Getting a new car company off the ground is anything but easy; just ask Robert Bollinger, the man behind the all-new Bollinger B1. A fully electric SUV, the 4-passenger B1 is the first prototype created and built at Bollinger Motors, a start-up car manufacturer located in Hobart, New York.
Everyone, it seems, is entering the automotive business, but most newbies are concentrating on autonomous technology. Bollinger Motors is different in that its goal, as evidenced in the B1, is to develop fully electric utility vehicles for off-roading and work. Has the world been clamoring for an all-electric SUV? Not exactly, but Bollinger himself has been jonesing for a very specific sort of electric vehicle. Willing to put his own money into bringing that vehicle to life, he now has a fully operational prototype. If you build it, they will come.
We recently got a close look at the Bollinger B1 and spent some time with its creator at the annual Texas Auto Writers’ Texas Truck Rodeo near Austin. We are still waiting for our first turn behind the wheel, but here’s what we learned.
We don’t hear the term “gentleman farmer” much anymore, but it fits Robert Bollinger to a T. According to his bio on the Bollinger Motors Website, he graduated Carnegie Mellon with a degree in industrial design. His career included stints at various ad agencies from which he left to help run a skincare company in 2006. Channeling his own “Green Acres” storyline, Bollinger eventually escaped New York City to start a cattle farm.
It was there that he revisited his childhood fantasy of starting a car company. Faced with the many and diverse chores operating a farm requires, Bollinger saw a need for one universal vehicle that could accomplish the tasks around the farm requiring multiple vehicles. “Can’t there be just one vehicle that can do everything?” he mused.
An episode plowing snow with a blade installed on the front of his old Chevy 1500 pickup finally got Bollinger off the dime. After getting stuck several times, he decided enough was enough. No longer content to simply daydream about that universal vehicle, Bollinger began formulating a plan.
Taking the first major step in 2014, Bollinger purchased and renovated an old car repair shop. It would be here that he and his team would build the Bollinger B1 from scratch. The idea: to not just electrify trucks, but to reinvent trucks in the process.
Through a help-wanted ad for a chief engineer on LinkedIn, he found Karl Hacken in the summer of 2015. Hacken’s background includes several positions in the automotive performance aftermarket industry as well as racing. He also reached the upper tiers of an automotive suspension supplier. Cars are in his blood.
Since then, Bollinger has hired three more engineers and a designer. There are others who pop in and out of the shop as needed. You know it’s a bare-bones organization when they are able to name their welder and painter. Referring to the prototype, Bollinger said, “There’s only a handful of us. It’s a core team of four engineers that built the whole thing.”
Radiating all the styling refinement of a toaster oven, a nearly perfect model of the B1 could be constructed from a set of Legos. But such observations don’t bother Bollinger in the least. For him, the B1 is all about function. “Who cares if it’s boxy?” he said. “It works! Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep it utilitarian.”
Although a larger battery is in future plans, the B1 prototype has a 60 kilowatt-hour battery capable of delivering around a 120-mile range with an estimated 67 miles per gallon equivalent. Two electric motors — one fore and one aft — develop a combined 360 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive with a low-range and locking differential will be standard. Towing capacity is 6,000 lbs.
With all of the motors, mechanics and battery under the flat floor (there’s still a whopping 15.5 inches of ground clearance), there are a number of creative cargo-carrying options. For example, 72 4×8-ft sheets of .5-in thick plywood fit inside the B1 behind its front seats. A pass through running from the very front of the vehicle to the rear hatch can hold 24 sticks of 12-ft 2x4s. With the rear seats removed, there is 95 cu ft. of cargo room.
Not simply a show car trailered around the country for dog-and-pony shows, the Bollinger B1 is a fully operational prototype. It was off to Moab, Utah for more testing after leaving the Truck Rodeo. Whether Bollinger is able to actually bring his B1 to market in any quantity remains to be seen. He certainly has the passion to get it done. But, if nothing else, he has the universal farm vehicle he has always wanted.