It isn’t very pretty, and it’s got a long way to go to retail production, but the all-electric, all-aluminum, all-wheel drive Bollinger B1 pickup truck debuted Thursday, a mere 19 months after designer and company founder Robert Bollinger dreamed it up on his cattle ranch in upstate New York.
It is a 3,900-pound behemoth developed specifically as an alternative to mass-produced pickups and SUVs for hardcore off-road enthusiasts and workers whose assignments take them into rugged terrain.
Design-wise, the B1 could be the offspring of a Land Rover Defender and a four-door Jeep Wrangler, with a dash of a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen and Russian army utility wagon somewhere in its DNA.
The rear half converts from covered cargo and passenger space to open pickup bed.
Bollinger is hoping the truck’s unveiling at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan will engender a flood of enthusiasm and funding to get production rolling.
Trucks.com got a preview of the truck during a visit this month to the tiny Bollinger Motors workshop in the Catskills village of Hobart, about 60 miles west of Albany, N.Y. That’s where Bollinger and his crew of six built the prototype, milling and welding many of the parts on-site and assembling the rest from a mix of off-the-shelf and custom components.
The B1’s preproduction statistics are impressive.
It can haul 24 12-foot-long 2x4s down the middle of the cab without disrupting the four-place seating and pass over rock and debris piles up to 20.5 inches tall. The truck can handle 6,100 pounds of passengers and cargo or tow up to 6,100 pounds. It will travel 120 miles on a single charge of its 60-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery pack.
Bollinger said the truck’s estimated fuel efficiency — which still needs to be officially rated by the Environmental Protection Agency — is the equivalent of 67.4 mpg in a gasoline-fueled vehicle.
A longer-range model with a larger, 100 kWh battery, will deliver an estimated 200 miles per charge, Bollinger said. The bigger battery will reduce cargo capacity, however, because of its heavier weight.
Bollinger expects the truck to sell primarily on its capabilities and said it offers range that is sufficient to satisfy potential users who won’t be put off by the need to recharge the batteries between trips. That the B1 is an EV, powered by electric motors, is secondary, he said.
Pricing hasn’t been set. Much will depend on how the truck is manufactured, but Bollinger said he’s aiming for “the mid five-figures” after incentives (it likely would qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit and, in some states, for state and local incentives as well).
“We’re not in G-Wagon territory,” he said, referring to the $122,000 Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen that is popular with well-heeled SUV enthusiasts looking for something to one-up their neighbors’ Lexus and Cadillac Escalade SUVs.
The truck is a prototype, complete and working but intended mainly to show investors and potential customers what will come if Bollinger can round up the financing to go into production.
Manufacturing options include contracting with an outside specialist to build or bringing made-to-order components from outside suppliers to a Bollinger-owned final assembly plant. Bollinger said he’s talking to several potential partners and discussing manufacturing incentives with state officials in New York, but has yet to determine which avenue would be best.
He is not aiming at the mass market but believes, instead, that a core of tough work and off-road truck enthusiasts can make Bollinger a successful niche market player.
In that, he’s got support from some in the analyst community.
“For a low-volume truck, it’s got legs,” said Michael Held, powertrain analyst for AlixPartners. “People aren’t seeing drawbacks in electrics; they haven’t had bad experiences in terms of quality and reliability. There’s a group of customers out there.”
There are other electric light trucks available, reworked conventional pickups with the engines removed and replaced by an electric drive system and sold by aftermarket “upfitters.” Additionally, EV maker Tesla has said it would be introducing a Tesla electric pickup by mid-2019. And Ohio-based Workhorse Group said its prototype range-extended electric pickup, the W15, has generated almost 5,000 nonbinding orders, sufficient to get production started next year.
That would mean that Bollinger — with a 2019 production goal — wouldn’t be first to market with a factory-built electric truck. But Bollinger said the B1 wouldn’t compete with what Tesla and Workhorse are doing because both are pickups only and neither is designed with the B1’s rugged off-road capabilities.
Trucks.com visited the Bollinger workshop in upstate New York but was unable to drive the prototype because inclement weather had set the company back on its vehicle testing schedule.
The truck’s specifications include 360 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque generated by the dual electric motors. The truck is all-wheel drive (one motor powers each set of wheels) with locking differentials and manual-disconnect sway bars for full suspension articulation.
