Electric trucks and vans

From the June 2020 print edition

Electrification, particularly in the truck market, has been in the headlines this past year. And, while you still can’t buy one of these electric trucks yet – they are getting closer. For instance, Rivian announced last year that Ford Motor Company invested $500 million and that the companies would collaborate on a project utilizing Rivian’s skateboard platform. This should materialize as an all-electric F-150 sometime in 2022. Lincoln is also looking at an all-electric model, but it is on hold at the moment as the market has been severely impacted by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bollinger B2 features an all-aluminum body, has four standard doors, seats four passengers and has a six-foot cargo bed. Image: Howard J. Elmer

What actually may be closer to production are all-electric cargo vans. Again, Rivian, has announced a deal with Amazon for the develop­ment of an electric delivery van utilizing Rivian’s platform; 100,000 of these vans had been ordered with deliveries set to start in 2021.

Still, for an available-at-the-local-dealer van it looks like Ford will be first out of the gate with an all-electric Transit van set to arrive in late 2021 as a 2022 model. Ford says this Transit will be smart and connected, giving fleet owners technology solutions like in-vehicle high-speed data architecture and cloud-based services.

But, past these future announcements, I wondered what’s available now. Well, in Detroit there is an electric pickup truck that is almost ready to go into production – one that’s built. I had a chance to actually lay hands on it recently. The company building it is Bollinger Motors, and yes, there is a Mr. Bollinger – a man who put up his own money to bring a new kind of pickup to market.

At Bollinger’s headquarters a rolling B2 pickup chassis is on display. What I saw there was a truck design that can be described as the boiled down essence of practicality. Its square body is built for service and its frame, suspension and drivetrain will haul people, payload and go just about anywhere. In fact, once you get past the whole electric thing, this appears to be one tough utility truck.

Box-like shape
Looking at the B2 I was struck with its box-like build which to me is reminiscent of a Mercedes G-Wagon or old-school Land Rover Defender. Good company to be in. However, this is not a steel shell; as weight is the enemy of any electric vehicle the B2 features an all-aluminum body. It has four standard doors, seats four passengers and has a six-foot cargo bed.

However, it has a few smart features that will add to that space, including a lifting rear glass and a fold-flat mid-gate panel that opens up the bed to the interior. The rear passenger seats are also removeable to create even more cargo room. Oh, but there is more. Because the hood does not cover a traditional engine it lifts to reveal another storage space (a 14-cu-ft “frunk”). This space also has a rear access door through the firewall which, when open, creates a 16-foot-long pass-through right to the rear of the cargo bed.

Inside the IKEA-simple, clean design continues. Everything is flat or square. Controls are knobs and toggles, all well placed and easily used. Bollinger engineers seemed to find simple, elegant solutions for all the accessory needs.

The feature that struck me was the window defroster. Rather than using a larger in-dash vent selector and complicated, powered duct diverter, the B2 employs a perforated cylinder that runs the length of the dashboard that spins by hand. If you need defrost you turn the holes in the one-half of the cylinder upwards, towards the glass. If you want it off, simply spin back, till it’s closed. Still, it’s not all low-tech. Above your head is a four-panel, remove

For an available-at-the-local-dealer van, Ford looks to be first with an all-electric Transit van set to arrive in late 2021

able, full-glass roof – they have invested in some very eye-catching features.

What was hard to see on the floor model was the drivetrain. Most of the components are run through a raised tunnel that runs the length of the truck. In fact, looking under the truck revealed a clean that is virtually flat, which explains the extra ground clearance.

For the B2 that is 15.5in at the wheels (individual wheel travel is also 10in) because these electric drive components eliminate low hanging axle supports and prop shafts. So, with that kind of clearance you’d expect some decent off-road performance. It doesn’t hurt that the B2 has four-corner air suspension, less underside hardware and the ability to raise and lower itself.

Consider that driving those wheels are two electric motors, one driving the front wheels, the other the rear set. Each electric motor has an output of 300hp and 668lbs-ft of torque and spins at up to 15,000rpm.
It has a typical two-speed transfer case and 2/4WD selector. With that much power pushing through wheels it should be a serious off-roader. So, while the default drive mode is a slip-n-grip, all-wheel drive setup on-road or off, both front and rear axles come with lockers. This elevates the truck to Jeep-like ability. In fact, I noted that the B2 is actively taking a page out of Jeep’s marketing book by offering an unbuttoned driving experience – its doors, windshield and glass roof panels are all removeable.

So, while its crawl ratio will be substantial it’s no dog on the highway. Speed-wise the truck will be governed to a top speed of 160km/h but its ability to get up to speed is brisk. Its 0-to-100km/h time is said to be 4.5 seconds.

Range anxiety
According to Bollinger engineers, the B2 is equipped with a 120kwh battery pack which will have an effective battery range of 320km on a full charge. Once depleted, the truck will recharge at various rates depending on what kind of charger it’s plugged into. The more common one (Level 2) will utilize 220V power and restore the battery in eight to 10 hours. If a Level 3 (called a DC Fast) charger is available this time can be cut to around two hours.

Bollinger says that the B2 will have a payload rating of 5,000lbs and a tow rating of 7,500lbs – Bollinger also says that they will submit the B2 for the required SAE J2807 load testing that will verify and certify its payload and towing capacities – just like the big boys.

So, while I couldn’t drive the prototype I was crawling through – Bollinger says that day is getting closer. There stated goal is to have a full production-built unit ready for the 2021 model year – so,
a B2 available for purchase late this year? Maybe.

The key piece to the rollout puzzle is finding the right facility to put the trucks together. That is what they are doing right now – searching for an established partner with an existing production facility to assemble the B2. I wish them luck.