Are Rivian R1 Dual Motor Configurations Better Suited for Off-Road Than Quad Motor?

When it comes to various versions of the Rivian R1T and R1S, the EV startup recommends the Quad-Motor variants as offering the maximum on-road and off-road performance. However, many tests show the Rivian R1T Quad Motor struggling to advance when two diagonal wheels lose traction. Some people think the Dual-Motor variant might be better in this regard.
The Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issues 8 photos
Photo: TFLoffroad via YouTube
Rivian R1T Quad-Motor configurationRivian R1T Dual-Motor configurationThe Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issuesThe Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issuesThe Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issuesThe Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issuesThe Rivian R1T Quad-Motor has traction issues
Rivian is marketing its two electric models, the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, as "adventure vehicles," ready to take you where no other road vehicles can. These claims are not unwarranted, as the two EVs have proven they are indeed prepared to tackle a few trails, some quite rough. This summer, the Rivian R1S and R1T officially became the first series-production electric vehicles to conquer the Rubicon trail, one of North America's most challenging off-road trails.

When it comes to off-roading, any vehicle is just as good as its driver, so the Rivian has shown mixed results in various situations. Some complained that their Rivian R1Ts have lost the underbody protection after driving through a puddle, which is laughable for an off-road vehicle. In other cases, the Rivian EVs have shown confidence in circumstances that made other EVs hesitate. The stair-step climb at Hollister Hills was one of those cases, with the Rivian R1T teaching the Tesla Cybertruck a lesson.

Given how Rivian is promoting its vehicles, it's inevitable that many buy an R1T or R1S to enjoy some off-road trails occasionally. In this case, Rivian recommends the Quad-Motor variants as offering the best off-road performance. With plenty of power (835 horsepower) and the ability to control each wheel individually, it seems that nothing can stay in the way of a Rivian R1T Quad Motor. And yet, real-life experience suggests otherwise.

In a video shared by the TFLoffroad channel, which resurfaced on the Rivian subreddit over the weekend, people were surprised to see the Rivian R1T losing traction. The pickup truck was stuck with the front right and rear left wheels in the air despite having four electric motors, one for each wheel. It's unclear whether the problem was caused by a limitation of the Rivian's traction control system or the driver, who didn't want to push the R1T hard enough to get out of that situation. After all, reviewers tend to be cautious when not driving their own vehicles, fearing damage.

The Rivian R1T Quad\-Motor has traction issues
Photo: TFLoffroad via YouTube
Some people who watched the video reminded everyone that there's a significant difference between an ICE off-roader and a quad-motor EV. The former can leverage their lockable differentials to send most of the power available to the wheels with better traction. The EV, on the other hand, can only rely on the power one of its four motors offers. There's no way you can make the motor of the wheel high in the air to help the other wheel on the axle push the car further.

Based on the information Rivian offers on its website, the Dual-Motor variants of the R1T don't feature lockable differentials either. However, they can use the ABS to selectively brake the spinning wheel, thus sending the power to the wheel that can provide traction. It seems like an improvement, but it's not necessarily so.

The power of the electric motors on a dual-motor R1 vehicle (about 250-300 horsepower) is comparable to that of a single motor on a quad-motor variant (over 210 horsepower). This means that even if it can send most of the couple to the other wheel (torque vectoring), it would not have much more power than a single motor of the quad-motor version. What do you think? Is it better to have two motors and a lockable differential or four motors?

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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