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Rivian Adventure Network: Electric pickup maker hires Tesla staff to build charging network

The charging experience is really important for the success of electric vehicles, and automakers have widely different approaches. Rivian, an electric pickup truck startup, is betting on its own network and it is hiring from the leader, Tesla, to build it out.

One of Tesla’s greatest advantages over other automakers in the electric revolution is the fact that it has much greater control over the charging experience than other companies.

While most of the charging happens at home, in order to replace gasoline vehicles, electric automakers need a seamless charging experience on the road to enable long-distance travel.

Most automakers rely on third-party charging networks to provide the charging experience, but early on, Tesla decided to build its own charging network and control the experience with the Supercharger network.

Rivian is taking a similar approach.

Electrek has learned from sources familiar with the matter that the automaker is working on the “Rivian Adventure Network” and it is hiring people who worked on Tesla’s Supercharger network.

In March, Rivian hired Carrington Bradley as senior manager of charging deployment.

Before joining Rivian, Bradley had been working at Tesla for almost seven years and most recently, he was managing charging programs at the company.

He wrote about his responsibilities and accomplishments at Tesla on LinkedIn:

Built and managed a national team of 11 project managers to design, permit, and build electric vehicle Supercharger stations. Under my leadership, the team scaled from 50 to 150 completed sites per year. Globally, the Supercharger network is the largest direct current fast charging network in the world, covering over 1,900 sites and 17,000 parking stalls in 37 countries.

Around the same time, Rivian also hired Sara Eslinger as “senior product manager, charging infrastructure at Rivian.”

Eslinger was hired away from Lyft where she was leading electric vehicle deployment. Prior to working for Lyft, she worked for more than six years at Tesla in charging infrastructure.

Rivian has also hired Kit Ahuja as Director of Rivian Adventure Network, and he was formerly a manager at Tesla. He more recently worked at Enel X, which is also in the EV charging business.

The automaker has previously mentioned its ambition to build its own charging network:

We will be building some of our own charging infrastructure, including many of the outdoor destinations for which our vehicles are designed.

But we now learn some additional details.

For the “adventure” aspect of the network, Rivian will first target off-roading pit stops, national parks, and RV parks.

When Rivian first unveiled the R1T electric pickup, they were talking about a charge rate of up to 160kW at fast-charging stations and an 11kW onboard charger for level 2 charging.

The prototype was equipped with a CCS charge port.

We now learn from sources that Rivian is aiming for its DC charging stations to deliver up to 200kW, and each charger can charge two vehicles at once. (Update: Rivian told us that these specs are not what is planned for the final version).

Since Rivian owners will have access to all third-Party networks with CCS chargers, the automaker is going to focus on remote locations to close the gap and enable adventures in the wild.

For example, we are told that the company is aiming for one of its first Rivian-branded charging stations to be located in Moab, Utah.

The first sites are supposed to come online next year.

Electrek’s Take

This is awesome news.

I love to hear that Rivian is moving forward with its own charging network and that they are hiring from Tesla to make it happen.

I’ve been saying for a while but when it comes to charging, automakers should just copy Tesla’s approach.

Tesla will be fine. While I’m sure Tesla will miss them, the Supercharger network will keep growing without those employees. I think their experience building out the Supercharger network is probably much more valuable at Rivian right now.

I could see Rivian doing very well with just a few hundred well-located charging stations for adventures across North America and relying on third-party networks, who will have grown significantly by that time, for the rest.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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