- Bollinger has successfully patented the Passthrough and Frunkgate features of its upcoming electric utility vehicles, which allow for the hauling of items that are as long as the vehicles themselves.
- The Class 3 B1 SUV and B2 pickup are still both on target to start production by the end of 2021.
- Bollinger could license the features if the third-party vehicles using them don't compete directly with the company's own trucks and SUVs.
Bollinger's upcoming electric truck and SUV may look like stacks of Lego blocks from the outside, but inside they will have an ingenious feature. Because of the lack of an engine up front, the company has been able to create a Passthrough tunnel that extends the entire length of the 13- or 16-foot passenger vehicles the company has on its road map. Now those features are protected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The EV startup recently secured the patent as part of its plan to cements the company as a player in the increasingly crowded electric-truck segment. It filed its application ahead of the 2017 unveiling of its first vehicle, the B1 SUV.
"We started with a clean sheet of paper and [the question] how can we make trucks better? And what if we were just to land on Planet Earth and come up with our own idea of what a truck should do? What would be in it? So we threw all that kind of stuff into this truck. And a whole new layout. So this patent reflects that," CEO Robert Bollinger told Car and Driver.
Bollinger made the conscious decision to build its vehicles to be classified as heavy-duty Class 3 trucks. That puts them up against the Ford F-450 and Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickups. The B2 would be the only electric truck on the horizon with that rating. Tesla considers its upcoming Cybertruck will be a Class 2B/3, or medium-duty vehicle.
Bollinger's designs are inspired by the CEO's personal life. He told Car and Driver he had an epiphany back in 2015 on how he would want to use a truck on his farm. The company's e-chassis (essentially a skateboard platform) removes all the items in the traditional engine bay and places them below the body, allowing for features like Passthrough.
As for the EV maker's plans to begin production of the B1 and B2 (both of which start at $125,000) in late 2021, even with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the ability to work in close quarters, the vehicles are still on target, according to CEO Bollinger. "Last year at this time, we were making those prototypes that you see on our website. It would have been really affecting us because we can't physically be in the shop. But right now, all the engineers have laptops, and they're all at home engineering away. So we haven't lost any time as a company," he said.
When asked if Bollinger would be willing to license the company's Frunkgate and Passthrough features, Bollinger said, "I think if someone came to us who was not in our segment—no one is in the Class 3 segment—there [are] always possibilities."
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