We asked Robert Bollinger just how a grass-fed cattle rancher from the Catskills found himself in the automotive industry. “I ask myself that all the time, now that it’s gone way too far to stop.”
The Bollinger B1 is a fully electric, 10,000-pound GVWR SUV that looks like it was designed for use in some kind of post-apocalyptic moonscape. But in reality, Robert Bollinger was just looking for a vehicle that met his needs.
After a successful career with advertising agencies and starting an organic skin product company, Bollinger and his partner launched a grass-fed cattle farm in the Catskills in New York state. As he was doing some work on the farm building fencing, he found himself shuttling back and forth to a lumber yard with 16-foot 2x4s.
LISTEN TO THE BESTRIDE PODCAST WITH ROBERT BOLLINGER BELOW:
If you haven’t attempted it, hauling 16-foot anything in the eight-foot bed of a pickup truck is an exercise in frustration. Even with the tailgate down, six and a half feet of lumber hangs out the back, and can easily spill out on the road. You either have to have a ladder rack, strap it down awkwardly or have it delivered.
Bollinger wanted a solution. He started thinking about a vehicle that would meet his needs on the farm. He started with a clean sheet of paper, designing something he thought would work. “I believe anyone doing anything now with a clean sheet of paper has to do electric,” he says. “There’s no reason in my mind to even start anything gas or diesel at this point.”
With an electric drivetrain, the packaging ideas are limitless, and a good number of those ideas are crammed in the B1’s design.
The “Frunk” — an opening trunk where an engine would be — has a drop-down door and a pass-through that allows 12-foot boards to be fully enclosed inside the truck. With the rear tailgate open, the B1 can easily accept 16-foot boards. The cargo area is 49-inches wide, and with the tailgate open, you can stack 21 sheets of 1/2″ plywood inside. The entire body is easily configurable from a full-cab to a half-cab design, and the top can come off entirely.
The vent system is ingenious. Rather than having a space-eating heater box with a mechanical door to direct heat and cooling between passengers and the defroster, it’s simply a rotating tube mounted beneath the windshield. For heat to the passengers, you rotate the openings that direction. Rotate it up for defrost. Rotate it all the way to the back to close it off.
Before you think you can run off to the Bollinger dealer to buy one of these, Robert has been clear that this is a one-off prototype. They’re building a second in the coming weeks that will be more of an off-road test mule. From the get-go, Robert has wanted to partner with a third-party manufacturer to get this truck built, rather than reinvent the wheel — almost literally — to start fully producing trucks in his own factory. He’s currently in talks with as many as four potential manufacturing partners, and his dream is to see the truck fully built in the United States, and most desirably, New York.
Bollinger is the unlikeliest automotive executive, but his passion and interest in this project is clear. Listen to the podcast to hear how he envisioned the B1, and assembled a team of designers, engineers and craftspeople to see it through.
PLUS: How to know when it’s time to quit repairing your old car, and a review of the Acura NSX.
EDIT: In the podcast, we mentioned that we drove the Acura NSX with WBZ Radio host Bradley Jay and he posted a video. You can see it here: