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Rivian CFO teases a new cheaper, simplified battery pack structure for R1 EVs coming in 2024

Rivian’s chief financial officer Claire McDonough shared some very interesting tidbit and excellent insight to the American automaker’s end of year goals and where it is headed in 2024. One juicy piece of information she gave the public during a recent interview is that Rivian is developing a new simplified battery pack structure different from the Standard pack, that will eventually make its way into new R1 EVs. Here’s the latest.

Rivian ($RIVN) is one of the fortunate EV automakers gaining momentum entering Q4, following a year that was still feeling repercussions of supply chain delays and less demand for all electric vehicles… or more demand… it depends who you ask.

The automaker’s Q3 report offered better-than-expected production numbers, alongside continued interest from US consumers. As a result, Rivian has been able to maintain is price points while taking in sales to help continue to ramp up production of EDVs and R1 EVs at its plant in Normal, IL.

Rivian is currently contribution margin positive on both its EDVs and R1 vehicles and its CFO expects the automaker to become gross margin positive in 2024. This insight, as well as countless other interesting updates, came from Rivian CFO Claire McDonough during a recent interview with Dan Levy during Barclays’ 2023 Global Automotive & Mobility Tech Conference.

Rivian developing a new battery simpler than its Standard

We implore you to watch the full 40-minute interview with Rivian’s CFO, but will share some of the key items mentioned because we know you’re busy hitting the couch at 4:30PM because the sun is already down.

McDonough spoke to how Rivian got to where it is today, especially after starting the year on shaky ground, halting its assembly lines to regroup and optimize. Those lines appear to be humming now, as Rivian has hits its stride in production of both its commercial and passenger EVs, introducing new technologies like its new Enduro drive unit – designed and engineered in house specifically for its dual-motor vehicles.

The CFO also mentioned current and upcoming technologies that will help lower production costs and help reach gross margin profitability. For example, Rivian’s Standard battery pack is expected to begin deliveries to customers in 2024. Per the interview:

We’re introducing our Standard battery pack in R1 and that allows us to open up a larger addressable market of consumers for R1 vehicles, given that it’s at a starting selling price in the low $70,000 area. So that’s another important new technology we’ll be introducing into R1 that’s not available today.

This is where it gets good (the 14-minute mark for those watching at home). McDonough continues on, mentioning a new battery in the works that doesn’t appear to have been spoken of publicly in the past. Here’s what she said:

And then we’re introducing a new battery as well, for the R1 vehicles. That very heavily simplifies the battery pack and module structure that we will be building and takes thousands of dollars of costs out, additional mass out, is much easier to manufacturer and build as well, within the vehicles. So that’s another example of some of the new technologies that will be coming into place next year that is a key enabler for the operational efficiency, including cost efficiency, that will get unlocked with these introductions.

What do you think? Sounds pretty promising. With Rivian R1 EVs with the Standard battery pack starting in the low $70k range and a “simplified” pack lowering costs further, could we see a shiny new R1S or R1T in the $60,000s? Combine that with federal tax credits and look out, Rivian could have a best seller on its hands.

When asked about a cadence in 2024, McDonough relayed that Rivian’s assembly lines will go dark for “several weeks” in Q2 to prepare. The CFO says EDV production should ramp back up fairly quickly, but R1 assembly lines will take more time because the number of available options the automaker intends to provide its customers is significantly increasing. Per McDonough:

We’re taking a very methodical approach as to how we’re reintroducing each of the respective variants of R1. I spoke a little bit about the fact that it’s not just one battery pack or one drive unit. We’re introducing three battery packs, two different drive units, a brand new network architecture. So there’s a phase approach and ramp associated with each of those respective variants that will impact not only Q2 volumes, but also Q3 volumes, as each of those new variants are feathered into our production process as a whole.

Simultaneously, Rivian’s CFO says the company will be ramping up new supply chains to support these new introductions within the plant. It’s interesting that McDonough mentions Rivian’s new simplified battery pack, then seconds later, says the automaker is introducing three packs on its assembly lines.

Standard Pack, Large Pack, Max Pack – that’s already three by our count? Where does this new Rivian battery pack fit in and is it replacing one of the other options? Time will tell, but we are certainly going to learn more in Q1 2024 before Rivian shuts down its assembly lines to prepare for these new tech integrations. Stay tuned!

 

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