A Decade After ‘EVTown,’ Rivian Is Making An Illinois City’s Electric Vehicle Vision A Reality

Rivian's R1T electric truck makes its way through the paint shop at the company's Normal, Illinois, manufacturing plant.
Rivian's R1T electric truck makes its way through the paint shop at the company's Normal, Illinois, manufacturing plant. - Credit: Rivian / Courtesy

By: Audrey Henderson

Normal, Illinois, aspired to be part of the electric vehicle revolution long before Rivian came to town. 

In 2011, Normal dubbed itself “EVTown” in a marketing effort to make the city an early destination for Mitsubishi’s all-electric i-MiEV subcompact. Located 130 miles southwest of Chicago, Normal was home to the automaker’s only North American plant. And while the company never built the i-MiEV in the U.S., it agreed to reserve 1,000 cars for customers in the city.

However, despite boasting 3,000 jobs at one point, the Mitsubishi plant closed its doors for good just four years later. And the diminutive, egg-shaped i-MiEV was a flop, selling just over 2,100 units in the U.S. before being discontinued in 2017.  

The plant was slated for demolition after being sold to a liquidator. But those plans were scrapped when electric truck and van maker Rivian opted not only to purchase the entire 2.6-million-square-foot plant, but also to add another 1 million square feet to its footprint. 

The plant presently employs 5,200 workers, according to Normal Mayor Chris Koos, and the company expects to produce 25,000 vehicles at the facility this year.

“When they first started, [Rivian said] their maximum hire would be about 1,100 people. And they didn’t feel that they were ever going to need that kind of square footage. And so, their initial plan was that they would treat it like an industrial park and they’d use the largest part of it. … But as they got into it, and then Amazon got involved and they raised all this money, they realized that they could do a lot more,” Koos said.

Along with the availability of an intact manufacturing plant, Rivian and its founder, RJ Scaringe, were attracted to the overall culture of the town, according to City Manager Pamela Reece.

“I think what Rivian demonstrates in terms of their culture, their purpose really fits in with the town of Normal’s culture and vision,” she said, noting the city’s comprehensive plan that includes goals for health, sustainability and community wellness. 

“The things that we are trying to achieve and shoot for over the next 20 years, I think are closely mirrored by Rivian’s purpose and the things that they’re trying to do. They’re just doing it on a much more global scale in terms of creating transportation systems that can support some of what we try to do here locally in terms of sustainable initiatives. So, I think there’s a real synergy there,” Reece said.

Read the full article, A Decade After ‘EVTown,’ Rivian Is Making An Ullinois City’s Electric Vehicle Vision A Reality, on ENERGY NEWS NETWORK.

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