Electric power has worked its way into sedans, supercars, motorcycles and most things in between, but we're yet to see a true off-roader powered by a battery. Charge stations are hard to come by in cities, let alone deserted campsites. Undeterred by this fact, Bollinger Motors has unveiled its battery-powered truck for adventurous environmentalists.
The idea of a rough, tough electric off-roader has been raised a few times – Land Rover slotted some motors into a Defender, and the ancient G-Class got a modern makeover at one point – but the idea hasn't made the leap from concept to reality yet. That doesn't mean making an off-road EV is a bad idea, though.
Battery technology is rapidly improving, making range anxiety less of a concern, while the nature of electric motors allows precise control of the torque being sent to each individual wheel. Speaking of torque, having 100 percent of all your twisting force on tap at standstill can only be a good thing when it comes to scaling steep inclines and pulling stumps. All these factors could add up to a quality four-wheel drive.
The B1 has good four-wheel driving foundations, riding on a ladder-frame chassis with a high-strength steel rollover structure. The battery is integrated into the lower sides of the chassis, with other electrical vitals stored in the middle of the ladder frame. According to Bollinger, that helps lower the centre of gravity and improves handling, although we'd be concerned about smacking our brand new EV battery on a sharp-edged rock.
There will be two options for the battery: 60 kWh or 100 kWh for a range of 120 and 200 mi (193 and 322 km) respectively. The 60 kWh battery takes seven hours to charge from a normal wall socket and 45 minutes using a DC fast charger, while the larger unit needs to be plugged in for 12 hours on a regular plug or 75 minutes with a fast charger. The moral of the story here is, well, use a fast charging wall box unless you've got a lot of spare time.
"At either a 120 or 200 mile estimated range, the Bollinger B1 will have more range than most electric vehicles on the road today," says John Hutchison, Bollinger Motors engineer. "The average US driver travels less than 36 miles per day, so the B1 has plenty of charge for anything you throw at it. I think we found the right combination of utility, off-road capability and range options."
Working to minimize the risk of smacking the battery on a jagged rock is a portal-geared axle, which lifts the suspension and helps keep the car's crucial components free from harm. There's 15.5 in (39 cm) of ground clearance and 10 in (25 cm) of wheel travel in the B1, and its approach (56 degrees) and departure (53 degrees) angles are better than those of the portal axle-equipped Mercedes G-Class. The battery is water sealed for submersion in 3.3 ft (1 m) for 30 minutes, too.
The suspension is a self-leveling, fully-independent setup with hydro-pneumatic height control. The active anti-roll bars are engaged to deliver a stable ride when you're cruising on the highway, or disengaged when you need maximum wheel articulation on tricky trails. Bollinger didn't specify exactly how the system works, but we'd suggest the car will probably have an off-road mode. Braking comes courtesy of 11.75-in (29.8-cm) vented discs backed by a regenerative braking system pulling energy into the battery.
Size wise, the B1 doesn't directly compare with anything on the road today. With a 8.75 ft (2.67 m) wheelbase and 5.7 ft (1.72 m) wheel track at both ends, it tiptoes the line between a Jeep Wrangler Sport and trucks like the Toyota Tacoma – not that you'd confuse it for either at a set of traffic lights. The B1 has a look all of its own, but more on that later.
Bollinger says the truck tips the scales at 3,900 lb (1,769 kg) with a 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution. Towing capacity and load capacity are both 6,100 lb (2,767 kg) for a peak vehicle gross weight of 10,001 lb (4,536 kg). The company hasn't specified how the range figure changes when the truck is fully loaded, but don't bank on getting anywhere near 120 or 200 miles with a big, heavy load.
Depending on how it's set up, the cabin of the B1 has space for four passengers or lots of your gear. The rear load bay can be covered with a Wrangler-style roof section and fitted with two seats, or it can be left uncovered and empty when you need to haul some gear. The rear load bay, pass through and front-trunk (no, we're not calling it a frunk) combine to create 95 cu.ft (2,690 liters) of load space.
The pass through is one of the most interesting design elements of the car, and a clear benefit of electric power. Because there's no engine or transmission, owners are able to pass long items from the boot, through the middle of the car and out a flap when the engine would usually be. The space is 12 ft (3.67 m) long with the boot and bonnet flap closed, or 15ft 4in (4.7 m) long with them open.
An empty load bay can also be used to carry 24 sheets of drywall without trouble, according to the team at Bollinger. That seems like an arbitrary measure, but it highlights how the B1 could be used as an everyday workhorse, just like an internal combustion van or pickup.
When the load bay is empty and work is finished, the B1 has some pretty impressive claims as a sports car. It has 360 hp (268 kW) of power and 640 Nm of torque on tap, for a 4.5 second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h). Not only is that faster than a Ford Raptor, it's faster than most hot hatches or warm sports cars. There's a new champion of the tradesman traffic light grand prix, and it's electric.
So far, so good then. The specification sheet reads well, and Bollinger has nailed the brief when it comes to practicality. But we can see one thing that might hold people back from getting on board with the B1, and that's the styling. The team has clearly tried to make it look rugged and tough, but the result is more akin to a home-made Land Rover Defender that was dropped on its roof. Will people want to buy a such a blocky truck? Time will tell, but we suspect it will sit firmly in the "either love it or hate it" category.
The focus on simplicity continues inside, where the designers have taken inspiration from classic Land Rovers and Jeeps with the pared-back finish. There's no complex dashboard, just a set of analog dials on the metal firewall, and all the door trims are flat sheets of riveted metal. Depending on your perspective this simplicity could be seen as charming, or it could be seen as an odd decision given the high-tech nature of the powertrain.
Entertainment is provided by a basic marine radio system with Bluetooth, a radio, AUX inputs for your iPod and an SD card slot. There's no navigation or complex infotainment system – even the battery charge gauge is an old-fashioned analog dial. There are, however, 110V power outlets in the dashboard for your camping gear or phone charging.
"Since the B1 is an all-electric truck, it's really a portable energy source," says Robert Bollinger, company founder and CEO. "So we put 100V plugs throughout the truck so you can use it to power any equipment and tools you might need out in the field. USB and 12V plugs are also integrated into the dash to cover all power needs."
At the moment, there's no word on when the B1 will be put into production or how much it will cost. The company has a research and development center in Hobart, New York, but is still talking with third-party manufacturers about actually making the car a production reality. Once a manufacturer has been found, the company says it can have cars on the road within 19 months, sold with a direct-to-consumer model.
There are no guarantees it will make it that far – we've seen plenty of automotive startup ideas struggle to make the leap from drawing board to production reality recently – but we're hoping the B1 becomes a regular sight in the backblocks of the real world.
Source: Bollinger Motors