Battery-powered Bollinger B1 SUV has long to-do list

on Jul30

The Bollinger B1 is designed so customers can remove the rear seats and the rear part of the greenhouse and turn the vehicle into a pickup.

NEW YORK — Bollinger Motors, an upstate New York startup, unveiled what it called a “working prototype” of the Bollinger B1, a boxy, battery-powered SUV aimed at on- and off-road use.

At a press event Thursday in Manhattan, company founder and CEO Robert Bollinger, 50, stressed that the project is in its early days. His company began planning and building the prototype just 22 months ago.

“I’m really not going to be talking specifics tonight — I’ll just mess up,” he said as he began his presentation.

To be determined is how the Bollinger B1 would be built, by whom or even whether it’s possible to build in series production in its present form. Assuming it could be sold to the public, the company also has to decide on pricing and how it would be sold — whether direct to the public, through an independent distributor or via franchised dealers.

Looking for a factory

“I’m just happy we have a working prototype,” Bollinger said in an interview on the sidelines of the event. He started Bollinger Motors, of Hobart, N.Y., in 2014.

The company said it is in talks with “third-party, independent vehicle manufacturers” to explore putting the B1 into production.

Jeff Holland, chief communications officer for Bollinger Motors, wouldn’t disclose which companies Bollinger has engaged, but he said suppliers Rockwell, Magna or AM General are examples of companies that would be capable of building a vehicle such as the Bollinger B1.

Genesis of the startup

From 1998 to 2013, Robert Bollinger worked at John Masters Organics, a cosmetics line he helped start, where he was COO and chief marketing officer. Private-equity firm Permira acquired a majority stake in John Masters in 2016 for more than $300 million, according to press reports. Holland said Bollinger got his investment in Bollinger Motors from his share of that buyout.

Karl Hacken, chief engineer for Bollinger Motors, said to the greatest extent possible, the company used off-the-shelf parts to build the Bollinger B1 prototype. For instance, UQM Technologies, of Longmont, Colo., makes its twin electric motors, Hacken said.

Robert Bollinger said he hopes to have a driveable prototype this fall. Journalists were not allowed inside the prototype at the press event.

If you want it done right …

Besides the electric powertrain, the Bollinger B1 is unusual in that it has an all-aluminum chassis. In addition, it is designed so customers can remove the rear seats and the rear part of the greenhouse and turn the vehicle into a pickup.

Robert Bollinger said he decided to build his own truck based on unsatisfactory experiences with trucks and SUVs on his farm. The Bollinger B1 has “everything you want, and nothing you don’t want,” he said.

“On the farm, I’ve had pickups, Jeeps, Blazers,” Bollinger said. “The thing they all had in common is they kind of sucked.”

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