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Rivian's battery pack technology is more advanced than we thought and that's awesome

Electric vehicle startup Rivian has the tech to back up exciting claims.

Rivian R1S
The possibility of doing 400 miles in this bad boy is pretty damn exciting, especially now that it's actually plausible.

Rivian's R1T and R1S took the LA Auto Show by storm with killer in-person looks and promises of enormous range and capability. However, those range claims made us scratch our heads. More than 400 miles on a charge in a not especially aerodynamic-looking vehicle. How were they planning on doing it?

Teslarati recently took a tour of Rivian's battery lab in California, and it may have found the answer. In an article published on Dec. 12, Teslarati broke down the unique way Rivian chills its batteries, with information on the cells themselves.

Let's start with the actual cells. The industry standard for EV battery cells is the venerable 18650. It's a lithium-ion cell that was first used in laptop battery packs and has since been scaled up for use in vehicles like the Tesla Model S.

Rivian isn't using the 18650. It's using a cell design called the 2170, and even Tesla has moved to this cell with the Model 3, though Rivian sources its cells from LG and Tesla's come from Panasonic. The 2170 is around 50 percent larger than the 18650 cell but can deliver almost twice the current.

Next, when it designed its packs, Rivian looked for a more efficient way to chill its battery modules. If found that by using a metal chill plate between the rows of cells in a battery module. This lets one device cool multiple rows of cells and cuts down on the power use of more complicated chillers that snake their way through the pack.

Rivian's battery pack is also housed in a unique structural shell made from carbon composite that reduces weight and is sealed to be completely waterproof. Once the pack is affixed to the Rivian's chassis, the vehicle gets an additional full-length skid plate designed to prevent the intrusion of foreign objects into the pack (a great feature to have off-road).

Rivian is still planning on putting its truck into production in 2020 with the SUV to follow shortly after, and according to Teslarati, it will be offered initially with only the largest battery pack, aka the 180 kilowatt-hour "Megapack."