Rivian hopes its electric vehicles will help save the planet, but will Georgia drivers buy in?

Sales of electric vehicles have lagged in Georgia since a $5,000 tax credit was allowed to expire in 2015.

Emil Moffatt/WABE News

Two years from now, hundreds of thousands of electric trucks and vans are expected to start rolling off the line at Rivian’s new plant east of Atlanta. It was announced on Dec. 16 that Rivian would be investing $5 billion dollars in an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Georgia.

Electric vehicles are seen as a key measure in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But EV sales in Georgia have slumped since an early surge.

For all the economic and political implications of the announcement, Rivian executive Helen Russell made her company’s focus clear.

“Rivian exists to combat climate change, and under our mission to keep the world adventurous forever, we see the planet as a key stakeholder,” said Russell.

Several years ago, Georgians were beginning to do their part, spurred by a $5,000 EV tax credit. But state lawmakers let it expire in 2015. The result: the share of electric vehicles on the roads in Georgia has since stalled at just over 1%.

Some who follow the industry, however, say EVs could make a comeback here, thanks to the pickup truck.

Rivian executive Helen Russell spoke during the Dec. 16 announcement that the company would be building a $5 billion plant in Georgia. (Emil Moffatt/WABE News)

K.C. Boyce, who’s based in Decatur, studies consumer trends for the company Escalent. He says longer battery life and new offerings from Rivian — as well as Ford and Tesla — should entice more buyers.

“You’ve got all of the electric trucks coming out in the next year or so and that’s gonna be huge for the rural parts of the state as well as for people who rely on trucks for their livelihood,” Boyce said.

Ed Loh, an automotive journalist with MotorTrend, sees that as a golden opportunity for manufacturers.

“The last 45 years, the best-selling vehicle in America has been a pick up truck,” said Loh.

And he says EV trucks are showing they can hold their own when it comes to towing and payload capacity.

“This is why trucks are so popular in America,” said Loh. “You can do a lot of things with them, or you don’t have to do anything with them, you can just drive it to the mall.”

It’s yet to be seen, though, how many electric trucks “made in Georgia” will be bought here too.