The electric truck market is ready to burst into life with vehicles from startups and industry veterans alike. Two of the most prominent options will come from Tesla and EV newcomer Rivian, whose first vehicle, the Rivian R1T electric pickup truck, will square up against the funky-looking Tesla Cybertruck.
Although both are electric pickup trucks, the two vehicles couldn’t be more different. The Rivian is a fresh take on a decades-old recipe, while the Cybertruck is designed to look like nothing else on the road. Both promise multiple drivetrain options, long range, huge towing capabilities and, being electric, supercar-rivalling performance.
Despite being the younger company and producing its first vehicle, Rivian got to market first with the R1T, since Tesla’s Cybertruck launch has been pushed back to 2023. It would be fair to say Tesla is no stranger to delays when releasing new vehicles, but its loyal fanbase remain unperturbed, and have allegedly racked up over one million pre-orders for a truck none of them has driven.
|Rivian R1T||Tesla Cybertruck|
|Release date||Available now||2023|
|Price||From $67,500||From $39,900 (Est)|
|Power||4 motors, AWD||4 motor, AWD|
|Charging||200kW at launch ; 300 kW later||250 kW|
|0-60 mph||3.0 seconds||2.9 seconds|
|Autonomous driving||Driver+||Autopilot (optional Full Self Driving upgrade)|
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Release info and price
Rivian was first to reveal its electric truck, back at the LA motor show in November 2018. It was here that the startup announced the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, which share the same platform, as its first vehicles. Rivian originally said both would be available in the second half of 2020, but the pandemic caused this date to slip a year. The first deliveries are now due in January 2022.
Tesla revealed the Cybertruck a year later, in November 2019. During the reveal, Elon Musk proudly bragged about the strength of the truck, only for the windows to be smashed by a metal ball. Musk said the first Cybertrucks would roll off the production line in late-2021, but this later slipped to late 2022 , and then again to early 2023 at the earliest.
The Rivian R1T is available to order and configure now, with a $1,000 fully-refundable deposit. The Cybertruck can also be pre-ordered with a refundable deposit of $100.
The Rivian R1T prices currently start at $67,500. This is for the Explore Package and ‘Large’ battery pack (which is , confusingly, the smaller of the two currently offered by Rivian).
Upgrading to the $10,000 ‘Max’ battery pack increases estimated EPA range from 314 miles to over 400 miles. Meanwhile switching the Explore Package for the Adventure Package ups the price by $5,500 and adds a premium interior, among other features.
The Tesla Cybertruck starting price is $39,900, which gets you a single-motor, rear-wheel-drive variant. Above this is a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model that starts at $49,900, and the range is topped by a triple-motor, all-wheel-drive Cybertruck that costs from $69,900.
A quad-motor Cybertruck is also coming, with Elon Musk claiming it would be the first models off the production line. However that's just about all we know about this newly-announced model, other than the fact there will be torque control on each individual wheel
Estimated EPA range stretches from 250+ miles to 500+ miles across the three variants of Cybertruck. Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ Autopilot upgrade is the only known option for now, priced at $10,000.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Design
When it comes to design, these two trucks couldn’t be more different. Rivian has taken a traditional approach to the aesthetics of its R1T pickup truck, with a chunky, three-box design, four-door layout and spacious load bay at the rear.
But that doesn’t mean the Rivian lacks intelligent design. The drivetrain has four motors, meaning each wheel can be controlled independently, which should make for seriously impressive off-roading capabilities.
Meanwhile, the so-called ‘gear tunnel’ runs widthways behind the rear doors, creating stowage space through the body of the truck. Rivian has demonstrated how this could be used to store skis, and even plans to offer a slide-out camping kitchen.
Tesla has taken a far more futuristic approach with the Cybertruck. Still vaguely following the proportions of a pickup truck, the Cybertruck is all about sharp edges and acute angles with its exposed steel body and angular glasshouse. The 6.5-foot rear load bay can be covered to create secure storage, while the front and rear light graphics are unlike anything else on the road.
Renders of the Cybertruck show it with an optional tent mounted to the rear, along with a retractable camping kitchen. Elon Musk has also been saying a lot of nice things about the Cyberquad, an ATV that fits onto the rear bed rather snuggly. It isn’t known what any of these additional features will cost at this stage.
Tesla says the Cybertruck will change very little before going into mass-production, but concerns have been raised about whether its design will meet global pedestrian safety standards.
As for which is best, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you want a traditionally-looking pickup truck, or a vehicle that wouldn’t look out of place in a 90s-era Cyberpunk video game.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Interior
Inside, it’s a similar story of polar opposites. Both cabins could be described as minimalist, but where the Rivian is the more conventional of the two, the Cybertruck, with its airplane-style, yoke-shaped steering wheel is the more extreme.
