Coast2Coast

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GM's new EV and battery push is a big deal and its impact on the auto industry, including Rivian, may be considerable. https://electrek.co/2020/03/05/gm-says-its-new-low-cobalt-ev-battery-cell-has-60-more-capacity/

The strategic foundation of any BEV undertaking is batteries. Their size, density, cost, durability and availability. As we know, there are competing battery chemistries, sizes, packaging and other factors at the industry level. At the company level, however, companies generally have to make choices. Rivian has, Tesla has, and GM is in the process of doing so. This presents a classic S-curve conundrum: get out front early and hopefully develop first mover advantages. Tesla has taken this tact. But, as the technology or, more accurately, technologies keep advancing, the second, third and fourth companies out of the gate are able to take advantage of the latest and greatest technical advances while the front runner may be stuck in its now old hat technology. To Tesla's credit, it keeps trying out new partners, chemistries, battery sizes and packs.

Rivian claims industry leading battery technology and I have no reason to doubt the claims, but in a fast moving, fast changing technology, like batteries for vehicles, industry-leading may be temporary. I haven't read which battery company Rivian is working with. Hopefully, it's more than one. Panasonic would be a good partner and one of Rivian's early investors, Sumitomo Corporation, may be helpful in this regard. LG Chemical is working with a lot of companies, including Tesla and GM. Ideally, Rivian is working with several suppliers and by doing so minimize supply issues but also invest in different battery chemistries, formats, form factors and the like. This is difficult for early stage companies because working with lots of different suppliers and technologies is very resource intensive.

Given that Rivian's skateboard will be the underpinnings for its own two models, R1T and R1S, plus Amazon Prime delivery trucks and a Lincoln SUV, its battery tech is creating a sizable beachhead in battery technology as it moves forward. But GM is spreading its battery tech across a dozen different models, and Tesla is deploying its battery tech across a half-dozen different models. The more models are in the field, the larger the number of users obviously and the greater the feedback on how one's battery technology is doing - its strengths and weaknesses. This is crucial to improving performance in rapidly changing technologies.

This is the strategic challenge: getting to market early, establishing a beachhead, accumulating experience but not getting locked-in with respect to pivotal systems and components because technologies will keep advancing and changing. I'm sure Rivian is well aware of all of this, but I wish it was more transparent with respect to the choices it's making. In particular, I would hope it is working with as many different battery partners and chemistries as possible. Yes, this is terrifically expensive and taxing of managerial & engineering talent, but in rapidly changing industries and technologies, it's the prudent thing to do.
 
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I'll react to my earlier post by adding that in rapidly changing industries and technologies, partner selection and management are crucial to long-term success. It's a mistake to try and do too much on one's own but, by the same token, it's pivotal to develop areas of distinctive competencies. Without them, good firms are reluctant to partner with you.

Rivian clearly has areas of distinctive competence - skateboard architecture, suspension and handling, industrial design, software architecture and design, and battery chemistry, battery pack design, development and management. However, my earlier points stand: batteries are the key to any BEV strategy, and batteries are an industry riddled with huge uncertainty, high costs and risks.

As far as I can see, the only prudent way to reduce the risks but not the costs for a single firm is to engage with the best possible battery development partners, and we've heard nothing (at least I'm not aware of anything) about how Rivian is handling this pivotal risk to the future success of the company.
 

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Their timely price drop when the Model Y debuted early indicates to me that Rivian plays a good chess game. I'd be surprised if they didn't have contingencies for swapping battery tech as-needed. GM's platform looks like fists of ham and not nearly as modular compared to Rivian's. If anyone's going to have a pivoting problem as the best-in-battery-tech shifts, I think it will be GM. They blew the deal with Rivian because they wanted Rivian to cease their own EV ambitions. At least they knew who they needed to be afraid of. Now they'll also have to compete against Ford using Rivian's platform in at least the luxury SUV market. Slick move.
 
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The battery wars for BEV technical supremacy are heating up. Here are news flashes to this effect. I used the first to start this thread a month ago, highlighting what GM is doing with its Ultium batteries.
https://electrek.co/2020/03/05/gm-says-its-new-low-cobalt-ev-battery-cell-has-60-more-capacity/

Since then, new flashes have appeared, including pieces about Samsung SDI, reputedly working with Rivian on supplying batteries.
https://www.evspecifications.com/en/news/0e9127d
https://www.tesmanian.com/blogs/tes...d-state-battery-that-has-a-range-of-500-miles

As mentioned above, battery technology is perhaps the key technological rivalry in the emerging BEV segment of the global auto industry. There are many battery makers and they are pursuing different strategies for producing and improving the size, density, durability, cost and availability of batteries. Because there is no agreement as to the best battery chemistry, there is no industry standard. As a result, picking one company as a supplier may result in profound competitive advantages OR disadvantages for vehicle makers.

