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A new Rivian R1T hit a traffic light pole in Irvine, California, then immediately caught on fire. Though the fire was quickly extinguished, it raises questions about collisions causing fires in Rivian pickups. In this case, the battery pack must not have been damaged because the fire was put out so quickly. 

Video of the crash afermath

The accident may have been caused by excessive speed according to Country News TV, based on the California Highway Patrol incident log. But that is immaterial to the concern over a fire. Electric vehicles have been shown statistically to be more immune to fires than gas-powered vehicles. But in the vast majority of front-end collisions like the Rivian’s, no fire results.

The driver declined medical treatment at the scene, indicating he was uninjured. You can see that all of the airbags inflated, which aligns with the extent of the damage seen in the video. You can also see the California temporary plates confirming this truck is brand new. Now, it looks to be a total loss.

This is the first crash of a Rivian in the wild, as best as we can determine. There was another crash reported in September in Tustin, California, near this crash, and also near Rivian’s headquarters. It was reported that the driver was a Rivian engineer and that the R1T was a prototype. 

How did this Rivian crash happen?

Rivian R1T
Rivian R1T crash in Irvine | YouTube

In this accident, the truck allegedly approached a corner too fast. It then jumped the curb, drove through some bushes, and hit two parked cars before coming to a stop. The street has a long straight path before making a tight right turn. It looks to be a street where you could pick up speed before coming upon the right-hand turn. The damage to it was far less than with this most recent crash.

The Rivian R1T weighs 7,000 lbs. So it is a lot heavier than a traditional pickup truck. Though the weight is low in the truck, it still is a lot more weight than anything most drivers have navigated. 

And electric vehicles today accelerate much more rapidly. They also have the ability to hit higher speeds at a much quicker rate than with a gas-powered truck. Physics tells us that when the momentum and speed become too great, traction will be gone. So, not to start blaming, but could we speculate? Could this have been a case where the momentum of 7,000 lbs was more than the driver was expecting?

No Rivian crash data is available

First Rivian crash
First Rivian R1T crash September 2021 | Reddit

As of now, there has been no Rivian crash data released by the NHTSA. All vehicles have to be tested internally to show minimum safety standards have been achieved. Then they can be certified for sale. Many vehicles are never crash-test rated by the NHTSA, and public release of the data is also not required. 

Rivian has stated in print that its internal crash tests would garner a five-star rating if and when its vehicles are tested by the NHTSA. And the Rivian pickup is not on the list of vehicles the NHTSA plans on testing in 2022. 


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