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WGLT, an NPR station in central Illinois, is following every move at the Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. The electric vehicle startup has gone from stealth mode to big-time player in the auto world, attracting attention (and big money) from companies like Ford and Amazon.

Rivian Plans Major Plant Expansion In Normal

Rivian has submitted plans to the Town of Normal for two building additions that would add nearly 500,000 square feet to its facility as the electric vehicle company prepares to begin production.
Plant Communications Manager Zach Dietmeier said Rivian is seeking to add 262,000 square feet to the southwest corner of the building, which would be for its battery shop. The other proposed expansion, 210,000 square feet to the north side of the building, would enlarge the body shop for the two vehicles that are slated for production: a battery-powered R1T pickup and a R1S sport utility vehicle.

Dietmeier said Rivian is adjusting sales projections based on what the company sees as increased demand for its vehicles for both consumer and commercial use. He said Amazon’s plans to buy 100,000 vehicles was just one example, though he didn’t offer pre-order sales Rivian has secured to date.

“We’re talking about 100,000 Amazon vans in addition to what had started out as a starting-point figure of a few tens of thousands of vehicles and now we are talking hundreds of thousands by mid-decade as our goal,” Dietmeier said. “It’s a great place for us to be as a company, but it requires a little more space than we originally had.”

Dietmeier said Rivian sees a greater opportunity for electric vehicle growth among commercial fleets caused by the pandemic that revealed the impact fossil fuel vehicles have on the environment when they are taken off the road for an extended period of time.

“You learn that the clear skies over the likes of Chicago, New York or Los Angeles are due in large part to fleet usage being decreased,” he said. “We know that the average impact for a delivery vehicle is 15 times that of the average passenger vehicle.”

He said the two additions will increase the size of the plant to 3.2 million square feet. Two previous expansion projects, totaling 104,000 square feet, are wrapping up shortly, he said, adding Rivian expects to have the latest expansions done by January 2021.

The two previous expansions didn’t require amended site plans because neither was more than 5% of the size of the property.

Dietmeier didn’t have a cost estimate for the additions, but he said the company’s investment in the property will exceed $750 million.

Dietmeier said while the pandemic has pushed back the company’s production timeline, Rivian plans to begin production sometime in 2021. He said the pickup truck would be produced first and the SUV would roll off the assembly line a few months later.

The town’s Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the amended site plan on July 9.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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