In fall 2021, start-up Rivian was poised to begin delivery of its first electrical vehicles (EVs) to external customers after several delays. The company had over 70,000 preorders for its R1T (pickup truck) and R1S (SUV) models. On November 11, the company went public, raising approximately $12 billion in the largest US IPO since Facebook. Early investors were bullish on Rivian. The company’s success would depend in part on the availability of charging stations. Rivian had plans to establish two networks of chargers in the United States and Canada. Rivian Adventure Network would be a network of Level 3 DC fast chargers, while Rivian Waypoints would be Level 2 AC chargers. The company had announced that it wanted to establish these networks in locations near national parks and locales it expected its customers to visit. Rivian was targeting consumers who were outdoor enthusiasts. The case describes EV charging options and challenges students to determine where Rivian should locate its charging stations, how many were needed, and what types were best to serve consumers traveling the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Ultimately, this is not simply a problem seeking an “optimized solution” given predicted demand, but one that will fundamentally shape emerging consumer behavior. This case is taught in Operations Management, a required first-year course at Darden School of Business. It can also be used in a second-year elective course that explores the major issues and managerial concepts relating to strategic management of the operations function in today’s global economy. The set includes a series of short video interviews with the case protagonist.
(1) Explore the strategic importance of charging stations for EV adoption. (2) Consider tradeoffs to a strategic decision by considering cost and consumer behavior. (3) Apply queuing theory and discuss economies of scale.