Bollinger is bringing old-school utility to the future
The antidote to endless cut-and-paste SUVs? An aerophobic electric truck that would put a Land Rover to shame off-road. Time to break out the Bolli...
Hobart, NY is just the sort of place you could do with an all-electric, nocompromise off-roader. Something to navigate the gnarly, snow-covered hills in, enough juice to reach Manhattan – 150 miles south – to blow off some steam, and no pulsating V8 to disrupt the peace. No coincidence this is the home of Bollinger Motors, maker of the B1, the world’s most rugged, aerophobic, all-electric SUV.
SUT, to be precise. Robert Bollinger, the boss, likes to call it a Sports Utility Truck. I’m standing in front of the first and only prototype in existence, jacked up in the small workshop where it was built, and there’s definitely a military chunkiness to it. Next door, through the glass partition, is an office occupied by Robert and three of his trusted engineers. And a dog. It’s a boutique company. Boutique, but with big dreams.
“We just crossed 16,000 reservations online. We had the debut on a Thursday, then the truck was brought back up on Friday, within three days we had 4,000. It was crazy,” Bollinger explains. OK, that’s a few clicks behind the Tesla Model 3, and technically these are expressions of interest rather than money-down deposits, but not bad for a company with a single prototype to its name. And not bad for a man with no experience of the car industry, other than a lifelong passion and a pot of money, from selling his share of the John Masters Organics hair care business in 2009.
After toying with the idea of a sports car, the vision of a brick-like off-roader came to him while tooling around his farm in a UTV. “The idea was how could you combine all the best of off-road with the best of utility into one tool. It’s not about luxury; it’s about usefulness and crazy capabilities.
“Basically we want to do everything better than Jeep. I bought a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to benchmark it against, and that was $58k. But guys
take what is already a decent machine, and go crazy with aftermarket stuff. The idea is that this has all these capabilities, and more, as standard.”
Despite this prototype being a two-door, a stretched four-door version will come first with a 120kWh lithium-ion battery and a 322-km range. The two-door’s wheelbase is just 267cm, and at a mere 381cm long it’s almost 120cm shorter than a Discovery, an indication of just how square the B1’s stance is – perfect for stability on tricky terrain.
Bollinger quotes approach and departure angles of 56º and 53º respectively, with a breakover angle of 33º and 39cm of ground clearance thanks to portal axles. Because it rides on fully adjustable, self-levelling, four-wheel independent, hydropneumatic suspension with ‘disconnectable’ antiroll bars, it can be adjusted by ± 13cm on demand. Weight balance is a perfect 50/50, the power steering is hydraulic and it’ll tow three tonnes.
Being electric is a massive plus too, says Bollinger. “Electric is great for trucks, even better than sedans. The instant torque means when you’re rock crawling and off-road, you don’t have to gun it to get the full power right away.”
The B1 has twin electric motors. One each for the front and rear axles, for permanent AWD. It makes 360bhp and 640Nm, which means this 2.3tonne SUV with the aerodynamics of a council estate does 0–100kph in 4.5 seconds and 204kph.
The styling is not a tip of the hat to blocky Defenders and G-Wagens, but driven by necessity. “The reason for the flat panels is that we could bend and make them ourselves. You don’t have to wait for a mould to be made that takes 10 months and $2 million.” And there’s real detail up-close, like the chunky nose badge, milled from a single piece of metal, that twists to open the grille, or the removable roof and side panels for enjoying the weather, or using your B1 like a pickup if you prefer.
Inside, it’s basic but riddled with thoughtful touches. Things like the battery meter masquerading as an analogue fuel gauge, and the drilled, rotating air vents that line the top of the dash. A through-loading flap lets you use the space under the bonnet – so the full length of the car – while 72 sheets of eight-by-four plywood fit in the back. That’s a lot of laminated timber.
The B1 is built to last, says Bollinger. “We have an aluminium body and aluminium chassis to help with both weight and corrosion, so the idea is you buy one and have it for the rest of your life. If 10 years down the road the battery technology takes a leap, you’ll have an option to upgrade.”
What you’re buying into is one man’s dream. A dream to produce something that’s forward-thinking but unflinchingly useful. Something designed by the need for simplicity, but visually fascinating. And although that dream isn’t yet fully realised, it’s inching closer. The plan from here is to build a pair of four-door prototypes, before moving the entire company to Detroit, closer to the suppliers, with a target of building 1,000 a year, including right-hand drive.
Despite pressing, cajoling and low-level trickery, I couldn’t get Bollinger to reveal a price for the finished car, despite production starting in 2019. Our guess would be something approaching $100,000, so not cheap, but Bollinger let slip that Schwarzenegger – famously a
Hummer lover – has put his name down on the list.
If it’s good enough for the Terminator… JACK RIX
Robert Bollinger. Go on, guess his favourite colour Nothing to see in here. No really, it’s sparse, that’s the point...
“72 sheets of eightby-four plywood fit in the back”Prices still to be confirmed... Levitationmode optional Bollinger expects the four-door– which adds 23cm to the wheelbase – to make up 80 per cent of sales, hence why it goes on sale before the two-door. Anyone else looking forwardto the Lego model?