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First Electric Vehicle to Win the US’s Longest Off-Road Competition is the Rivian R1T



First Electric Vehicle to Win the US's Longest Off Road Competition is the Rivian R1T

Rebelle Rally has developed into an EV manufacturer’s testing ground. Off-road racing and motorsports aren’t your average fare unless that is, there’s a podium-winning team operating an all-electric 2023 Rivian R1T.

With a new EV milestone under its belt, the Rebelle Rally, the longest off-road map-and-compass rally in the United States, came to an end on Friday night. This was the first time a team competing entirely on electricity—the Rivian R1T—won first place. Now in its eighth year, the Rebelle Rally pitted teams made up entirely of women against each other over a 2,120-kilometer course using only paper maps, compasses, and plotters.

In the 4×4 class, the 2023 Rivian R1T, driven by Lilly Macaruso and equipped with a map and compass by Alex Anderson, won first place. (In the X Cross class, an EV has not yet been placed on the podium.) Employees of Rivian, Macaruso, and Anderson, finished fourth in the 2022 Rebelle Rally. Another first for Rivian this year was when Many Brezina, a customer, entered the competition with her own R1T. Brezina came in 11th place with navigator Alex Gilman.

The Rivian R1T, which Anderson and Macaruso jokingly dubbed “Timmy,” is actually regarded as a bone stock, meaning that no modifications have been made to the car that would impair its performance, other than changing the tires. To stay organized during the event, Macaruso and Anderson—who both work for Rivian—made several changes to the interior.

Anderson, a senior mechanical engineer at Rivian, created several designs that her colleagues helped implement. These included velcro-encased interiors for the A pillar, mounts for a shovel and fire extinguisher, and inserts for safe storage of a five-gallon water jug. Additionally, Anderson printed a lower tray that rested directly beneath the central console and an upper cup holder that was attached to it.

After the Rebelle Rally was over, Anderson remarked, “All of these little changes added up for us.”

Proving ground

Additionally, The Rebelle has developed into a kind of testing ground for Rivian.

2020 saw the debut of Rivian on the Rebelle scene when TechCrunch contributor and automotive journalist Emme Hall drove a pre-production R1T. Since then, Rivian has sponsored a team annually. The EV startup that went public has used Rebelle Rally to refine technology and features and workshop concepts that will eventually find their way into consumer cars.

Although Rivian engineers informed me that “sand mode” was always the intended strategy, Hall’s input and that of Rivian staff members who have participated in Rebelle helped the company refine its drive mode. The company claims that the final validation of the software build was made possible by Rivian’s 2022 Rebelle teams.

Currently available software from Rivian is 2023.38.0. Rivian included a gauge view in that OTA software update, which adjusts to each drive mode and provides real-time data on the vehicle’s torque, pitch and roll, tire pressure, temperature of the battery and motor, and steering angle.

Charging up in the wilderness

Competitors are brought far from established gas stations and charging stations by the Rebelle Rally. Rebelle has partnered with companies such as Renewable Innovations for green hydrogen and Pennzoil for gas. What role does green hydrogen play in EV charging?

Since 2020, DC fast chargers have been provided for the race by Renewable Innovations. However, the company powered the chargers with diesel generators until this year.

Emily Miller, the founder of Rebelle Rally, said that using hydrogen was always the plan.

At the Rebelle Rally 2023 finish line, Miller told TechCrunch, “The biggest challenge was the EV infrastructure.”

She said that finding the ideal partner, setting up the infrastructure, and obtaining the 800 kg of green hydrogen needed for the 10-day event took years.

Now, rivals have access to four charging stations. Teams using EVs can use these chargers, which are trailed out to locations along the course.

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