Electric Volkswagen dune buggy in the works, report says

VW is finally killing the Beetle next July, but there could be a Buggy in its future. A source inside the automaker told Autocar that a Myers Manx-inspired electric dune buggy is in the works. (The Meyers Manx was a common site on the sands of California’s beaches and deserts in the 1960s and 1970s.) VW … Continue reading “Electric Volkswagen dune buggy in the works, report says”

VW is finally killing the Beetle next July, but there could be a Buggy in its future.

A source inside the automaker told Autocar that a Myers Manx-inspired electric dune buggy is in the works.

(The Meyers Manx was a common site on the sands of California’s beaches and deserts in the 1960s and 1970s.)

VW never built its own dune buggy, but many were created using Beetle chassis, from which the body could be easily removed. In a similar fashion, the new one would be based on the company’s new battery-powered platform that has been designed to accommodate a variety of body styles, including compact hatchbacks and a minivan styled like the classic Microbus that’s been confirmed for production in a few years.

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According to the Autocar source, the open-top dune buggy features a freestanding windshield, oversized tires and a roll bar. VW has toyed with this idea before, most recently in 2011 when it revealed the gasoline-powered Buggy Up! Concept that never made it into production.

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Lending credence to the Autocar report, VW head designer Klaus Bischoff told Fox News Autos at the U.S. debut of the microbus last year that “we are also considering to bring back some open off-roadish vehicle that stands for a lot of fun.”

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Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Retro-electric 1967 Ford Mustang revealed in Russia

The folks at Ford are working on an electrified Mustang, but the Russians may beat them to it.

A startup based outside of Moscow called Aviar Motors is now taking orders for a battery-powered muscle car that looks just like a 1967 ‘Stang.

The company claims it will have 840 hp and all-wheel-drive, allowing it to accelerate to 60 mph in just 2.2 seconds as speakers mounted on the otherwise silent sports car replicate the sounds of a classic Shelby GT500.

(Aviar)

A top speed of 155 mph and a range of over 300 miles per charge of its 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack are promised, along with some level of self-driving capability that Aviar calls Autopilot, just like Tesla does. There’s also has an extendable rear spoiler and an adjustable air suspension to improve ride and handling.

The two-seat interior features a more modern design with a huge touchscreen display that looks a lot like the one in a Tesla Model S, but tucked between two dashboard brows that mimic the authentic Mustang’s signature style.

(Aviar)

Come to think of it, the R67’s pop-out door handles are the same shape as the Tesla’s, which is available with a 100-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Hmm.

As far as the price is concerned, Aviar has not yet responded to a request from Fox News Autos for more information, so you’ll have to make them an offer if you’re interested.

Or maybe you can just buy a Model S and a Dynacorn 1967 Mustang Fastback reproduction body shell and build one yourself.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Ford Mach E may be in the works, but what is it?

Ford may be shifting from Mach 1 to Mach E.

The automaker announced in January that it was working on an electric performance SUV codenamed Mach 1, but Mustang fans immediate balked at the appropriation of the classic muscle car moniker for such a different type of vehicle.

Ford later clarified that it was just “evaluating” the use of the name, and now a new trademark application indicates that it may have decided against it.

First reported by The Drive, Ford on Nov. 26 filed for trademark protection of the name Mach E for “Motor vehicles, namely, electric vehicles, passenger automobiles, trucks, sport utility vehicles, off-road vehicles, and structural parts, fittings, and badges therefor; metal license plate frames.”  That boilerplate language covers a lot of ground, but clearly includes the kind of vehicle that’s supposed to debut in 2020.

While Ford has acknowledged the public filing, it won’t confirm the intent behind it.

Ford included this rendering of what may be the hybrid Mustang in a new TV ad. (Ford)

Making this more intriguing is the fact that Ford is expected to release a hybrid version of the Mustang that year, too, and Mach E might be an even better fit for that car.

Ford also holds the trademark for the name Model E, which it fought Tesla for the rights for in 2014, and which could end up on one of the other 40 electrified vehicles it plans to introduce by 2020.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS MACH E A GOOD NAME FOR A HIGH-PERFORMANCE ELECTRIC VEHICLE? A HYBRID MUSTANG? LET FOX NEWS AUTOS KNOW ON FACEBOOK.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Tesla apparently on Autopilot pulled over with drunk, sleeping driver behind the wheel, police say

A Tesla was stopped by police in California early on Friday morning…literally.

