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Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

RJ Scaringe thinks he's figured out the smart play for his electric-vehicle startup Rivian: make EVs for outdoor adventurers and then license his battery-powered “skateboard” to other companies that want to sell automated EVs, but lack their own technology.

Why it matters: After 100 years, automobiles are shifting away from gasoline, steering wheels and personal ownership. But there are a lot of electric-vehicle startups out there, and most have had a rocky go of it. You’d better have a solid business plan, innovative technology, manufacturing chops and plenty of capital. Scaringe — a lifelong car nut and a Clark Kent lookalike — claims to have it all.

“We’re building a business in the middle of an earthquake.”
— RJ Scaringe

The details:

  • Rivian will launch two battery-electric vehicles in 2020: a five-seat pickup and a seven-passenger SUV. They'll be unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show in November.
  • The vehicles will offer a choice of three battery packs under the floor, the largest good for up to 450 miles of range, and four wheel-mounted motors for exceptional torque and maneuverability.
  • That EV “skateboard” will be the foundation for as many as six Rivian vehicles.
  • The first vehicles will launch with semi-automated (Level 3) capability, but the digital architecture will support fully self-driving technology (Level 4).
  • For well above $75,000, you can probably buy your own Rivian. But you’re more likely to subscribe to Rivian’s lifestyle services: hire an off-road EV for a ski weekend, camping trip and other adventures.

Yes, but: Rivian has plenty of competition. Tesla proved electric cars can be cool, inspiring copycats like Faraday Future, NIO and Lucid Motors. There are even some EV truck manufacturers, Workhorse and Bollinger.

The twist:

  • Rivian is also plotting a B2B play to share its technology with other companies.
  • The EV skateboard can be modified to suit many types of vehicles, as well as things like jet skis or snowmobiles.

Rivian has raised $500 million to date, mostly from Dubai-based conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel, a big Toyota and Lexus distributor with ties to MIT. Scaringe says he’s currently in talks with six potential strategic investors, both tech giants and automakers, but won’t name them.

The backstory:

  • Scaringe grew up restoring classic Porsches in Florida, and went to MIT for a Ph.D. with the intention of starting a car company.
  • He founded Rivian in 2009, in the middle of the global recession, and managed to raise a few million dollars for a sporty battery-powered coupe.
  • By 2011, he realized he was off track and redefined the company’s mission around the future of mobility.
  • Today Rivian has 450 employees, half at its engineering center in Plymouth, Mich., the rest in Silicon Valley and Irvine, Calif. Its board and management team are led by auto industry veterans from companies like McLaren, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Ford.

The bottom line: If Rivian succeeds, the sharing of its technology could be one of the biggest reasons. Imagine companies like Amazon, Starbucks or Apple launching their own mobility fleets on top of a generic platform.

Go deeper

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Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
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Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.