Jay Leno Likes the Rivian R1T, but Here He is Driving the R1S Together With RJ Scaringe

Jay Leno is undoubtedly one of the most well-known gearheads out there. But in this meeting with Rivian’s CEO, the TV host puts the transition to EVs into the spotlight. And all this happens while he’s sitting behind the wheel of an R1S.
Jay Leno Sitting Between an R1S and an R1T 12 photos
Photo: Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube
Jay Leno and the Two Rivian ModelsRivian R1SRivian R1SScaringe and Leno Inside the R1SJay LenoRivian EDVRJ Scaringe and Jay Leno Talking about Rivian and EVsRivian R1SRivian R1TRivian R1SRJ Scaringe and Jay Leno Talking about Rivian and EVs
Jay Leno is famous for his career in television and his comedy shows. Some, however, know the man thanks to his interest in cars, which has been very well put together on YouTube for quite some time now. With the transition to all-electric vehicles becoming imminent in some parts of the world, people almost split into three camps – those who agree, those who disagree, and those who do not care. At times, public discourse can get a little heated around the subject of abandoning fossil fuel-powered cars. But Leno provides us with an interesting take, one that’s coming from a true enthusiast.

Whilst many may have expected the comedian to discuss more the R1T and R1S with Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe, the meeting between the two took an interesting turn. Instead of presenting the many cool things about the all-electric pickup truck and SUV, the two decided to skip the deep dive into the Rivian universe. They talked about the transition the automotive world is going through and what it may mean for future generations. There are a couple of things worth remembering.

Jay Leno starts the episode by telling viewers that all-electric cars aren’t really that new. They might have become popular after Tesla proved the drivetrain is feasible in the real world, but in the late 1800s, some manufacturers used a compromise between gas and electricity to provide elegant ride quality and more comfort for the driver. However, the combination between fuel and electricity proved to be quite expensive, so gas won. The abundance of it was just too hard to ignore.

RJ Scaringe and Jay Leno Talking about Rivian and EVs
Photo: Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube
The comedian argues that the last century was championed by the various iterations of the fossil fuel-hungry engine. Now, it might be time for something else to take over. Enter battery-electric vehicles like the R1T and R1S.

The cool kids are joining in on the fun

Jay Leno has been heard talking in the recent past about EVs and his love for how the automotive industry can reinvent itself or adapt to certain circumstances. He may be a true gearhead, but he’s not giving up on progress. The TV star remains an enthusiast even when there is no engine hiding under the hood.

Jay Leno says Rivian’s all-electric vans (the EDVs) are “pretty impressive” and reminds everyone about the manufacturer’s deal with e-commerce giant Amazon. But in the background sit two “American-made, brand-new electric vehicles” – the R1T and the R1S – as the comedian welcomes RJ Scaringe to his set. That’s when Jay Leno says that, for him, the competition between car companies right now is like “the land version of the Space Race.”

This is an incredible comparison. The U.S. is currently trying to play catch-up with China in the electric vehicle manufacturing game through measures like the provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other targeted measures that are meant to transform America into a powerhouse in this domain. But, as it often is with such complicated endeavors, it will take some time before the effects of this major policy change will be felt nationally. Some were immediately visible, like the many investments announced by important global brands which do not want to miss out on the U.S. market.

But let’s get back to the main subject of this encounter. Jay Leno drove the R1T for approximately a week and said he liked the convenience of charging the vehicle at home. In his opinion, waking up to a full battery is great. Just before getting the Rivian, he had a V8-powered pickup truck and was dismayed by the fuel costs. Mind you, the episode we’re seeing now was filmed back in August 2022. At that time, the national average gas price was almost $4 per gallon. Considering that Jay Leno spends most of his time in California, the man regularly saw the highest fuel prices in the country last year.

Jay Leno
Photo: Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube
Leno also adds that the R1T is a real truck and likes that it’s providing the same advantages as a fossil fuel-powered competitor while doing other things like maintenance and performance better.

Things keep changing

While the pickup truck and the SUV look fairly similar, it’s worth noting that the R1S has a shorter wheelbase, third-row seating, and no gear tunnel. Besides that, the automaker has decided to change a lot of things recently. The company improved the software tremendously since Jay Leno drove these vehicles, but it also changed many things about the powertrain and interior design.

Most notably, the dual-motor layout is being rushed in 2023, even though it was planned for 2024. Customers who wanted a motor for each wheel and the largest battery option possible (quad-motor layout and the max pack) won’t be able to have it any longer – they either get the two-motor version with the bigger battery or pay more for the quad-motor vehicle with the standard energy storage unit.

The quad-motor R1T and R1S with the max pack battery will be reintroduced but at a later unspecified date. This raised some concerns among pre-order holders, who locked in a great pre-hike price. They might have to compromise and get the dual-motor version. The other option is canceling altogether or waiting long enough for the original configurations to become available again. Not everyone’s happy with the EV maker’s updates.

RJ Scaringe disclosed to the TV host that when Rivian was first established thirteen years ago, the company thought about making hybrids. But the plans eventually pointed out towards an all-electric powertrain. And they followed through by giving America two new vehicles and a new auto brand.

Rivian R1S
Photo: Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube
After their little chit-chat, the pair get in a Rivian R1S and go for a drive. The CEO tells the comedian about the McLaren-like technology used in the SUV, which allows the vehicle to change its dynamic behavior based on which drive mode is selected.

But the discussion between the two mostly revolves around how EVs are going to help communities escape pollution. RJ Scaringe argues all internal combustion engine vehicles will be replaced by zero-tailpipe emission cars during the next couple of decades. This sounds ambitious and it is, but it is also challenging. Manufacturers will have to quickly come up with solutions for the minerals needed in batteries.

This isn’t simple. So, other countries like Germany or Australia start to seriously explore hydrogen solutions. Toyota already proved that fuel-cell vehicles (FCEVs) are possible through the Mirai, which is now a second-generation vehicle, Hyundai currently sells trucks that only emit water, and giants like Mercedes-Benz or BMW really want to make this propulsion system work as a proper alternative for battery-electric vehicles.

But, at the end of the day, Jay Leno and RJ Scaringe reach an interesting conclusion – kids born today might not get to drive a vehicle that burns gas or diesel to move. They might not even experience what a manual gearbox is like. But that's not as bad as some may imagine right now. Most of us have never experienced a Ford Model T's ride quality and we're not complaining.

Finally, time will tell if Rivian succeeds. For now, the company is in a good place considering the state of the economy and the international state of affairs. Here is what Jay Leno had to say and how RJ Scaringe responded.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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