Rivian Automotive Files Patent for Auxiliary Removable Battery
Bed-Mounted Battery Pack Could Provide Extra Range for Production R1T Pickup
Rivian Automotive recently filed a patent for a “modular removable auxiliary battery,” stoking rumors the company might offer different options to expand the range of its forthcoming lineup of electric vehicles.
The patent filing, posted on January 17, 2019, and first reported by Rivian Forums, shows several sketches of a crew cab pickup with what looks like an under-the-rail toolbox in the forward half of the cargo bed. Other illustrations clearly show electrical and cooling system connections at the forward bulkhead, with fasteners depicted holding that toolbox in place.
However, as you may have guessed, the toolbox is instead a large-capacity battery system equipped with an integrated cooling system, which presumably could come on board once the vehicle’s own batteries are depleted. According to the patent filing, both the battery and its integrated cooling system are completely separate from the electric vehicle’s battery, with coolant circulating through a heat exchanger mounted on the auxiliary battery system. The R1T's spacious bed could fairly easily accommodate such a feature while still affording room for cargo and luggage.
Such a battery system could eliminate the kind of range anxiety that prevents some people from buying electric cars. By fully charging both the onboard and the auxiliary batteries, a Rivian R1T pickup could potentially be capable of an all-electric range of 500 miles or more. A similar system is already being used by Zero Motorcycles, which offers a semi-permanent “Power Tank” 3.6-kWh accessory battery that can be added to the tank section between the rider’s legs.
And if Rivian’s setup is easy to remove and sufficiently lightweight, “refueling” stations could even stock extra battery packs, allowing owners to swap them in and out for a fee while on an extended road trip. In this way, owning an electric vehicle could become as convenient as owning a gas- or diesel-powered car, with a fully charged battery pack ready to drop in at the next freeway exit.
There are some obvious drawbacks to the idea. A battery with enough capacity to add any significant usable range would likely weigh a fair amount, reducing the vehicle’s per-kilowatt efficiency. Furthermore, its size would relegate it to pickup-only use, and currently, there are only two EV trucks on the horizon—the Rivian and a forthcoming Tesla based on the Model X.
Still, electric technology improves nearly every day, with larger-capacity batteries taking up less and less space. By the time the Rivian R1T reaches consumer hands (the company claims a late-2020 launch date), such an auxiliary battery could be lighter and more portable than it is today, particularly given the company's recent influx of cash. If so, it seems like it would be a no-brainer for folks who want to add a bit more range to their all-electric pickups.
Source: Rivian Forums and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office