Bollinger’s Electric Truck Enters Design Validation Phase
The B4 chassis cab heads to production in 2024 as the first commercial vehicle from Bollinger Motors.
Potential fleet customers had their first hands-on time with “fully production-intent” Bollinger B4 all-electric Class 4 chassis cab trucks during a recent ride-and-drive event. “All of the components, all of the wiring, all of the software and the manner in which the truck is being manufactured is production-intent,” Robert Bollinger, CEO and founder of Bollinger Motors, said in an interview with SAE Media.
The Oak Park, Michigan-based electric truck manufacturer chose the Mcity Test Facility, a 32-acre site on the University of Michigan’s North Campus in Ann Arbor, for the B4 test drive. Potential customers, Bollinger Motors employees and media attended the event that unfolded in waves over 10 days in September 2023. “Our manufacturing partner, Roush Industries, has produced 20 design-verification B4 vehicles. Five of the vehicles are for marketing purposes and 15 will be used for testing,” Bollinger said, adding that the B4 is slated to enter full production in the second quarter of 2024.
Founded in 2015, the start-up company is targeting the design and development of Class 3-6 electric vehicles. The initial focus was on off-road-capable Class 3 vehicles (the B1 SUV and B2 truck) for consumers. “If you go back to the B1 days, we were developing a crazy-cool, complicated SUV that could do everything. That work was paused in early 2020 to concentrate on commercial vehicles,” Bollinger said.
“The thing with the B4 and our commercial-vehicle path is we went straight to the fleets first and listened to them. And now we’re giving commercial-vehicle customers a simplified, non-complicated electrified version of what they’re already used to driving, so they can easily adapt and start taking CO2 vehicle emissions out of the air,” Bollinger said.
With a GVWR of 15,500 lbs. (7,030 kg), the B4 has a payload of 7,100 lbs. (3,220 kg). For the ride-and-drive program at Mcity, the B4 vehicles purposefully carried half of the payload capacity. “At the beginning of a [work] day, the truck is at full payload. And at the end of the day, the truck is empty of payload. So that’s why we’re testing at 50% payload,” Bollinger said.
The B4’s frame height is 30 inches (762 mm), but the 40-inch (1,016-mm) frame-rail width is a significant uptick from the 34-inch (864-mm) industry standard. The decision to go with a larger frame-rail width was supported by Kent Harrison, the former Ford Motor Company chief platform engineer for commercial vehicles and trucks, whom Bollinger Motors hired in March 2022.
A 40-in width for frame rails enabled the battery pack and high-voltage wiring harnesses to be packaged inside the rails, according to Harrison. “The in-house-developed frame rail is 7-millimeter-thick [0.275-in] metal in a C-channel, so if a vehicle impacts the rail, it’s not going to bend. That’s a good safety feature for the battery pack,” Harrison said. The frame rail will be fabricated by Metalsa.
The battery pack for the B4 is a different chemistry than what was originally planned. “We were actually developing a lithium-ion battery pack in-house, but when Kent Harrison came onboard as our chief product officer, he said: ‘Let’s talk with battery providers because it’s all about speed-to-market,’” Bollinger said.
Bollinger Motors opted for Our Next Energy’s Aries lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack, which is available in two sizes: 79 kWh and 62 kWh. Bollinger will offer customers a choice of batteries in the B4: a 79-kWh single pack, or two 79-kWh packs for a total of 158 kWh.
“Most of the potential customers for a medium-duty, all-electric truck said they would need a driving range between 75 and 125 miles [120 and 200 km]. The two-pack battery will provide an up to 200-mile [322-km] range in good conditions, so we’re well above what’s needed. Of course, when it’s very cold or very hot there will be a reduction in the range,” Bollinger said. With a Level 2 charger, the B4’s 0 to 100% charging time is nine hours. DC fast charging takes 1.5 hours. Preliminary specs for the B4 are 363 hp (271 kW) and 702 lb-ft (952 Nm) of torque.
The 158-in (4,013-mm) wheelbase B4 has a dual rear axle and a solid front axle. Alpha prototypes of the B4 used an off-the-shelf front axle that resulted in a high step-in cab height. “We made the decision to spend money developing a new beam front axle, which would bring things inside the wheel wells and bring down the cab’s step-in height,” Harrison said, noting the new axle lowered the step-in height by approximately 10 inches (254 mm).
The new axle also shrunk the Alpha-prototype B4 trucks’ whopping 55-ft (16.76-m) turning radius. “The [updated] B4 has an impressive 44-ft (13.41-m) turn circle, and that is 100% attributed to the decision to develop a new beam front axle,” Harrison said. In addition to the in-house-designed frame, Bollinger engineers also designed the high-voltage wiring harnesses, low-voltage wiring harnesses, electronic controls, software, leaf spring, front axle and the battery-pack mounting. The cab – with certain Bollinger specifications – is being sourced from a yet-to-be-named Chinese manufacturer.
In late 2023, Bollinger Motors plans to announce its dealer network as well as the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of the B4, which will be eligible for a U.S. federal government purchase incentive from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. The incentive is 30% of the electric vehicle’s price, up to a total of $40,000.
B4’s optional equipment list includes Mobileye advanced driver-assist systems, which features forward collision warning, pedestrian collision warning and lane departure warning. The B4 is Bollinger Motors’ first vehicle model to reach the design validation phase. “It’s incredible to hit this milestone,” Bollinger said.