Talk about “white space.” If you’re looking for a pure electric off-road-optimized Class 3 four-door pickup or SUV with a 5,000-pound payload and 7,500-pound towing capacity, you’ll have to wait until early 2021 for the Bollinger B1 SUV or B2 pickup. (Oh, and there’s no relation to the snooty Champagne, so pronounce it BOWL-in-jer.)
What possessed Robert Bollinger, who studied industrial design at Carnegie Melon University but ended up running and selling a profitable organic hair-care products business, to start an electric Class 3 truck company? He owned a farm in the Catskills region of upstate New York and was unhappy with the truck options available to him. Off-road capability was of high importance, as was heavy-duty capability and silent green operation. Such a truck was unavailable, so he looked into building one.
While most folks might struggle to fit 5,000 pounds of anything normal in a 6-foot pickup bed (72 sheets of ¾-inch plywood would do it), clearing the 10,000-pound gross-vehicle-weight rating hurdle for Class 3 greatly simplifies the task of designing and developing a truck, as airbags and many other safety systems are not required. Anti-lock brakes are required, and although stability control is not, Bollinger is developing an ESC system. The company is also conducting rigorous simulation testing of side-impact pole crash tests, roof-crush tests, and others to ensure the trucks provide expected levels of occupant safety.
Of course, energy and budget saved on the airbag front might have been more than consumed designing a suspension to handle Bollinger’s off-road and load requirements. A cross-linked hydropneumatic suspension shoulders the load and provides ground clearance that can vary from 10 to 20 inches, thanks in part to a portal-axle design similar to those used on the Hummer H1 and G-Class 4×4-Squared, where the shafts delivering power are located above each wheel’s centerline, and they drive the wheels through a gear reduction. Here, as in the Hummers, braking is via inboard discs at all four corners.
This suspension offers some unique benefits. By cross-linking the corners, there is no need for an anti-roll bar, and with the flick of a switch this hydraulic link can be disabled, providing the effect of a disconnected anti-roll bar for maximum articulation of each wheel. Another great feature: The self-leveling suspension also effectively alters the spring and damping rates as the load increases, so Bollinger claims that the ride frequency (and hence comfort) changes very little from empty to fully loaded.
Power resides in a very large battery pack (74 x 59 x 8 inches and 120 kW-hr) that resides in a structural carbon-fiber box under the floor. It then flows to front and rear motors that are wound to Bollinger’s unique specifications, allowing them to operate at up to 12,000 rpm (about 2,000 more than most similar motors). A two-speed gearbox is used to permit both precise torque delivery at low (off-road) speeds and reasonable highway performance. Motor-control electronics provide a virtual center differential lock. The motors each produce 307 hp and 334 lb-ft of torque and are said to be capable of accelerating the trucks to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Company simulations suggest the big battery will last for 200 miles (on the EPA’s test cycle), or for about 10 hours of off-roading.
That’s pretty impressive range given the friction involved in those six gearboxes, the big knobby tires, and the truck’s, ahem, “aerodynamics.” (The drag coefficient reportedly matched a Wrangler’s when tested in the same FCA wind tunnel, but the frontal area is considerably larger.)
Like the Hummer H1, the B1 and B2 offer just four bucket seats, but here they’re separated by a load floor that’s even with the rear cargo floor. In the case of the B2 pickup, there is a Chevy Avalanche–esque “midgate” that folds flat into the rear load floor, and the back glass can either flip up or be removed. Removing the rear buckets is a simple matter of unlatching and lifting them out to provide a 9.5-foot bed. Another party trick both models offer: The frunk is accessible by a front “tailgate,” which also folds down flush with the continuous load floor that runs from tailgate to tailgate. You could transport telephone poles horizontally in a B2 if the terrain and road conditions permitted.
Other cool features include four roof panels that pop up to vent or come out for open-air motoring. These are available in glass or aluminum. The side windows open by sliding sideways, but they also come out for a fully open-air feeling. And the doors can be removed. Removable “consoles” can be snapped into holes in the floor between the front and rear seats, but these are primarily tablelike armrests that preserve the aforementioned telephone-pole pass-thru. There will be no fifth or sixth optional seats clipping into those console mounts, as there’s not enough headroom. Air conditioning flows up into a cross-car vent system located just under the windshield. The three individual vents can be rotated toward the windshield for defrost, toward the occupants’ faces, or rolled to a closed position.
The interior is designed to be hosed out, and the exterior is (industrially) designed first and foremost for ease of manufacture. All the exterior sheetmetal can be cut and bent without stamping dies, and most are bonded and riveted using exposed rivets to enhance the industrial look. A few underbody panels might require stamping. The front corners will be cast. The structure and the body are made of aluminum, but the independent suspension members are mostly steel.
Bollinger has brought the design to the “beta” prototype stage as shown using its own money. Between now and the proposed start of production in late 2020 (with deliveries in early 2021), the company must secure additional funding and a third-party manufacturing partner. Production estimates are pegged at 1,000 for the first year, with a mix tilted toward the SUV. Commercial and (non-tactical) military sales are expected. So far, all lips are sealed as to pricing—our $100K to $120K estimate is entirely a guess, and the value proposition that represents will be entirely up to the buyer. You get a lot of power, a lot of battery, a 15-kW inverter to run 110-volt accessories from the eight available plugs, and the rugged no-nonsense look of a press-break-built DIY Land Rover Defender. If you’re in the market for an electric Class 3 truck, it might be quite a wait for your next option.
|2020 Bollinger B1 & B2|
|BASE PRICE||$100,000-$120,000 (MT est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front/rear-motor, 4WD, 4-pass, 4-door truck & SUV|
|MOTORS||2 x 307-hp/334-lb-ft AC electric|
|TRANSMISSIONS||2 x 2-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,800-5,000 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||171.5-207.5 x 77.2 x 72.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet rated (est 200-mile range)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Early 2021|
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Source: WORLD NEWS