California electric truck startup Rivian will likely sell stock and could raise $1 billion

California-based Rivian Automotive won $500 million from Panasonic to help build an electric truck and is planning an initial public offering that could value the company at more than $50 billion, according to people…

California-based Rivian Automotive won $500 million from Panasonic to help build an electric truck and is planning an initial public offering that could value the company at more than $50 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Rivian is looking to raise $1 billion in the IPO, and officials from the company are meeting with bankers next week to discuss the public offering, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Rivian is targeting a valuation of more than $50 billion, the people said.

Rivian’s previous investors — Advanced Technology Ventures, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and GV, formerly Google Ventures — also support the offering, said the people. The company began as a startup created by former Tesla and Tesla Motors Inc. executives, and it has begun testing its electric, semi-trailer truck at a warehouse in Eastpointe, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.

Rivian began construction of its first vehicle in 2013 at Tesla co-founder and chairman Elon Musk’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters. Musk provided Rivian’s funding to support the ongoing work at the site, Rivian spokeswoman Ashley Simpson said in an email. Rivian’s financial performance and valuation aren’t directly tied to Musk, she said.

Rivian began production at its factory in 2017 in Livonia, Mich., under a $200 million contract it won in May 2016 with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The first orders for the Semi began in January 2017 and surged to about 2,200 in the third quarter of that year. At least 500 of those have been delivered, she said. Rivian projects that 40 percent of North American truck sales over the next decade will be for electric or hydrogen electric vehicles.

Details for the float and a timetable were still being worked out and the company doesn’t plan to begin hiring bankers until the IPO talks start, she said.

Rivian has never disclosed its finances or exact number of employees.

The company received $50 million in funding last year from e.ventures, led by former Tesla engineers Martin Eberhard and Mike Danko. Panasonic will be the primary supplier of batteries and other electric components that Rivian will eventually use.

The Semi is designed to weigh in at less than 24,000 pounds and to have a range of 500 miles. Rivian says the semi can compete on price with tractor-trailers built today, and can offer some of the amenities available in midsize SUVs, such as fridge and bar-stool seating.

Rivian has four prototypes under development: A standalone truck powered by two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack that runs 5.6 tons; a hybrid version with the truck and battery pack, which weighs 9.2 tons; a version with a diesel-powered engine; and a version without any driving.

In the truck business, Rivian is competing against Tesla, Nissan Motor Co., Daimler AG, Navistar International Corp. and Volkswagen AG. A year ago, Rivian raised $75 million in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Group Corp. and SoftBank Vision Fund. SoftBank’s return on that investment is part of its plan to buy over a controlling stake in Terrafugia, a Bellevue, Wash.-based company that makes flying cars.

The model of owning a vehicle that runs on a battery-powered powertrain is essentially the same as owning a traditional gas-powered car or truck, Rivian chief technology officer Amir Rezai told Bloomberg. The difference is that once the battery runs out of power, the truck is able to recharge itself. Drivers will be able to use the trailer as a “storage facility” to store excess cargo.

It may be eight to nine years before we see the first commercial self-driving trucks, Rezai said. “Our goal is to be in production by 2022,” he said.

Michael B. Malone contributed to this report.

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