The driver in the car had nothing to do with it. In fact, he was allegedly drunk and asleep at the time.

The California Highway Patrol said officers spotted the Tesla Model S cruising along U.S. 101 in Redwood City with what appeared to be a dozing driver behind the wheel.

After following the sedan for about seven miles trying to get him to respond to lights and sirens, the officers guessed that the Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist system was engaged, so they pulled in front of it and started to slow down, according to a police report.

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The sedan did the same, and the two vehicles safely came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. With some difficulty, police roused the driver, who was identified as Los Altos Planning Commission chair Alexander Samek, and drove him and the Tesla to a nearby gas station where he failed a field sobriety test. Samek was booked on a DUI and released later in the day.

“Just because there is this feature available doesn’t mean they can just completely disregard being in control of the vehicle,“ CHP public information officer Art Montiel told KTVU.

The use of Autopilot in the incident has not yet been confirmed, but the vehicle’s data logs should be able to provide this information to investigators. The system is able to self-steer a Tesla within a lane while maintaining its speed and braking for obstacles, but is supposed to require periodic input from a driver to confirm that they are paying attention to the road. The time between alerts isn’t fixed and varies depending upon conditions. If a driver fails to respond, the system is programmed to bring the vehicle to a stop with the hazard lights on and contact Tesla service, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted on Sunday that the company is “looking into what happened here.”

Earlier last week, Tesla announced that its cars had been driven over one billion cumulative miles with Autopilot engaged since it was first offered in 2015. The automaker has often touted the system’s safety record, but has updated the driver monitoring feature on several occasions in the wake of a number of high-profile accidents, including a fatal crash that took place in Mountain View, Calif., in March.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

L.A. Auto Show: 5 electric cars coming soon

LOS ANGELES – A variety of electric vehicles destined for production debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, running the gamut from a retro minivan to a high-performance sports sedan and a pickup truck from a company you've never heard from before.

Kia Soul EV: Kia unveiled the third-generation of America's best-selling subcompact SUV, which will include a long-range battery-powered version that will compete with the likes of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, not to mention Kia's own Niro EV, with which it shares a powertrain. Kia hasn't said yet how far you'll be able to drive between charges, but the Niro can go 239 miles before you have to plug it in.

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2020/2021 Rivian R1T and R1s: Startup American automaker Rivian plans to use the same electric platform to build a lineup of high-end pickups and SUVs. It says they'll go as far as 400 miles and be able to accelerate to 100 mph in 7 seconds while offering serious off-road capability. Prices are expected to start at $69,000.

(Getty)

2021 Audi E-Tron GT Concept: Audi is launching an electric SUV next year, and it will follow it up by 2021 with this sleek sports sedan. According to Audi, it will have 590 hp and be able to hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. The range is estimated at about 250 miles, and it can be recharged to 80 percent in just 20 minutes with the fast charging technology it shares with sister company Porsche.

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2022 VW I.D. Buzz Cargo: Volkswagen is investing $50 billion in futuristic autonomous and electric cars, and one of them will be very retro. The I.D. Buzz Cargo is inspired by the classic Microbus, but is being engineered to drive itself over 300 miles on battery power.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Chinese government’s monitoring of electric cars raises surveillance fears

SHANGHAI – When Shan Junhua bought his white Tesla Model X, he knew it was a fast, beautiful car. What he didn't know is that Tesla constantly sends information about the precise location of his car to the Chinese government.

Tesla is not alone. China has called upon all electric vehicle manufacturers in China to make the same kind of reports — potentially adding to the rich kit of surveillance tools available to the Chinese government as President Xi Jinping steps up the use of technology to track Chinese citizens.

"I didn't know this," said Shan. "Tesla could have it, but why do they transmit it to the government? Because this is about privacy."

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners' knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles — the United States, Japan, across Europe — do not collect this kind of real-time data.

