Rivian’s R2 will have a heat pump to help efficiency in winter

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Rivian’s newly-unveiled R2 will make use of a heat pump to help with efficiency in cold weather, which should be a boon to those in the Northern parts of North America, and in Europe.

We learned a lot about the R2 at its unveiling last week, and learned even more secrets about the car while hanging around after the event. But it turns out that the vehicle still has some secrets to tell.

Today, one twitter user asked Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe whether the R2 would have a heat pump, to which RJ answered a simple “Yes.”

Not only that, but the question said “does the R2 platform have a heat pump?”, which suggests that perhaps this feature may carry over to the R3 as well, which is going to be built on the same platform as the R2.

Rivian’s current vehicles, the R1T and R1S, do not have a heat pump, instead relying on resistive heating to warm the cabin, like many EVs.

Resistive heating runs an electric charge through a highly resistive coil of wire to generate waste heat. While this works well to rapidly heat a cabin (without needing to wait for the engine to warm up to generate heat, as is the case in gas cars), it’s also relatively energy intense.

A heat pump, however, works by moving heat from one place to another. It takes latent heat in outside air and brings it into the cabin, which can be up to 3-4x more efficient than generating that heat through resistive heating.

The net effect of this is that in cold weather you have to use less battery charge to run the heater, and thus get higher winter range in a car with a heat pump than in one with resistive heating.

Heat pumps have been a popular feature for more Europe-focused cars, because Europe tends to get colder weather than the parts of the US where EVs are the most popular (e.g. California). This is particularly relevant since the R2 signals Rivian’s entry into the European market, and the car has already been redesigned in some more EU-focused ways (e.g. moving the charge port to the passenger side, which is better for street charging).

Heat pumps are also of great use in the colder parts of the US, and in Canada.

Rivian’s vehicles have been quite popular among the “adventure” crowd, a reflection of Rivian’s slogan: “Keep the world adventurous forever.” So they’ve seen a lot of use in snow and ice conditions, like this video of a Rivian towing a semi truck out of a ditch in Utah winter.

Due to the R1’s extremely large battery, using a little bit of extra energy on a resistive heater hasn’t been all that bad. But this change makes us wonder if a heat pump might get incorporated into the R1 in the future as well.

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