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Electric Truck Startup Rivian Applies for Zoning Amendment for a 380 Acre Site Near its Illinois Factory for Future Expansion

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【Summary】​Electric truck maker Rivian has not yet delivered its first electric vehicle, but the company is already eying expansion at its Normal, Illinois factory as it looks to become the Tesla of trucks.

FutureCar Staff    Mar 12, 2021 4:00 PM PT
Electric Truck Startup Rivian Applies for Zoning Amendment for a 380 Acre Site Near its Illinois Factory for Future Expansion
The fully-electric Rivian R1T pickup truck.

Electric truck maker Rivian has not yet delivered its first electric vehicle, but the company is already eying expansion at its Normal, Illinois factory as it looks to become the Tesla of trucks.

According to Normal, Illinois city records obtained by the local news outlet The Pantagraph, the electric vehicle startup is seeking to have a 380-acre site adjacent to its current factory rezoned for commercial use, which will allow for manufacturing operations such as vehicle assembly.

On March 8, Rivian applied for a zoning amendment change for the 380 acre site, which is just west of Rivian's factory. The site is currently zoned as agricultural, according to city data. 

"We plan to increase our manufacturing output at this facility, and we've already done so over the last year with a lot of our construction," said Rivian spokesperson Zach Dietmeier in a statement. "It really opens us up to think more deeply about our site's evolution over the next few years."

If approved, a zoning and site plan amendment could allow Rivian to develop the land for a maximum 10.6 million-square-foot building, and 1.5 million square feet for logistics and parking. Rivian could also build a maximum 650,000-square-foot building just south of its current 503-acre site, the Pantagraph reports.

Rivan is also looking to build a large partially covered EV charging station adjacent to its current factory, the roof of which will be completely lined with solar panels, according to drawings submitted with Rivian's zoning request.

With the exception of Tesla, Rivian is one of only a few electric vehicle startups that owns a former auto factory. Rivian purchased the shuttered Mitsubishi Motors auto plant in Normal, Illinois in 2016 for $16 million. The site is fairly close to the home of the U.S. auto industry in Detroit, which Rivian will be competing with.

Mitsubishi Motors closed the plant in Normal, Illinois in 2015 and put the factory up for sale after the company decided to cease manufacturing in the U.S. The facility is currently undergoing renovations to become Rivian's electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

Like Rivian, Tesla also purchased a former General Motors assembly plant in Fremont, California which first opened back in 1962. The electric automaker produces all of its U.S.-made vehicles at the California factory. 

The state of Illinois is also home to the 5 million-square-foot Stellantis Belvidere Assembly Plant which builds the popular Jeep Cherokee SUV, another vehicle that will compete with Rivian. The plant opened in 1965.

The zoning request from Rivian means that the company is already looking into future expansion, even before releasing its first electric vehicle. Rivian's first two vehicles are the fully-electric R1T electric pickup truck and companion R1S SUV. Both vehicles offer more horsepower and torque than gas-powered trucks. 

Rivian is entering into a category that is the most profitable segment for U.S. automakers General Motors and Ford Motor Co. and a big chunk of their annual profits.

However, GM and Ford are not sitting back and letting companies like Rivian and Tesla move into the highly profitable truck segment unchallenged. GM will reveal the much hyped Hummer EV in early April, its first fully-electric truck. GM resurrected the Hummer brand as an electric-only brand under its GMC Truck division. Ford also has an electric F-150 in the works.

Rivian, founded in 2009, is one of the most talked about EV startups since Tesla launched the Model S in 2012. The company is backed by e-commerce giant Amazon and U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. Ford invested $500 million in Rivian in 2018.

Amazon invested in Rivian through its new $2 billion venture capital fund that invests in companies developing "sustainable and decarbonizing technologies", which is exactly the type of company Rivian is. 

E-commerce giant Amazon also ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian that it will add to its delivery fleet over the next several years. The electric delivery being built by Rivian are designed to meet the specific needs of Amazon and the first vehicles are already on the roads in Southern California delivering packages.

Rivian secured another $2.65 billion in funding in January. To date, the company raised a total of $8 billion.

Rivian is also aiming to launch its U.S. IPO in 2021.

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