And critics say the information collected in China is beyond what is needed to meet the country's stated goals. It could be used not only to undermine foreign carmakers' competitive position, but also for surveillance — particularly in China, where there are few protections on personal privacy. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has unleashed a war on dissent, marshalling big data and artificial intelligence to create a more perfect kind of policing, capable of predicting and eliminating perceived threats to the stability of the ruling Communist Party.

There is also concern about the precedent these rules set for sharing data from next-generation connected cars, which may soon transmit even more personal information.

"You're learning a lot about people's day-to-day activities and that becomes part of what I call ubiquitous surveillance, where pretty much everything that you do is being recorded and saved and potentially can be used in order to affect your life and your freedom," said Michael Chertoff, who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and recently wrote a book called "Exploding Data."

Chertoff said global automakers should be asking themselves tough questions. "If what you're doing is giving a government of a more authoritarian country the tools to have massive surveillance, I think then companies have to ask themselves, 'Is this really something we want to do in terms of our corporate values, even if it means otherwise forgoing that market?'"

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A BIGGER BROTHER?

The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center sits in a grey tower in suburban Jiading district. One floor up from the cafeteria, a wall-sized screen glows with dots, each representing a single vehicle coursing along Shanghai's roads to create a massive real-time map that could reveal where people live, shop, work, and worship.

Click a dot at random, and up pops a window with a number that identifies each individual vehicle, along with its make and model, mileage and battery charge.

All told, the screen exhibits data from over 222,000 vehicles in Shanghai, the vast majority of them passenger cars.

"We can provide a lot of data from consumers to the government to help them improve policy and planning," said Ding Xiaohua, deputy director of the center, a non-profit that is tightly aligned with and funded by the government.

According to national specifications published in 2016, electric vehicles in China transmit data from the car's sensors back to the manufacturer. From there, automakers send at least 61 data points, including location and details about battery and engine function to local centers like the one Ding oversees in Shanghai.

Data also flows to a national monitoring center for new energy vehicles run by the Beijing Institute of Technology, which pulls information from more than 1.1 million vehicles across the country, according to the National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles. The national monitoring center declined to respond to questions.

Those numbers are about to get much bigger. Though electric vehicle sales accounted for just 2.6 percent of the total last year, policymakers have said they'd like new energy vehicles to account for 20 percent of total sales by 2025. Starting next year, all automakers in China must meet production minimums for new energy vehicles, part of Beijing's aggressive effort to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and place itself at the forefront of a growing global industry.

The Chinese government has shown its interest in tracking vehicles.

"The government wants to know what people are up to at all times and react in the quickest way possible," said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. "There is zero protection against state surveillance."

"Tracking vehicles is one of the main focuses of their mass surveillance," she added.

Last year, authorities in Xinjiang, a restive region in western China that has become a laboratory for China's surveillance state, ordered residents to install GPS devices so their vehicles could be tracked, according to official media. This summer the Ministry of Public Security, a police agency, began to roll out a system to track vehicles using windshield radio frequency chips that can identify cars as they pass roadside reading devices.

Ding insisted that the electric vehicle monitoring program is not designed to facilitate state surveillance, though he said data could be shared with government public security organs, if a formal request is made. The center said it has not shared information with police, prosecutors or courts, but has used the data to assist a government investigation of a vehicle fire.

There is a privacy firewall built into the system. The monitoring center has each car's unique vehicle identification number, but to link that number with the personal details of the car owner, it must go through the automaker — a step it has taken in the past. Chinese law enforcement can also independently link the vehicle identification number with the car owner's personal information.

"To speak bluntly, the government doesn't need to surveil through a platform like ours," Ding said. He said he believed the security forces "must have their own ways to monitor suspects," as other governments do.

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DATA ON WHEELS

Many vehicles in the U.S., Europe and Japan transmit position information back to automakers, who feed it to car-tracking apps, maps that pinpoint nearby amenities and emergency services providers. But the data stops there. Government or law enforcement agencies would generally only be able to access personal vehicle data in the context of a specific criminal investigation and in the U.S. would typically need a court order, lawyers said.

Automakers initially resisted sharing information with the Shanghai monitoring center; then the government made transmitting data a prerequisite for getting incentives.

