A Passion for Cars Drives the Future of Electric Vehicles
Scott Rioux, MSEM ’13, has owned over 40 different cars, typically maintaining two at a time: a sports car that he tinkers with, and a pickup truck that he uses as his daily driver. But now, he’s picking up a different kind of project with Rivian, a car maker innovating a fleet of electric vehicles (EV) which has the automotive industry watching it closely.
Scott, who is Associate Director of Program Management at Rivian, is responsible for program timing, budget, and moving the company forward toward its goals.
“I kind of kept my toes out of the automotive space because I didn’t want to ruin my passion for automotive,” said Scott. “Rivian really spoke to me and I decided to make the leap.”
The automotive startup has garnered the attention of investors and tech companies alike – with its success spelling transformations for a variety of industries that leverage electric vehicles. This summer, Rivian raised $2.5 billion in funding from private investors for its lineup of vehicles slated to launch in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“There’s a great amount of excitement you can bring into a customer’s life who might not be used to driving an electric vehicle,” said Scott. “We really wanted to push forward the idea that electric vehicles aren’t fragile, and that they can be tough, and they can be your adventure companions, and they can be your work truck when necessary, and people shouldn’t be scared of using their vehicles for what they’re designed to do.”
The company, headquartered in Irvine, California, is establishing footing in popular electric vehicle classes like SUVs and pickup trucks as other companies realize the potential of this unsaturated space. Rivian’s fleet includes the R1T – a 400-mile range electric pickup truck that claims to tow a maximum of 11,000 pounds and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds – and the R1S, an electric SUV with similar performance.
According to the International Energy Agency, consumer preference for SUVs over sedans is growing and it accounts for half of all car sales in the United States. With bigger, fuel-based cars comes an increase in energy consumption, spurring fears of detrimental effects on the environment. But with electric vehicles, the effects could lean the other way.
Navigating the automotive industry, Scott’s passion and excitement are fueled by the progress made by the company’s innovations.
“What would make me happy is just seeing someone take delivery of their Rivian product and being just utterly excited the first time they drive it, and then continuing to have that excitement over the following years they own that vehicle. That, to me, means that I've done my job as best as I could,” said Scott.
He added, “From an EV perspective, I truly think that once more people have exposure to them and start using them on a daily basis, the fears about range, how you charge it, and how infrastructure will work, will get quelled as the future moves on.”
Since his time in the MSEM program, Scott has made a career of pushing the boundaries forward with lasting effects on the end consumer. Previous to Rivian, Scott worked at Apple where he managed new product operations.
“One of the most important things I learned at Tufts Gordon Institute was some of the soft skills. As an engineer, we’re not known for being very personable or trying to think outside the box. Sometimes, engineers are viewed as being kind of data-driven, rigid and regimented and not being as empathetic towards culture and society as well as that personal connection you build with other people,” said Scott.
Starting his career as an engineer, Scott wanted more insight and input into the development process as products get created. To do that, he knew the MSEM program’s blend of technical and business knowledge was the right fit for him.
“I wanted to focus more on product development, product strategy, how innovation happens at companies, how as a technical leader you can transform those ideas into reality, and what the business cases around them are as well to ensure that they do become a reality,” said Scott.
As consumers watch electric vehicles proliferate, Scott is on the front lines of shaping the future of the industry. When it comes to what impacts we can expect, simply put, “it’s a game-changer,” said Scott.