Rivian Truck Battery Patent Suggests Better, Faster Charging

Electric truck and SUV startup Rivian filed a patent application for fast-charging electric vehicle batteries at different voltages using a switch mechanism. The technology could reduce the cost of electric vehicles and make high-speed charging systems easier to use.

The patent describes a configurable battery that when used in an electric vehicle can accept charging voltages of either 450 or 900 volts and use less expensive components. The system can manage a potential fault in a battery module without disconnecting the load, making it more reliable.

Rivian, based in Plymouth, Mich., is raising funds to complete development and launch production of the all-electric R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV  it unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

Both are billed as adventure vehicles that can easily navigate rugged terrain and would compete directly with Ford vehicles including the F-150, Ranger pickup truck and upcoming Bronco SUV. Deliveries of the five-passenger R1T pickup and seven-passenger R1S SUV are expected to start in late 2020, according to Rivian. The vehicles will deliver up to 400-plus miles of range and have off-road capability, the company says.

$700 MILLION RAISED

Earlier this year the company raised $700 million in a financing round let by Amazon. In April, Ford Motor Co. invested $500 million in Rivian, saying it will use the company’s “skateboard” platform to develop a new electric vehicle.

The technology described in Rivian’s patent application could provide several benefits, said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst for Navigant Research. The technology would allow a switch to change the connection between two battery packs from parallel, a low-voltage charging system, to series, which allows for faster, higher voltage charging.

In its patent filing, Rivian says that an advantage to this system is allowing an increased charging rate without the need for components that are rated for larger currents. Abuelsamid said there could be benefits during vehicle operation as well.

“Having the ability to dynamically reconfigure the battery to provide more power could be significant when towing or carrying a heavy payload,” he said.

400-MILE RANGE

Rivian’s electric pickup truck, which the company said will start at about $69,000, will have an 11,000-pound tow rating and a cargo capacity of 1,760 pounds. The R1T’s four electric motors produce up to 753 horsepower and 826 pound-feet of torque. The longest-range R1T has a 400-mile range from a 180-kWh battery. The R1S will have similar performance numbers.

Rivian’s filing of the patent application does not mean that Rivian will use the new battery technology in its vehicles. A Rivian spokesperson said the company does not comment on patent applications. The company has said that its vehicles can use fast-charging stations up to 160 kW, which would provide about 200 miles of range in 30 minutes.

“The ability to take advantage of any available charging capability could also be beneficial to consumers,” the spokesperson said.

However, the absolute charging rates are unlikely to be of much value for the foreseeable future. There are no plans to go beyond 350 kW charging infrastructure, he said.

“Those kinds of power levels may be problematic from a cost and grid-capacity standpoint,” Abuelsamid said. “However, a lower cost vehicle that could go from 75 to 150 to 300 kW could be appealing.”

John Voelcker April 24, 2019
Ford will invest $500 million in electric-truck maker Rivian and will use the startup’s “skateboard” underpinnings for an unspecified future electric vehicle.

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