"The automakers consider the data a precious resource," said a government consultant who helped evaluate the policy and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. "They gave you dozens of reasons why they can't give you the data. They give you dozens of excuses. Then we offer the incentives. Then they want to give us the data because it's part of their profit."

There was concern that data pulled from electric vehicles might reveal proprietary information about, for example, how hybrids switch between gas and battery power, and eventually set automakers up for commercial competition with a Chinese government entity. As cars become more connected, carmakers are looking to tap new revenue streams built on data — a market McKinsey estimated could be worth $750 billion by 2030.

Ding said a Tesla executive came to Shanghai and grilled him about the rules. "The first question is who are you, the second question is why you collect this data, and the third question is how to protect the privacy of the users," Ding said.

Tesla declined to comment.

Ding said confidentiality agreements bar the data center from sharing proprietary information.

Still, he is open about his commercial ambition. He'd like to wean the center from government funding and make money from the data, without infringing on anyone's privacy or intellectual property. "We have done some explorations," he said. "But there is still a distance from truly monetizing it."

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CHINA'S EDGE

The Chinese government's ability to grab data as it flows from cars gives its academics and policymakers an edge over competing nations. China tends to view technology development as a key competitive resource. Though global automakers have received billions in incentives and subsidies from U.S., European and Japanese governments, they are contributing data to the Chinese government that ultimately serves Beijing's strategic interests.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory began a nationwide study of how electric vehicle owners drive and charge their cars. Participants gave explicit written consent to allow the government laboratory to collect their data, and even then it wasn't delivered in real time, said John Smart, who leads the center's advanced vehicles group. Instead, the team got historical data on a weekly basis. Cars were assigned random numbers for the study, so owners remained anonymous.

Nothing of its kind has been done since in the U.S., Smart said.

"The cost is very high to collect data," he explained. "The government hasn't felt the need to provide that money and the manufacturers making their own investments are choosing to keep the findings to themselves for proprietary reasons."

When it was published, in 2015, the Idaho National Laboratory's study was the largest ever done. All told, bundled with some additional data, the study helped Idaho researchers analyze 21,600 electric vehicles over 158 million driving miles (254 million kilometers).

In the same amount of time it took Idaho researchers to publish their study, the Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center began gathering real-time information from more than 222,000 vehicles and amassed over 4.7 billion miles (7.6 billion kilometers) of driving history.

"As a researcher, I think that data set could be used to answer hundreds of questions," Smart said. "I have a notebook a half an inch thick full of questions."

Global automakers stressed that they share data to comply with Chinese regulations. Nearly all have announced plans to aggressively expand their electric vehicle offerings in China, the world's largest car market.

"There are real-time monitoring systems in China where we have to deliver car data to a government system," Volkswagen Group China chief executive Jochem Heizmann said in an interview. He acknowledged that he could not guarantee the data would not be used for government surveillance, but stressed that Volkswagen keeps personal data, like the driver's identity, secure within its own systems.

"It includes the location of the car, yes, but not who is sitting in it," he said, adding that cars won't reveal any more information than smart phones already do. "There is not a principle difference between sitting in a car and being in a shopping mall and having a smart phone with you."

Jose Munoz, the head of Nissan's China operations, said he was unaware of the monitoring system until the AP told him, but he stressed that the automaker operated according to the law. Asked by the AP about the potential for human rights abuses and commercial conflicts posed by the data sharing, Munoz smiled and shrugged.

"At Nissan, we are extremely committed to the Chinese market," he said. "We see it as the market that has the greatest opportunity to grow."

Ford, BMW and NIO declined to comment. Mitsubishi did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

General Motors and Daimler said they transmit data in compliance with industry regulations and get consent from car buyers on how their vehicle data is collected and used.

Tesla declined to answer specific questions and instead pointed to a privacy policy buyers sign at the time of purchase, which stipulates that vehicle data can be shared "with other third parties when required by law," though there was no specific mention of the government monitoring centers in the Chinese version of the policy.

Interviews with car owners suggest such disclosures aren't effective. Only one of nine electric vehicle owners was aware data from his car is fed to the government — and he said he only knew because he is an electric vehicle engineer.

