Coming out of the shadows, electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive completed the purchase of the former 2.4-million square foot Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois.
Rivian, founded by MIT graduate R.J. Scaringe as a spin-off of Mainstream Engineering in 2009 in Florida, originally planned to develop a $25,000 mid-engine, rear-drive sports coupe with better-than Toyota Prius Hybrid fuel economy of 60 mpg using a conventional gasoline engine.
The company changed its name to Azera and again to Rivian Automotive in 2012, and in 2015 moved its headquarters to Livonia, Mich., just outside of Detroit.
Little is known about the company other than it has around 100 employees including former engineers from Chrysler and auto supplier Magna, and a former chief designer from Ford and General Motors.
Since its founding, Rivian has never shown a working model or prototype vehicle and only has two patents: one relates to a “high strength lightweight vehicle and its’ production methods,” the other patent is strangely for a “toy vehicle replica.”
In comparison, Tesla Motors has more than 750 patents, and even the defunct Fisker Automotive was issued 85 patents.
The closed factory was co-developed by Mitsubishi and Chrysler in 1998 and includes manufacturing and office space, stamping machines, injection molding equipment, robots, CNC machine tools, cranes and other manufacturing equipment.
The 500-acre property also includes farmland, testing areas, a test track, and individual properties with buildings.
Rivian said it would begin making cars in 2019 and will invest more than $40 million into the plant by 2022.
The company will receive a $1 million grant and a five-year tax abatement from local governments, but must invest $175 million in the factory and hire 1,000 people there by 2024 to complete the deal.
Rivian stands apart from other startup EV companies like Chinese-financed Faraday Future and Lucid Motors who are building manufacturing plants from scratch.
Instead, the company is more like Tesla Motors, with American investments who purchased a closed Toyota factory in California.
As for the vehicle it intends to produce, the only information Rivian is revealing is it will be electric and eventually autonomous with the first model to debut later this year.