The Tesla interior features little else than the yoke, six seats arranged in two rows of three, and a large touch screen mounted to the centre of an otherwise featureless dashboard. Little else is known about the Cybertruck’s interior for now, but it is likely to feature the same rear passenger display and gaming computer found in the 2021 Model S and Model X.
In the Rivian there is also a central touchscreen, but this is joined by a digital display ahead of the driver and a more traditional cabin. The R1T has two seats at the front and a bench of three seats in the rear.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: 0-60 and towing
Almost all electric cars excel when it comes to acceleration, and for many upcoming electric trucks this is also true. Rivian says the R1T will sprint to 60mph in as little as 3.0 seconds, depending on which model the buyer chooses. The company also claims the truck has a towing capacity of up to 11,000 lbs.
As for the Cybertruck, Tesla says the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive model will have a 0-60mph sprint time of under 6.5 seconds, while the dual-motor will take this below 4.5 seconds, and the range-topping triple-motor vehicle will hit 60mph in under 2.9 seconds. That’s proper supercar levels of acceleration, and something the pickup truck world simply hasn’t seen before.
Tesla says the towing capacity of the Cybertruck will range from 7,500 lbs for the single-motor model, to over 10,000 lbs for the dual-motor and over 14,000 lbs for the triple-motor flagship.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Battery and range
The ‘launch edition’ of the Rivian R1T offers two battery size options. The smaller battery is 135kWh (which is still larger than pretty much any other EV battery on the road today) and has a claimed range of 314 miles using the EPA testing standard. The $10,000 ‘max pack’ fits the truck with a 180kWh battery that Rivian claims offers over 400 miles of range.
Tesla doesn’t say exactly what size the battery packs are for the Cybertruck, but the three options have been estimated to be 100kWh, 120kWh and 200kWh for the single-motor, dual-motor and triple-motor vehicles respectively. Tesla estimates the range of these trucks, again using the EPA standard, as over 250 miles, over 300 miles, and over 500 miles respectively.
At this stage you could see this as a victory for Tesla, but until both vehicles have been officially tested it’s hard to say for sure exactly what their range will be. Either way, 300-500 miles is a big claim from Tesla and, should the latter be realised, a huge milestone for electric vehicles.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Autonomous driving
Rivian’s driver assistance system is called Driver+ and it will come as standard on every vehicle the company makes. Like other such systems, it will receive over-the-air software updates to address bugs and roll-out upgrades over time.
The company states that, with Driver+ engaged, the truck will “automatically steer, adjust speed, and change lanes” on the driver’s command. However, Driver+ is a level 2 autonomous driving system, rather than ‘true’ autonomy, so it still requires full attention from the driver at all times. Driver+ will be able to operate only on the highway at launch, but Rivian says functionality on more road types will be introduced over time.
Documents filed with the FCC ahead of Rivian’s IPO also confirmed that the company will have some form of premium autonomous driving system at an unspecified point in the future. It’s not clear what this system will involve, only that Rivian values it at $10,000.
The Driver+ system uses 10 exterior cameras, plus an interior camera to monitor driver alertness, along with 12 ultrasonic sensors, four corner radars and one forward-facing radar.
Tesla says every model of Cybertruck will be fitted with its standard Autopilot system. An advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot automates the accelerator, braking and steering when on the highway and other roads with clear lane markings.
As with other Tesla vehicles, buyers of the Cybertruck can spend an extra $10,000 on the ‘Full Self-Driving’ upgrade, which Tesla says will eventually be capable of fully autonomous driving.
However, this is yet to become reality and Tesla doesn’t say exactly when such a system will be available, or when it will be legal to use in every country its vehicles are sold in. As with Rivian, Tesla’s Autopilot system is improved via over-the-air software updates.
It isn’t known exactly what hardware Tesla will use for the Cybertruck’s Autopilot. However, having used a combination of cameras and radar for many years, Tesla is currently shifting away from radar and is taking a camera-only approach with its latest versions of Model 3 and Model Y sold in the US. The cameras are used in conjunction with proprietary software called Tesla Vision, running on its own supercomputer.
Rivian R1T vs Tesla Cybertruck: Outlook
The electric truck market is set to explode in the next few years. With Tesla, Rivian, GMC’s new electric Hummer, startup Bollinger and Ford’s F-150 Lightning (an electric version of America’s best-selling vehicle, don’t forget), buyers looking to move away from internal combustion won’t be short of choice.
When it comes to the two trucks featured here, the tri-motor version of the Tesla Cybertruck is the most impressive – at least on paper. Little has been seen of Tesla’s first truck since it was revealed in 2019 and production has already slipped a year from the initial target of 2021. Despite frequent delays, however, Tesla has a strong track record for eventually meeting the lofty targets it sets for itself.
So, while Rivian will get to market first with the R1T, if Tesla can meet its own goals then the Cybertruck could be the one to go for. Providing you like the way it looks, of course.
- More: Tesla Cybertruck vs Ford F-150 Lightning: Which electric truck is best?