"It's useless to be concerned about it," said Min Zeren, who owns a Tesla Model S. "If you're concerned about it, then there's no way to live in this country."

L.A. Auto Show: The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Cargo Concept is a retro electric reboot of the Microbus

Volkswagen has a special delivery on the way in 2022.

The I.D Buzz Cargo Concept unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show is a preview of an all-electric, autonomous commercial vehicle that’s been greenlighted for production.

(VW)

Inspired by the classic VW Microbus, it coincidentally has its electric motor mounted in the rear, where it sits behind an under-floor battery pack that’s good for over 300 miles of range between charges.

(VW)

An all-wheel-drive version is possible too, as VW has previously shown on a passenger version of the vehicle.

(VW)

VW is pitching the I.D. Buzz Cargo as a perfect solution for the growing parcel delivery industry that’s been spurred by online shopping, and results in vans spending a lot of time sitting in city traffic wasting fuel. Along with not needing to use any energy when it isn't moving, the I.D. Buzz Cargo has solar panels on its roof that can generate over 9 miles of electricity each day.

(VW)

The L.A. show car is outfitted like a support vehicle for VW’s record-setting Pike’s Peak Hill Climb team for fun, but VW says the production version will be able to carry up to 1,760 pounds of whatever you need it to.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV is a very green off-road machine

LOS ANGELES – Hot on the heels of the reveal of its electric R1T pickup in Los Angeles on Monday night, startup automaker Rivan kept the pedal down on Tuesday and took the wraps off of the SUV that will share its battery-powered underpinnings.

The R1S three-row utility vehicle features the same futuristic headlights and overall styling of the pickup, but replaces its bed with a covered cargo area and third row of seats. It’s about the same size as the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover that will likely be its primary, conventionally-powered competitors, and promises similar off-road capability, but with zero emissions.

The R1S will be offered with three battery sizes that Michigan-based Rivian claims will deliver from 250 miles to over 400 miles of range. Four individual electric motors, one for each wheel, provide all-wheel-drive and a precise power control on pavement, dirt and rocks, according to Rivian engineering director Mark Vinnels.

With a combined output of approximately 400 hp to 750 hp, depending on the model, the aluminum-bodied RS1 will be also able to tow 7700 pounds and accelerate to 100 mph in as little as 7 seconds. A standard air suspension can lift it high enough to provide 14 inches of ground clearance below its floor-mounted battery pack, which will be protected by composite and metal shielding.

(Rivian)

Despite the low placement of the battery pack and motors, Vinnels says the R1S can wade through over three feet of water and that its cabin is fully-sealed against leaks if you try. That’s also true for the 11 cubic-foot “frunk” storage compartment under the hood. Even if a couple of drips make it in to either, the R1S’s Chilewich carpets are washable.

And while the RS1 is aimed at adventurous types who like to drive themselves, Rivian says it will offer Level 3 autonomy, which is capable of self-driving in certain situations, like during highway cruising or while trudging along in stop-and-go traffic.

Rivan plans to start production of the R1S at its factory in Normal, Ill., in early 2021, a few months after the pickup goes on sale. Exact pricing hasn’t been announced, but the R1T is projected to start at $69,000.

MORE: THE R1T IS THE AMERICAN-MADE ELECTRIC PICKUP OF THE NEAR FUTURE

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The Rivian R1T is the American-made electric pickup of the near future

Normal, Ill., may soon be the home of a very unusual vehicle.

Startup automaker Rivian has unveiled the electric pickup it plans to build at a former Mitsubishi plant in the Land of Lincoln starting in late 2020. The Michigan-based company has collected a team of industry veterans and a half-billion dollars in funding so far to bring the project to fruition.

The midsize truck features a conventional pickup shape that’s wrapped in sleek contemporary bodywork echoing the technology underneath it. Its oval headlight clusters and full-width running light giving it a particularly sci-fi look.

As is becoming an increasingly common approach to electric vehicle design, the R1T is built on a “skateboard” chassis that houses the battery pack, drivetrain components, and everything else that makes it go. It will also form the basis for an SUV, with the two trucks being targeted primarily at premium “lifestyle” buyers, rather than commercial customers.

