In a recently issued patent generically titled “Systems and Methods for Reconfigurable Electric Vehicles”, electric truck maker Rivian imagined a customizable driver experience wherein its cars feature both swappable module components and a computer system that adjusts the vehicle’s configurations to fit them. There’s even a potential business opportunity included with the functionality via the suggestion that vehicles and modules don’t need be to owned by the same people.
Planning a jet ski trip but don’t have the right cargo fitting on your SUV? Perhaps you could rent the right bed from a local Rivian module supplier where, after installation, your car will adjust its suspension and height after detecting what’s been installed. There’s a lot of imagination that can be poured into an electric car brand when users are free to customize their vehicles’ utility purpose however they see fit, and Rivian has captured just that in this method patent.
Easily swapping out major parts of a car kind of sounds like something an infomercial might pitch, but according to Rivian, it’s an unfulfilled need in the electric vehicle arena. As summarized by their patent (U.S. Patent No. 10,207,757), there are numerous uses for EVs that aren’t being tapped into because their configurations aren’t adjustable like fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Perhaps the aftermarket availability of numerous non-EV truck bed types, for instance, were part of this invention’s inspiration to create and offer modules for Rivian vehicles.
So, what exactly is a module in the Rivian sense? Perhaps the patent should speak for itself, per claim 28: “…wherein said different removable structural models include a removable recreation module; a removable delivery module; a removable open box utility module; a removable flat bed support module; and a removable side rail module.” The patent further notes that these modules would be attached to Rivian’s vehicles via latching mechanisms. Through these components, Rivian’s electric trucks can accomplish various tasks that would conventionally require multiple vehicle setups.
Rivian’s patent goes beyond just owner convenience and flexibility. In fact, one of the systems claimed is a business structure wherein module-swapping drivers don’t even own the trucks/SUVs but rather use their varied configuration cars on a rental basis. Maybe a delivery service could use the vehicles as needed, outfitted with modules appropriate for the size and shape of their haul. Or a business traveler could rent special configurations based on their particular trips’ needs.
Additionally, proposed data tracking capabilities could provide usage monitoring that would create preferential settings based on a renter’s history with the Rivian pool fleet. Things like braking sensitivity and ride firmness would be part of the customized customer experience using this data.
Although it’s only somewhat recently made its entry into the all-electric car manufacturing scene and won’t have production cars coming off the line until 2020, Rivian is already making waves with its clever innovations. Extra large battery packs with low centers of gravity and high ground clearance are expected to provide an impressive 400 miles of range with 200 horsepower available at each wheel, and smaller auxiliary packs that function like portable fuel tanks are anticipated to be available as well.
Since Rivian’s electric trucks are meant to be luxury adventure vehicles as well as modularized utility units (potentially), self-driving guided tours reminiscent of those in Jurassic Park are also on the feature list. The coming announcements certainly sound exciting, and for those ready to make the leap into ownership, Rivian has opened up reservations for both vehicles on its website, estimated to be in the $60,000 range after incentives.