Bollinger said the truck — with a top speed of 127 mph — can go from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
At first glance, the Bollinger B1 looks pretty basic. It is flat nosed, flat sided, flat topped and all squared off; the only angles that aren’t 90-degrees are a slight rearward rake of the windshield and chamfered edges where fenders meet hood.
Bollinger said the design facilitates easy replacement of sheet metal and other parts. All of the body panels are attached with rivets or screw fasteners. The LED headlights, turn signals and other exterior lights can be ordered from Amazon.
The truck measures 145 inches nose to tail, is slightly more than half as wide at 76.5 inches and nearly a half as tall at 73.5 inches.
Bollinger is showing a two-door version with a 105-inch wheelbase but said a four-door would be offered as well, with about 6 inches more wheelbase (and overall length) and a slightly higher price.
Because there’s no internal combustion engine, the front end opens up to reveal a 14-cubic-foot front trunk, a space immortalized by Tesla in its Model S sedan as the “frunk.”
There’s a 13.25-inch tall pass-through system with lockable doors that creates a sizeable tunnel spanning the length of the truck, from frunk to rear.
That tunnel is what permits lumber and similar cargo — up to 10-feet in length, 13-inches wide — to be carried inside. Open the rear tailgate and the B1 can carry 2x4s of up to 16 feet in length.
The cargo bed can handle full-size sheets of plywood, and with the rear portion of the top removed they can be stacked as high as the truck’s weight rating will allow. With the top on, the truck will carry a stack of 76 sheets of ½-inch plywood or drywall, Bollinger said.
Total cargo area — rear, frunk and pass-through area — is 95 cubic feet with the rear seats removed. Bollinger hasn’t yet provided capacity for the rear cargo area by itself.
The B1 stands on hefty 285/70/R17 mud and rugged terrain tires by BF Goodrich, pushed out to the farthest corners to maximize rock-crawling capabilities. Its base 15.5 inches of ground clearance would make clambering in and out a bit difficult for the less leggy, except that it also sports a hydraulic suspension that can add, or subtract, up to 5 inches.
That gives it a ground clearance range of 10.5 inches to 20.5 inches, which, if it makes it to production, would be one of the best among production SUVs and pickups — including the G-Wagon, which boasts 17 inches of clearance, thanks in part to massive 22-inch wheels.
The tall ride height and watertight battery enclosure gives the B1 the capability to wade through almost 5 feet of water.
The angle of approach is 56 degrees — sufficient to clear a nearly 30-percent slope. And the angle of departure at the rear is 53 degrees. By comparison, a trail-ready Jeep Wrangler Rubicon comes from the factory with a 42.2-degree approach angle. Toyota’s midsize Tacoma TRD Pro 4×4 pickup offers the best production pickup approach angle on the market today – 35 degrees.
Bollinger told Trucks.com that he designed the B1 because he couldn’t find a mass-market pickup or SUV that performed well in the often wet and muddy, hilly terrain on his farm. He managed to tick a lot of boxes.
The B1’s doors and side windows are completely removable, the sliding windows with or without their frames. The roof panels — options will be glass or aluminum — are divided by a roll bar that also serves as the truck’s “B” pillar. Each panel can be removed, as can the entire rear assembly of “C” pillars, roof cross member and flip-up glass rear window.
USB, 12-volt and 110-volt electrical outlets in the cab and a pair of 110-volt sockets in the rear provide plenty of places to plug in computers, space heaters, electrically powered tools, even TVs. A work desk spans the gap between the front seats — leaving the pass-through space below open for lumber or other long pieces of cargo. Because there’s no conventional glove box, a removable metal lockbox sits atop the desk surface, with removable padded arm rests on either side.
Seats in the prototype are upholstered in leather, “for showing it off,” Bollinger said. There also will be cloth and vinyl offerings in production models. The rear captain’s chair-like seats fold up and flip to each side with a few clicks and tugs, and can be removed entirely to maximize cargo area.
The rest of the B1’s flat-floored interior is fairly minimal — it can be hosed out without damaging the seats, marine-grade instruments, Bluetooth radio or battery packs installed beneath the floor, he said.
Bollinger, a former ad agency creative director and cosmetics industry executive, has shown once again that an auto industry background isn’t necessary to develop a new vehicle that might succeed.
Now all he’s got to do is line up investors and customers and get the truck into production.[vox id=”8383″]