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Rivian nabs MotorTrend award in positive sign for electric truck segment

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The Rivian R1T on stage as a 2022 Truck of the Year Finalist at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 17.

The Rivian R1T, which won MotorTrend's 2022 truck of the year award, is seen on stage at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 17. Frederic J. Brown /AFP via Getty Images

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The Rivian R1T has been named MotorTrend magazine’s truck of the year for 2022. The all-electric pickup, made by an auto-industry newcomer based in California, has a range of more than 300 miles, an 11,000-pound towing capacity and a price tag that starts north of $70,000.

It’s not the first electric vehicle to get noticed by MotorTrend. The Tesla Model S, the Chevy Bolt and this year’s Lucid Air have all been named car of the year. But this marks the first time in the magazine’s history that an EV has dominated the traditionally gas-guzzling truck segment.

Electric vehicles have been known more for eco-consciousness and finesse than the ruggedness and power of trucks, said Tim Lipman at the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

“It was considered kind of a tough segment to electrify because of the notion that a pickup truck is something that should have a lot of towing capacity,” he said. “And, you know, people tend to take them on fairly long trips.”

So, the fact that an electric truck can compete on towing, hauling and off-roading signals a new era for the technology, he said.

Plus, legacy carmakers are betting big on the segment, according to Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid.

“We’re seeing electric vehicles move into the market segments that American consumers buy in very large volumes,” he said.

Transferring even some of the big demand for trucks to EVs would be huge. Off-road enthusiast Steve Edwards in Missoula, Montana, is intrigued by the potential of electric trucks, but he’s concerned about range and the lack of charging stations.

“My favorite strategy is just open a paper map and pick a road that looks kind of out there in the middle of nowhere,” Edwards said. “And then, like, what happens if you’re in the middle of nowhere and your battery’s dead?”

Kristin Dziczek, senior vice president of research at the Center for Automotive Research, points out trucks aren’t just used for adventures. Amazon is a major investor in Rivian.

“These big fleet operators, they don’t drive that far. And they generally stay in one geographic area where they can, like, park at night, charge,” she said.

And an EV is a heck of a lot more efficient for that use than the 2021 truck of the year, a V8 Ram that gets 10 miles a gallon in the city.

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