Tesla may be - surprise, surprise - an industry outlier in its preference for doing so much of its component and systems supply in-house. And batteries are no different. While Tesla works closely with Panasonic in Gigafactory I, in Sparks, Nevada, LG Chem is the supplier of batteries at Tesla's new China Gigafactory. And, it wouldn't be surprising if Tesla also sources batteries from CATL and BYD, the two largest battery companies in China and, therefore, the world. Tesla is also developing battery technology in-house, it bought Maxwell Technologies, a medium size battery maker, and it's clear that Tesla has accumulated a huge amount of experience among manufacturers with respect to battery density, durability and cost considerations.

While Tesla appears to have alternative sources of battery supply, Panasonic, LG Chem and itself, other makers, including Rivian, are not so fortunate. They typically align themselves with sole suppliers. This is probably inevitable. There's not sufficient battery supply, so makers are forced to line up long-term sources of supply. A year or two down the road, such choices could have major competitive consequences if one or another battery supplier breaks through in terms of battery chemistry, availability and cost.

Ideally, Rivian would contract with two or three battery suppliers, as a risk and possibly cost reduction strategy. Realistically, it's forced to put all of its eggs in one battery supplier's basket. It's this strategic choice that I'm trying to highlight in this thread.

There's no consensus as to what's the best battery chemistry and design, yet Rivian (and every other vehicle maker) has to make choices to bring their BEVs to market. The consequences of making the wrong choices are severe: lackluster comparisons with BEV makers making better choices, declining sales, increasing costs to find, secure and implement alternative sources of supply and, in the meantime, a soiled reputation in the marketplace.

It's not clear which battery maker is the biggest, as the auto industry is in flux, not only here but also worldwide. However, as China is the world's largest auto market, Chinese battery companies are among the world's largest. CATL and BYD are the two biggest Chinese battery companies. South Korea has several of the world's largest battery makers, LG Chem, SK Innovation, and Samsung SDI. The biggest Japanese battery companies are Panasonic and AESC. To what extent Tesla makes its own batteries is uncertain, so it's difficult to rank it among the largest battery makers.

To sum up, the battery wars are not just about cost and availability though these are key ingredients of competition. There's torrid pace of innovation and competition with respect to battery chemistry and, therefore, battery size, density, durability, availability and cost. As wonderful as Rivian's vehicles may be, their appeal in the marketplace will pivot heavily on which battery maker supplies its batteries. And, at this time, that may be much more of a crapshoot than any of us may like to admit. Rivian hasn't said with which battery firm or firms it will work.
 
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More info on the global competition around battery technology.

In general, with government subsidies and promotion and the largest domestic auto market in the world, battery technologies have grown by leaps and bounds, along with vehicle production, in China. In S. Korea, also with government support, battery firms are especially active overseas given the small size of the domestic auto market. And, in Japan, likewise with government support and encouragement, battery and auto companies are actively pursuing new battery technologies, especially solid state batteries. The last link below, from the Financial Times, tracks mining investments in the minerals critical to battery production.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/C...nd-South-Korea-battle-China-for-future-of-EVs

https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/13/17675708/great-battery-war-steve-levine-powerhouse-book-interview

https://www.ft.com/content/455fe41c-7185-11e9-bf5c-6eeb837566c5

I hope this thread will generate discussion about what Rivian should do with respect to battery supply. At a minimum, it should develop deep supplier relations and production capabilities with at least one leading battery firm. It would be ideal if Rivian could diversify sources of battery supply with another one or two suppliers since each battery firm boasts its own proprietary chemistries, production and process engineering, packaging capabilities, delivery and logistics. The more, the merrier.

But having more than one supplier will be extremely expensive in terms of capital, management and time, and, even if you're willing to commit the resources, battery makers are in huge demand. You may not find ones willing to hook up with an early stage firm located two hours downstate from Chicago. Fortunately, investments from Amazon, Cox and Ford lend Rivian's efforts a lot of credibility.

Given how basic and pivotal batteries are to BEV performance, I wish we had more knowledge about Rivian's battery tech strategies. This may be the single best predictor of Rivian's success in the marketplace. It does appear Rivian possesses very advanced battery temperature and management capabilities and the architecture of its battery packaging seems well thought out and executed. All good. Hopefully Rivian has chosen the right battery supplier.
 

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Those Samsung batteries sound pretty ideal. Non-toxic and low-fire risk. Child-labor factor? Didn't see anything about Cobalt but I don't feel so hot about the idea of my super-car/pickup hybrid mid-life crisis being fueled by the tears of prison orphans.