Battery sizes of 105 kWh, 135 kWh and 180 kWh will be offered, all of which are larger than anything available on a retail electric vehicle today. Rivian projects that they will deliver ranges of over 250 miles, 300 miles and 400 miles per charge, respectively, and be able to be recharged to the tune of 200 miles worth of electricity in 30 minutes at public fast-charging stations.

An electric motor for each wheel provides the R1T with all-wheel-drive and a combined output between 400 hp and 750 hp, depending on the model. Rivian claims the fastest of them will be able to accelerate to 60 mph in a supercar-quick 3 seconds, while all will tow over 11,000 pounds.

A computer-controlled air suspension increases ground clearance from approximately 9.5 inches to 14 inches for better off-road capability, or lowers it to less than 8-inches to make the vehicle easier to enter and load. Since there’s already a compressor onboard, Rivian installed an air pump valve in the bed, along with power outlets and a security camera system to monitor anything stored in it.

Even with all of the important electronics riding low in the truck, it’s all fully-sealed and the R1T can wade through a meter of water.

The flat-pack chassis layout also allows for some unique storage opportunities, including a “frunk” under the hood, a cubby beneath the bed floor that can either be used as a trunk or a spare tire carrier, and a “Gear Tunnel” between the cab and box that can accommodate long items like skis. The doors for the tunnel double as stools, and the tailgate can be released to fold down 180-degrees to offer closer access to the bed.

The cabin features a digital instrument cluster and a large central display for the infotainment system. It’s trimmed in a mix of authentic wood and synthetic upholstery inspired by sports equipment to give the whole thing a premium feel that you don’t mind getting dirty, according to CEO. R.J. Scaringe.

Scaringe also promises that the R1T will be equipped with all of the cameras, sensors and positioning technology needed for Level 3 self-driving functionality, which allows for autonomous control in certain locations and situations.

Prices will start at $69,000 and reservations are now available for a $1,000 deposit, but only high-end models will be available at launch. If it hits its target date, Rivian will likely beat Tesla and the Big Three truckmakers to market with an all-electric pickup by months or years.

FOLLOW FOX NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK FOR MORE

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV is a very green off-road machine

LOS ANGELES – Hot on the heels of the reveal of its electric R1T pickup in Los Angeles on Monday night, startup automaker Rivan kept the pedal down on Tuesday and took the wraps off of the SUV that will share its battery-powered underpinnings.

The R1S three-row utility vehicle features the same futuristic headlights and overall styling of the pickup, but replaces its bed with a covered cargo area and third row of seats. It’s about the same size as the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover that will likely be its primary, conventionally-powered competitors, and promises similar off-road capability, but with zero emissions.

The R1S will be offered with three battery sizes that Michigan-based Rivian claims will deliver from 250 miles to over 400 miles of range. Four individual electric motors, one for each wheel, provide all-wheel-drive and a precise power control on pavement, dirt and rocks, according to Rivian engineering director Mark Vinnels.

With a combined output of approximately 400 hp to 750 hp, depending on the model, the aluminum-bodied RS1 will be also able to tow 7700 pounds and accelerate to 100 mph in as little as 7 seconds. A standard air suspension can lift it high enough to provide 14 inches of ground clearance below its floor-mounted battery pack, which will be protected by composite and metal shielding.

(Rivian)

Despite the low placement of the battery pack and motors, Vinnels says the R1S can wade through over three feet of water and that its cabin is fully-sealed against leaks if you try. That’s also true for the 11 cubic-foot “frunk” storage compartment under the hood. Even if a couple of drips make it in to either, the R1S’s Chilewich carpets are washable.

And while the RS1 is aimed at adventurous types who like to drive themselves, Rivian says it will offer Level 3 autonomy, which is capable of self-driving in certain situations, like during highway cruising or while trudging along in stop-and-go traffic.

Rivan plans to start production of the R1S at its factory in Normal, Ill., in early 2021, a few months after the pickup goes on sale. Exact pricing hasn’t been announced, but the R1T is projected to start at $69,000.

MORE: THE R1T IS THE AMERICAN-MADE ELECTRIC PICKUP OF THE NEAR FUTURE

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.