In Tesla’s early days, Elon Musk was an EV hero in the eyes of many people. With the pressures of climate change fast approaching, Musk helped shepherd a new era of environmentally-friendly electric vehicles. However, the luster of Musk and Tesla has waned, especially with Musk’s recent antics, such as his controversial tweets. In the wake of this, a new EV hero may supplant Musk: Rivian’s R.J. Scaringe. He offers a low-key alternative to Musk, and the electric Rivian R1T received very positive reviews.
Elon Musk’s controversial behavior
First off, we’re not here to tear apart Elon Musk. He is a visionary and has a brilliant mind. His journey from South Africa to the United States is remarkable. Teslas are fantastic cars. Musk’s work with SpaceX with advancing rockets and space exploration is incredible.
However, to put it politely, Musk has a dark side with his controversial behavior. It’s difficult to reconcile the eco-friendly credentials of Tesla with Musk’s actions toward lithium, which is used in the car batteries for electric cars. The mining of lithium from the earth is very bad for the environment, with heavy use of water, as well as air and soil contamination. On top of that, lithium is mostly mined from poor countries, such as Bolivia. Many workers who mine it live in poverty. Musk and Tesla faced accusations that they were trying to destabilize the Bolivian government to secure its massive reserves of lithium. Musk tweeted that they are going to “coup whoever they want.”
Musk courted controversy in many other ways. In 2018, 12 young soccer players and their coach got trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. Musk offered to build a submarine to help with the rescue. When one of the rescuers dismissed Musk’s offer as a “PR stunt,” Musk called him a “pedo guy,” or pedophile. Musk also posted controversial tweets about cryptocurrency, the price of Tesla stock, and coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. Also, Musk settled with the SEC over fraud charges.
R.J. Scaringe and Rivian: Better for the environment than Elon Musk and Tesla?
The contrast between Elon Musk and R.J. Scaringe is very extreme, as detailed by Forbes. Compared to Musk’s flamboyance and controversial behavior, Scaringe has a very low profile. He founded Rivian in 2009 and took a gradual and smart approach to build electric vehicles. An early infusion of capital aided Rivian, as well as more recent 5% stakes by Amazon and Ford.
It’s challenging for any start-up company to make a go of it, but Rivian has already risen to prominence. It is proving itself to be a worthy competitor to Tesla. The Rivian R1T electric truck is a masterpiece of design and engineering. While production delays have hampered production of the Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian will beat Tesla to the punch with customer deliveries later this year. An electric R1S SUV will be available early next year. On top of this, Rivian recently filed for an IPO, with a projected value of $80 billion.
Another appealing element of Scaringe and Rivian is the focus on environmental sustainability. The Rivian R1T and R1S are vehicles that are geared more toward outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers than Tesla’s model lineup. Scaringe recently announced Forever Fund, which places 1% of Rivian’s equity into “high-impact climate initiatives with an emphasis on preserving and restoring wildlands, waterways, and oceans.” Rivian also has a program to match every mile that Rivian owners drive with renewable resources like solar and wind power.
Will Rivan pass Tesla as the world’s best-selling electric vehicle automaker?
The future looks very bright for Rivian and R.J. Scaringe. However, it has a long way to go before it can match Tesla, and success is not guaranteed. Right now, Tesla sells two out of every three electric vehicles sold in the U.S. After the dramatic rise of its stock in 2020, Tesla is worth more than the combined value of all of the other U.S. automakers.
Musk clearly views Rivian as a threat, though. He frequently comments about Rivian in the media. Rivian is the new electric vehicle darling and now soaks up much of the EV buzz that Tesla once dominated. To raise the stakes even higher, Tesla sued Rivian over stealing trade secrets about its batteries. The Tesla Rivian battle for EV market share is something to watch in the coming months and years.