 miles of wildly different conditions.

But it was still a tough task to prepare the prototypes. According to Car and Driver, Rivian had both R1T trucks ready mere hours before they needed to be shipped south for the start of filming.

These trucks are not close showroom production models, because those don't exist yet. They are prototype durability testers that are described in the video as "somewhat" like production, and data from a variety of vehicle systems was constantly being fed back to Rivian's HQ for analysis—analysis that will ideally improve the final product that we'll see next year.

To prepare for the journey, Rivian had to install 240 Level 2 chargers in roughly 140 locations, spread about 110 miles apart over the 13 countries to cut down on range anxiety. It helps to have a few billion in the bank. But wiring up chargers is child's play compared to the overall task of sending out prototypes to get driven hard in the real world like this. Rivian was diving into the unknown here to find the truck's current limits.

Long Way Up premieres on September 18th on Apple TV. The Rivian R1T is not the show's star, so don't look for a ton of electric pickup screen time. But judging by how good the trucks look amid those incredible landscapes in Rivian's video, don't be surprised if the camera people got distracted from the LiveWires occasionally. Let's hope for a few tank turn shots, too.

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