Over 1000 charges. Would that mean roughly your car's max range times 1000? Even half that would be pretty decent total miles before skateboard swap or new car, if fast-charging reduced life by a lot. Don't know battery lingo/units well enough to tell what they mean by half the space of a normal battery. Wouldn't that be cell-size specific? Assuming those numbers survive the journey to production, if Rivian used the same amount of space for batteries with this new tech, what would their ranges look like?

Big improvements like this raise an interesting question. How much range is more than enough? 400 seems like plenty for a full day of driving with one recharge stop. But eventually the number of hours to charge to full catches up on a really long trip. Aside from the first leg of a trip, assuming about 8 hours of driving is your ceiling, what fun is 600 if you can only charge 2-400 overnight?

Fortunately for Rivian customers, I don't think Rivian is a hard sell. Scaringe's super-power seems to have been getting people on board even before he had the trucks to demo. I mean the guy could convince you your pants being on fire isn't really that big of a deal and your brain would be like, "Huh, AND he looks like Clark Kent? Who is this guy? Also, ow."
 
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Thinking more about batteries and, as Rivian enthusiasts, there appears to be 3 or 4 major branching points with respect to battery technology in the early years ahead of the battery electric vehicle (BEV) industry. The first is battery chemistry, the second is how batteries are packaged, the third is how battery packs are modularized, and the fourth is how modules can be managed by hardware and software systems. There must be others, but I'm neither a scientist nor an engineer, and I don't know how, where and why to make such decisions.

A decade from now, hopefully a lot of these matters will be worked out and there will be agreement about how to power battery electric vehicles. In the meantime, in the absence of emerging standards, flexibility in how these things - battery chemistry, battery packaging, battery modularization, and battery system architectures - get done seems the only safe and sane way forward.

I have an old Osborne computer hidden away in my garage. I also have two MacBook Pros, one working and one not, not to mention Dell and Alienware computers and several editions of Microsoft's Flight Simulator. The analogy's not perfect but I suspect most of us are in the same boat - lots of aging hardware and software that no longer or hardly ever gets used. It would be great if we could easily upgrade our devices with the latest and greatest, but manufacturers almost always make that impossible, unless we pay them a nice little fee for doing so.

Will we be able to take advantage of the latest and greatest battery chemistries as they become available? Will Rivian's battery packs and modules be upgradeable? Will battery systems be replaceable without ripping away the undersides of our Rivian vehicles?

These are my most pressing questions as an early Rivian preorder holder. I actually wonder if it might be better to dump my early preorder in favor of re-positioning myself at the back of the line, giving Rivian and the rest of the BEV industry more time to work out the many imponderables. Early adoption has its perils. Given the massive changes to vehicle power systems and architectures, caution may be called for. Ideally, Rivian will announce how it is future-proofing its battery power and management choices. So far, all I've heard is that Rivian will recycle its early generation batteries for mundane, land based applications. That's encouraging but it doesn't really address the issues of how Rivian vehicle owners will be able to cope with and upgrade their vehicles in the midst of massive changes in the BEV marketplace.
 

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Rivians first battery packs are very likely to last 10-20 years, and vehicle technology will likely be very different at that point.
Imagine if the engine goes south on a 20 year old F-150. A few might replace it and keep driving their old vehicle. Most will move on to a newer vehicle with more features/performance/safety/economy/etc. It is also very possible that the idea of personal vehicles will be on it's way out.

The Osborne computer reference reminded me that I have an 8" floppy or two floating around with probably WordStar or Visicalc for CP/M (or MP/M). We were selling Altos multi-user business systems with a 5 or 10 MB Hard drive and 256K of RAM (64K per user) for the price of 3-4 Full size sedans.
 

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The Osborne computer reference reminded me that I have an 8" floppy or two floating around with probably WordStar or Visicalc for CP/M (or MP/M). We were selling Altos multi-user business systems with a 5 or 10 MB Hard drive and 256K of RAM (64K per user) for the price of 3-4 Full size sedans.
Most people don't remember floppy disks in general, much less the 8"-ers. Probably not even many 5.25s, even if they saw 3.5 not-so-floppies.

I guess a lot of us older techies are a prime market for Rivian?
 

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The first is battery chemistry, the second is how batteries are packaged, the third is how battery packs are modularized, and the fourth is how modules can be managed by hardware and software systems. There must be others,
A)Manufacturing costs (manufacturing technique, materials supply, dry coating technology)
B)Environmental impact (mineral supply, dry coating, minimizing cobalt)
C)Safety (solid electrolyte)
D)Energy density

A decade from now, hopefully a lot of these matters will be worked out...
At least we can be certain that there will be advances such that manufacturers can produce cheaper, lighter, safer cars that go farther on a charge (which doesn't take as long as it does now) using fewer exotic materiasl and which have a smaller production carbon footprint.


and there will be agreement about how to power battery electric vehicles.
Some standards will emerge but there will never be complete agreement.


