Rivian Adds Soft Sand Mode with Low Regen and High Power Settings

New mode is part of a an over-the-air software update; no mechanical intervention required.

byKristin V. Shaw|
Yellow Rivian electric truck driving across sand

Multiple-time competitor Emme Hall and navigator Rebecca Donaghe piloted a new Rivian R1T last year at the Rebelle Rally, and Hall raved about her experience with the all-electric truck overall. However, there was one particular aspect she found challenging in the final stage tackling the dunes of Glamis: driving in the sand. The heavy truck (about 7,000 pounds even without any gear) required consistent throttle application to stay on top of the sand, and she found that even at the lowest regen setting, she’d have to keep her foot on the accelerator to manage the effects of regenerative braking.

Rivian just announced its answer to that problem by issuing an over-the-air software update that adds a new drive mode especially for soft sand. This is the ninth drive mode Rivian offers, the others split evenly between on-road and off-road options. The update is part of a suite of improvements that includes battery preconditioning, which warms up the battery pack to an ideal temperature for quicker, safer charging.

A Rivian spokesperson told me that the analysis of the truck’s performance at the Rebelle Rally last year was a contributing factor to the update. With this revision, engineers loosened up traction control and goosed the torque while retaining the vehicle’s 50/50 power distribution. In fact, the Soft Sand mode replicates the torque from Sport mode to keep the truck moving even with low traction.

Before engaging Soft Sand mode, the truck displays a message asking the driver to confirm they are in soft sand to help minimize any potential environmental damage. That's a nod to Rivian's new partnership with Tread Lightly! to encourage responsible recreational driving.

I happened to be off-roading in Glamis recently and crested a set of dunes right behind a few Rivian trucks piloted by a group of mechanics and engineers. Based on what I've seen, it's going to be even more formidable with this additional mode.

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