Rivian R1S is a battery-powered SUV for off-roading adventurers. Photo: Rivian

Electric vehicle start-up Rivian made its debut at the Los Angeles auto show by taking the wraps off two new rugged battery-powered models — a pickup truck and a seven-passenger SUV.

The big picture: Founded in 2009, Rivian is one of a slew of EV start-ups trying to elbow their way into the automotive industry at a time of unprecedented disruption. Tesla is a rare success story — and even it came within weeks of death this year, CEO Elon Musk recently told Axios. Rivian is targeting a unique niche: adventurous, off-roading families.

The details: The R1T and R1S are particularly ambitious efforts, with big promises on performance, autonomous technology, and off-road capability. The company says they will go on sale starting in 2020.

  • The R1S will have a range of up to 410 miles, a 0-60 mph time of three seconds, and the ability to wade through nearly three feet of water.
  • Both models come with three battery choices: 105 kWh, 135 kWh (for fast performance), and 180 kWh (for longer range).
  • All-wheel drive and a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds come standard.
  • They'll launch with Level 3 autonomy (eyes off, hands off) but Rivian says they will eventually offer full self-driving capability.
  • The R1T starts at $61,500 and the R1S at $65,000, after the federal EV tax credit.

Success is a long shot, but the company has wealthy backers, including Middle East conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel. Founder RJ Scaringe told me he's talking to several strategic investors, too.

  • The twist: Rivian is also plotting a strategy to share its technology with other companies and says its system can fit jet skies and snowmobiles, too.

My thought bubble: Consumers still suffer from range anxiety when it comes to electric vehicles. I can't imagine driving off into the wilderness in an EV, wondering if I'll have enough juice to get back to civilization. Maybe that's where the adventure comes in.

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