In the meantime, in the absence of emerging standards, flexibility in how these things - battery chemistry, battery packaging, battery modularization, and battery system architectures - get done seems the only safe and sane way forward.
The smart designer will avoid designs that preclude his availing himself of improved future technologies. As he has a pretty good idea the directions that these will take out, say, 10 years, this shouldn't be too hard to do. This shouldn't be too hard to do. As people are comparing to computer technology I'll recall the Mac's Gestalt function which returned a structure with screen size, processor clock speed, installed RAM, cache size... So do I expect that modern BMS software will be able to get the car's gestalt with respect to number of cells, C, internal impedance... such that if someone comes up with a new cell with, say, lower internal impedance, the new impedance value just goes into ROM somewhere to be read out by the BMS at boot.


Will battery systems be replaceable without ripping away the undersides of our Rivian vehicles?
Don't know but see if you can find the YouTube video of Elon demonstrating his machine that could swap out a battery pack in less time than it takes to fill a gas tank.


These are my most pressing questions as an early Rivian preorder holder. I actually wonder if it might be better to dump my early preorder in favor of re-positioning myself at the back of the line,
That's a question an early adopter of any fast evolving technology has to ask himself.n I've always been a sucker for this. Paid premium price for the latest and greatest only to do it again the next year for the new one with 2 more megapixels. And just did it to get 56 more miles of range in my Tesla Model X. For 99% of users in 99% of applications 400 miles is plenty! If you wait for the 500 mile Rivian or CT you will be denying yourself access to the great driving experience that a BEV grants. Depending on your willingness to toss money to the wind, I'd suggest keeping your order. After driving it for a year you will conclude that 400 miles is fine. But if you are still drawn by a higher mileage model, buy it. This not only scratches your itch but supports the manufacturer and makes a used vehicle available at a lower price available to someone else thus improving penetration of BEV into the market.
 
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Thanks, DucRider and Ajdelange. You're right. The first Rivian batteries, encompassing hundreds/thousands of decisions with respect chemistry, packaging, manufacturability, repairability, sustainability, logistics and so on, will likely last a good ten years or longer. By the time they're slated to be replaced or the vehicle is ready to be turned over, there will be much better batteries. And the vehicles, as rugged and well designed as they are, may last for several battery generations.

While the computer analogy was useful in considering issues of obsolescence, battery and BMS product development cycles are much longer than computer hardware and software development cycles even while computer systems control nearly everything that runs on a Rivian. Brian Gase says the doors open mechanically from the inside, for example, so if the vehicle stalls or fails electronically, you can still exit. Rivian seems to have thought of everything, so battery obsolescence was undoubtedly in the development planning and engineering execution.

So, I'm sticking with my early preorder, 11/30/18, though I'm still unsure whether to go with a R1S or R1T. I like the maneuverability and inside carrying practicality of the R1S for my semi-rural lifestyle, but the versatility and greater inside-outside capabilities of the R1T as a single, do-it-all vehicle are hard to ignore. How are you guys parsing this decision?
 

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While the computer analogy was useful in considering issues of obsolescence, battery and BMS product development cycles are much longer than computer hardware and software development cycles even while computer systems control nearly everything that runs on a Rivian.
I think we could argue this a bit. A little over a year ago (late 2018) Tesla was offering cars with ranges of around 300 mi (and a little over). Rivian's 400 was pretty exciting and the reason I reserved one. Now Tesla is selling cars approaching 400 (390 for the long range S, i believe) and talking about 500. This represents a pretty big improvement in a pretty short time.. By the time Rivian delivers 400 won't be exciting any more. It will be expected. That's a pretty big improvement. Beyond that the increase in range seems to be more or less log linear. Now the slope isn't as steep as Moore's law (doubling every 2 years) but instead taking nearly 8 years to double. But it is exponential growth.

So, I'm sticking with my early preorder, 11/30/18, though I'm still unsure whether to go with a R1S or R1T. I like the maneuverability and inside carrying practicality of the R1S for my semi-rural lifestyle, but the versatility and greater inside-outside capabilities of the R1T as a single, do-it-all vehicle are hard to ignore. How are you guys parsing this decision?
Simple. The R1T will deliver earlier.
 
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A.J., you're a thoughtful, practical guy. Thanks.
 

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So, I'm sticking with my early preorder, 11/30/18, though I'm still unsure whether to go with a R1S or R1T. I like the maneuverability and inside carrying practicality of the R1S for my semi-rural lifestyle, but the versatility and greater inside-outside capabilities of the R1T as a single, do-it-all vehicle are hard to ignore. How are you guys parsing this decision?
It came down to easier city parking and climate controlled EV camping without a tent vs gear tunnel kitchen for me. Gear tunnel kitchen (plus other possibilities) won me over. Also realizing I always wanted a pickup, but it needed to be perfect before I'd consider one.
 
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