California-based automaker Rivian is best known today for its electric trucks, but could tomorrow’s Rivian be an electric bike? That possibility is looking much more certain now that the former CTO of a major bicycle brand has joined Rivian’s development team.
We’ve already seen hints of Rivian’s electric bicycle aspirations via trademark filings.
As we previously reported, the company filed to expand the use of its Rivian trademark to a new category focused on electric bikes:
RIVIAN™ trademark registration is intended to cover the categories of bicycles; bicycle structural parts; electric bicycles; electric bicycle structural parts; electric bicycle components specially adapted for electric bicycles, namely, battery packs, motor controllers, electric motors, throttle controls, pedal assist sensors, display consoles, wiring harnesses, sprockets, cassettes, chains; bicycle frames; bicycle pedals; bicycle horns; bicycle brakes; bicycle chains; bicycle gears; bicycle wheels; bicycle seats; bicycle tires.
At the time, we noted that companies often file trademarks that they don’t end up using, and that this could have just been a way for Rivian to protect its name across other industries.
However, now we’re getting even stronger evidence that Rivian is actually developing new electric bicycles. The latest corroboration comes in the form of Rivian hiring the former CTO of Specialized Bicycle Components, maker of Specialized’s high end Turbo electric bicycles.
Chris Yu spent more than 10 years at Specialized, serving in various roles from R&D Engineer, Head of Applied Technologies, Chief Innovation Officer and CTO. Now his current role at Rivian is VP of Future Programs.
While a number of interesting projects could be hiding under that broad title, electric bicycles are obviously a specialty of Chris.
Further strengthening the case for Rivian’s expanded focus on electric bikes, sources with knowledge of the matter indicated that Rivian was indeed exploring e-bikes, fitting with Rivian’s modus operandi of making vehicles that cross the adventure, utility and everyday lifestyle.
This wouldn’t be the first time a major automaker expanded into the quickly growing electric bike market.
Porsche launched two electric bikes last year alongside the Taycan Cross Turismo. BMW also unveiled several electric bikes last year.
Peugot has its own extensive line of e-bikes, and Spain’s SEAT has partnered with Barcelona-based Silence to roll out its own seated and standing electric scooters.
GM developed an electric bicycle in-house, though the project was killed off early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
ŠKODA rolled out one of the weirdest electric bike/scooter concepts we’ve seen, though there’s no indication it is headed for produciton.
Jeep has gotten into the high-power e-bike game via licensing agreements, though its similar attempt to co-develop an electric scooter was significantly less impressive.
Even motorcycle manufacturers like Harley-Davidson and BMW Motorrad have gotten into electric bicycles and scooters, though Harley’s results have been much more impressive than BMW’s.
This would be a fascinating move for Rivian, and is likely well within their wheelhouse. While electric bikes aren’t exactly simple machines, they’re much easier to develop and produce than electric trucks. Not only are they much less labor and material intensive, but they are subject to considerably less regulatory oversight as well, further simplifying the path from R&D to production.
Scooping up Chris Yu is a great shortcut to bringing in the right talent, and it’s a move that is quite common in this industry. When Harley-Davidson decided to build electric bicycles, they did so after hiring some of the best talent from bicycle companies, for example.
I’m definitely excited to see what Rivian can come up with, and to see how it may shake up the industry.
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