An electric vehicle is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when you consider going off-road. Still, more and more off-road-capable EVs are finding their way onto the market. When going off-road with your EV, there are a few things to consider that you may not have to worry about in a petrol car, such as taking into account your available range.
Let’s take a look at the best EV off-roaders and what to keep in mind when taking your EV off the beaten track.
1. Rivian R1T
There is absolutely no way to list the best EV off-roaders without the Rivian R1T. This truck is basically built for the zombie apocalypse. It has everything you need to get to the farthest reaches of the wilderness and return safely. In terms of off-road capability, the Rivian would feel right at home in a list of the world’s best off-roaders of the era, whether or not it’s an EV. The technologically advanced R1T features what is arguably the best AWD system in the automotive world.
The off-road juggernaut can be fitted with a four-motor AWD system which, as the name suggests, has a motor that drives each wheel. The possibilities are endless with this configuration, as the computer can distribute the torque as it pleases and send it to the wheel that needs torque at that moment.
This is an ideal scenario for off-road situations, where wheel slip is your constant enemy. But with the Rivian, that’s almost a problem of the past, as the system can simply stop sending power to the motor driving the wheel that’s slipping, while actively redirecting the power to the wheel that needs it.
The closest thing to a system like this would be a vehicle fitted with a triple-lock differential (like the Mercedes G-Wagon), but even this system is a bit archaic compared to the Rivian’s AWD. The R1T is also available with what Rivian calls a ‘reinforced bottom shield’, which is vital for protecting the precious underside of your vehicle if you’re serious about going over the rocks with your EV.
As if this wasn’t enough, the Rivian also features a built-in air compressor that allows you to fill your tires on the fly, especially if you need to air them to navigate some particularly rough terrain. Are you suddenly hungry? Do not worry; the Rivian has you covered too.
The R1T is available with a fully equipped kitchen that slides out of the famous Gear Tunnel. This kitchen is super handy and even has a sink. How’s that for overkill? Not only this, but the Rivian can be equipped with a Max-pack battery that offers 400+ miles of range.
The long range of the larger battery is crucial when going off-road. This is especially true because the battery deteriorates much faster as it tackles steep rocky slopes, with the wheels constantly looking for traction, especially during freezing cold.
If you also carry a large load on your bed while driving off-road, that’s a recipe for a shorter range. This is all compounded by the truck being extremely heavy and equipped with tons of underbody protection to protect the battery and components. The other problem is the lack of charging stations in the wilderness, while in a conventional off-roader you can take spare fuel with you on your journey. While it’s dangerous to get out of reach at the top of a mountain, you can always use regenerative brakes to recharge on the way down — wink, wink.
2. Tesla Cyber Truck
Who knows when the Cybertruck will arrive (expected launch in 2023!), but hopefully it will hit the market soon as it promises to be an absolute off-road monster. When the Cybertruck hits the market, the R1T will have real competition for the king of off-road EVs. Plus, the Cybertruck is nearly indestructible, so you don’t have to worry about the stainless steel sheet metal being abused by a rough trail. In addition, it will not scratch easily.
The windows are also zombie apocalypse ready with Tesla armored glass, which is hopefully sturdier than the one that famously broke on stage. Tesla also promises an onboard air compressor, which the Rivian already has and is immensely useful. Interestingly, Tesla promises that the truck will be able to tow more than 14,000 lbs, which is more than the Rivian can tow. Another notable number is the maximum range available on the Cybertruck, which Tesla says will be up to 500 miles.
This track also puts it above the Rivian and is essential for confidently going off the beaten track. When the Cybertruck is available it will be interesting to see how the actual production model compares to the Rivian R1T and what other competition has hit the market.
3. Ford F-150 Lightning
Pickup trucks wouldn’t normally dominate a list of the best off-roaders, but since EV pickups are the most off-road-worthy EVs right now, here’s another one. The F-150 Lightning doesn’t have the crazy, mind-boggling off-road functionality of the R1T, but it won’t stall anytime soon.
For starters, the Lightning comes standard with a twin-engine 4×4. You read that right; all trim levels are equipped with the ability to drive all four wheels. Ford was clearly trying to make sure you didn’t get stuck in his heavy EV. Another great feature of the F-150 Lightning that will help you go off-road is the rear eLocking axle, which Ford speaks for as a rear-locking differential. This essentially locks the rear axle, allowing the tires to rotate backwards at the same time.
If you are unfamiliar with differential locks, this technology distributes available torque better and improves off-road capability. Ford’s intentions with this truck are pretty clear when they equip it with a rear-locking differential as standard equipment across the range. The F-150 Lightning also has a giant frunk that allows you to take all your camping gear off-road, and it can even power your campsite with its onboard outlets.
The Lightning is available with Pro Power Onboard, which gives you access to a whopping 11 sockets (a combination of 12V sockets and USB ports). Not only this, the Lightning is also available with a 240V socket for the load floor. Wherever your adventure takes you, you’re sure to be ready with this truck. The only downside is the range, which is about 320 miles even in its maximum configuration, and that number will suffer when driving through steep snowy slopes.
EV range is still the problem
The biggest deterrent to taking your EV on any serious off-road adventure is still range, especially if you’re tackling a steep mountain trail in frigid conditions while blasting the heat. The fact that you don’t have the convenience of carrying spare fuel with you is also a deterrent to off-roading in an EV. Nevertheless, manufacturers will continue to figure these things out, especially by building more charging stations in remote locations.