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Practical Magic

How EV maker Rivian plans to halve the carbon footprint of its vehicles by 2030

This is the company’s first environmental impact disclosure, so there are no past-year comparisons for its results.

Rivian, Tennessee

Rivian is buying enough renewable electricity to offset the charging network for its vehicles. Source: Rivian/April Keller

EV maker Rivian has pledged to introduce a vehicle with half the carbon emissions footprint of its original models by 2030, according to its inaugural "impact" report, released Jan. 12.

Among other things, Rivian’s emissions reduction strategy will lean heavily on increasing the recycled materials it uses to produce its pickup trucks, SUVs and commercial vans — such as the ones it supplies to e-commerce giant Amazon.

This is the company’s first environmental impact disclosure, so there are no past-year comparisons for its results. Rivian isn’t officially part of the Science Based Targets initiative, although Rivian CSO Anisa Kamadoli Costa told GreenBiz the company is following the "same goals."

"We are committed to always operating with a full awareness of the challenge," said Kamadoli Costa in the report.

Details on Rivian’s CO2 per mile baseline

The company reported emitting 130,306 metric tons of Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gases in 2022, and 2.05 million metric tons of Scope 3 emissions. It consumed 350,323 megawatt-hours of energy, about 54 percent was electricity; 3.7 percent of its electricity came from renewable energy resources. Rivian has signed several contracts to buy solar power, including a $1 billion deal to build a solar farm on a former coal mine in Kentucky.

Rivian also shared life-cycle assessments for five vehicles, describing the emissions from its supply chain and raw materials, on-site production and logistics, customer operations and service, and decommissioning.

The smallest of Rivian’s commercial vans, for example, emits 364 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per mile. The methodology is in a separate report, and Rivian encourages other automakers to do the same for measuring per-vehicle emissions — most don’t at this time.

"We believe a common [life-cycle assessment] methodology in the automotive industry would encourage a faster decarbonization of the transportation sector and better inform customers about the benefits and trade-offs among vehicles," the company said.

The assessments show an 8 percent decrease in lifetime emissions from Rivian’s first trucks and SUVs compared to its more recent models. That evaluation identified top priorities for Rivian’s sustainability team, Kamadoli Costa said. Those include:

  • Reducing carbon emissions related to materials. Its biggest impacts come from the steel, aluminum and battery supply chains. A priority list will be drawn up by 2025.
  • Cutting production energy per vehicle.
  • Improving operational efficiency through software and design, such as aerodynamic changes and improved propulsion systems.
  • Increasing renewable energy investments, particularly related to the Rivian charging network.

‘Zero materials waste and zero pollution’

Rivian’s plan is to "slow consumption of primary materials, reduce waste, limit biodiversity loss and decarbonize our business." 

At its facility in Normal, Illinois, Rivian diverted 82.3 percent of its manufacturing waste from landfill; its 2030 goal is to reach 90 percent.

Rivian already uses recycled materials in its EVs but hasn’t disclosed details, Kamadoli Costa said. Its specific goals for recycled content are to increase the percentages:

  • To a minimum of 70 percent in steel and aluminum.
  • To a minimum of 40 percent in polymers. (That goal also includes biobased alternatives.)

"I would say that the most significant materials from a reuse perspective are steel and aluminum, the largest by far in terms of volume," Kamadoli Costa told GreenBiz. "What’s nice is that there’s a lot of work happening in the broader system when it comes to steel and aluminum recycled content. So, we’re excited about engaging with partners along the entire value chain, like existing ones, but also new ones that are out there working on this."

One example is Rivian’s program to collect plastic trash from communities in the Philippines, Haiti, Indonesia, Brazil and Egypt, which would otherwise end up in the ocean, and transform it into 39,000 bulk bins and more than 78,000 totes for the company’s factories and suppliers.

Other priorities, outlined in the report:

  • Design vehicles that can be repaired and disassembled easily, so components are easier to replace and reuse. 
  • Grow the capacity of its remanufacturing center in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, which handles electrical hardware, drive units and battery packs.

The advantage of a clean slate

Unlike many of its rivals, Rivian won’t have to disrupt existing processes to make these changes, Kamadoli Costa said. "We’re at the very beginning of our journey, just at the beginning state of selling our vehicles to consumers, but I think the key thing is that we have this eye towards circularity for our business from the beginning," she said.

Rivian made 57,232 vehicles in 2023, its first full year of production, and delivered 50,122 of them. Revenue for the first nine months of 2023 was $3.2 billion, with a net loss of $3.9 billion. It is scheduled to report full-year results Feb. 21.

For perspective, Ford Motor sold 72,000 all-electric vehicles last year. About 32,000 of them were models that compete directly with Rivian. General Motors sold about 75,900 all-electric vehicles, although most were the now-discontinued Bolt, a consumer hatchback that targeted a different market from Rivian’s larger, commercial vehicles. Tesla was the undisputed battery electric leader with about 654,900 vehicles, mostly passenger class.

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