Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe says he's changing mindsets of what's 'possible in an electric vehicle'

Rivian's lineup now includes three smaller SUVs: R2, R3 and the R3X.

A common complaint of electric vehicles is that they're too expensive. That's why Rivian, the electric carmaker from Irvine, California, just launched three new models to meet this "huge need in the market," according to RJ Scaringe, the company's founder and CEO.

"If you're in the market for a $45,000 EV, you have an incredible set of choices from Tesla. But in terms of really compelling options, there's not a lot there," Scaringe told ABC News shortly after the company debuted its R2, R3 and R3X models.

Scaringe said the R2, which he described as a midsize sport-utility vehicle, would appeal to more price-conscious drivers. The R2, which is available for preorders on the Rivian site, can travel more than 300 miles on a single charge and starts at $45,000. Drivetrain configurations include single-motor, dual-motor and tri-motor (two motors in rear and one in front). The SUV can also hustle from 0-60 mph in under 3 seconds.

The R3's shorter wheelbase makes the crossover more drivable and maneuverable, according to Scaringe. The R3X is the performance variant that has "dynamic abilities both on and off road." Rivian did not share pricing of the R3, only noting that it will cost less than the R2.

More importantly, Scaringe said these new models charge from 10% to 80% in less than 30 minutes and connect to a Tesla Supercharger without an adapter (the North American Charging Standard -- NACS -- is native on the R2 and R3).

"The R2 has many applications and so many different use cases," Scaringe said, adding that Rivian is also expanding its Rivian Adventure Network, with more than 600 sites expected in the next few years. "It represents a vehicle and platform."

Rivian announced on Friday it has received more than 68,000 reservations for the R2 in less than 24 hours. Excited customers, be prepared to wait: The attractively styled SUV is not available until the first half of 2026.

The company, which has quickly won over motorists with its rakish R1T pickup and R1S SUV, has experienced growing pains; executives lowered prices to be competitive and the company has yet to make a profit. Rivian reported a $5.4 billion net loss for last year and cut its workforce by 10%. The company's plan to build the R2 at its new Georgia plant was put on hold to preserve cash; the R2 will now be manufactured in Illinois.

Scaringe spoke to ABC News about the new models and the challenges Rivian is experiencing. The interview below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: You just unveiled three new models, part of your plan to make the brand more accessible to more people. Who is the target customer for the R2, R3 and R3X and how do they compare in terms of range and price?

A: The goal of launching R2 as a platform and as a vehicle was to make [it] something a lot more people could access ... the R2 has the ability to penetrate much more of the buying public because of the price point.

The range on R2 is over 300 miles. Starting price is going to be at $45,000 and that really fits into the meat of the market. The average price of a new vehicle in the U.S. is just under $50,000 so we're pricing this below the average price of a new vehicle in the U.S. With the R2 being a midsize SUV, it has so many applications and fits so many different use cases.

Q: Will the R2 compete with the Tesla Model Y?

A: They're priced very similarly. Seven percent of new vehicle sales last year were electric. With R2, we're giving customers a choice -- something that's really compelling.

Q: The R2 won't be available until early 2026. Why will it take two years to bring this lower-priced EV to market, especially as your competitors are introducing cheaper models more quickly?

A: I always describe developing a car as you've got thousands of components that need to work in perfect unison -- so ramping the supply chain, testing all those components, testing the systems at the vehicle level. There are thousands and thousands of decisions that have to happen.

With our R1 product, this is the bestselling vehicle over $70,000, it earns the highest level of customer satisfaction as rated by customers and Consumer Reports. We've seen this amazing enthusiasm for what we've been building but at a price point more in the premium space. With R2, we wanted to take all that success and apply it in this lower price point. But that means the products have to be really well developed. So not just developing the product but ensuring the production ramp of that is flawlessly executed.

Q: There are concerns that the average, mainstream American is not interested in an electric vehicle. What's your take? Are you having trouble convincing Americans to switch to battery power?

A: No. I want to talk about that. I think there's a lot of misunderstandings about the causality of this slowdown in growth. Notice I said slowdown in growth. It's still growing -- electric vehicle penetration is growing year over year -- but the reality is there's just not a lot of great choices.

If you're in the market for a $45,000 EV, you have an incredible set of choices from Tesla, but in terms of really compelling options, there's not a lot there. That's in stark contrast to what you have in the [internal combustion engine] world where you have everything from cars to vans to trucks to SUVs to crossovers. You have very few choices in that lower-priced EV space.

So with R2 we're going to give customers a choice that's very different from what's there today and we're really bullish on what we'll see in terms of reaction. It's not as if we're going to get 100% of the market to convert [to electric vehicles] overnight. But we can say with certainty it will convert. In a number of states this will be driven by a policy. By 2035 onwards, you won't be able to buy a non-electric vehicle in California. And that's the case in a number of other states as well. Most countries have committed to that similar level of electrification. So we're going to see this change start to really accelerate over the next decade.

Q: What's the biggest obstacle facing the company? Is it high interest rates? The slowing EV growth curve?

A: Right now our No. 1 focus is driving efficiency in our business. As we start to achieve more scale, we're making sure there's a very clear line of sight to profitably, to getting to overall profitability for the business and, with that, driving efficiency in how we launch our future products.

But efficiency and managing costs has been the absolute focus for us as a company.

Q: The company recently laid off 10% of its workforce to trim costs. How do you balance cost cutting and launching a new model?

A: Some of the hardest decisions we have to make are when we really have to focus on a very specific and targeted set of objectives and adjust the team structure and size to accomplish that. We're really driving efficiency in how we operate, making sure the organization's size, structure and layout is set up for our objectives.

Q: For people who are interested in buying a Rivian, what do you want them to know about the brand?

A: As a company, we are deeply principled in how we make decisions. Our product family, the way we develop the technology, has been set up to ensure the products themselves really drive impact. [The vehicles] shift mindsets in terms of what's possible in an electric vehicle, but they also create an amazing customer experience.

We're very customer centric and very much focused on creating these experiences that are truly one of a kind.