Rivian R1T Electric Pickups Take 13,000-Mile Road Trip for TV

From Car and Driver

  • Rivian’s 2021 R1T electric pickup was picked as the camera truck for the Long Way Up motorcycle adventure series starting Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.
  • The company had to install about 140 charging locations along the route to keep the vehicles on the road.
  • The show will premiere on September 18, on Apple TV+.

If you’re a fan of road trips, adventure, motorcycles, or just watching two friends have a great time, it’s likely you’ve watched the Long Way Round and Long Way Down series. If not, here’s the skinny: actors and BFFs Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman hop on motorcycles and ride either around or down the planet. They laugh, they fall over, they curse, they eat bad food. Essentially a recipe for a great time and wonderful TV.

McGregor and Boorman are at it again, except this time they’ve decided to ride Harley-Davidson’s electric LiveWire motorcycles from the tip of South America up to Los Angeles. And while using traditional chase vehicles with gasoline engines would add a layer of security to the trip, they decided to go all electric. To do so, they needed support trucks, and Rivian was tasked with filling that need.

“I can tell you exactly where I was when I got the email,” Rivian’s chief engineer of special projects, Brian Gase, told Car and Driver. Gase was in the middle of one of the vehicle’s “gateways” to go over costs and designs when he and former colleague Lindsey Patrick saw the correspondence come in from their boss. “I call dibs,” Patrick said to Gase. “I was just, like, ‘This sounds like the most amazing, like from a brand perspective, doing something that is so just big and bold and adventurous and unproven,’ ” Gase said.

That was on March 28, 2019. Rivian was tasked with getting two R1Ts, and the automotive startup also said it could take care of the charging infrastructure. “We’re like, well, give us the route, we’ll put it in,” Gase said. The company put in about 240 Level 2 chargers at roughly 140 locations. The spread was about every 110 miles across 13 different countries. In the end, they didn’t use all the stations they built.

The actual Rivians were test vehicles that suddenly had to make a 13,000-mile trip over unknown terrain, sometimes in cold weather. “We didn’t have a vehicle in March. We had a vehicle that was coming online two weeks before we were supposed to ship,” Gase said. The second R1T had finished running all the software and thermal system checks six hours before it was scheduled to be shipped to South America.

Gase, who describes himself as extremely optimistic, never had any doubts. The trip turned out to offer up data that the team wouldn’t have gotten on a test track. Even tiny details like how streetlights would reflect off the side mirrors at night were shared with the Rivian team back home. It also helped justify the decisions to make the R1T off-road capable and put the ability to put camera equipment in the gear tunnel, ensuring there was room for passengers while keeping valuable equipment safe and dry.

How much of the Rivians we’ll see in the actual show is unknown. Typically the camera is trained on McGregor and Boorman and their motorcycling antics. For this electrified adventure, it will be interesting to see how they cope with range anxiety as they tackle the typically bad roads and sketchy directions. Long Way Up premieres on Apple TV+ on September 18 with new episodes rolling out each week.

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