Electric pickup trucks that can spin in place doing tank turns or carry a telephone pole in a pass-thru frunk grab headlines, but they don’t necessarily pay the bills. A solid order for 100,000 Amazon Prime vans will keep Rivian’s lights on as its R1T and R1S civilian truck and SUV catch on in the rapidly expanding electric utility vehicle marketplace, and now electric Class-3 truck startup Bollinger Motors is looking for a similar fleet-sales safety net by announcing the catchily named Deliver-E van.
Why All the Interest in Electric Delivery Vans?
Bollinger’s own figures suggest that replacing a fleet of gas- and diesel-powered vans with electric Deliver-E vans could drop a fleet owner’s total cost of operation by 15–25 percent over a ten-year period, using conservative estimates of fuel costs. Higher efficiency, lower energy costs, greater “up-time,” and reduced maintenance costs are the primary drivers of this savings.
Not a B1/B2/Chass-E Frame
As soon as Bollinger rolled out its Chass-E class-3 electric rolling chassis earlier in 2020, prospective commercial customers began inquiring about upfitting delivery van bodywork to it. This could easily be done, of course but it made no sense—unless said deliveries were to be made so far off pavement as to utilize the Chass-E’s low-range gearing and portal-axle ground clearance. Instead of lifting deliveries way up and down to off-road pickup floor heights, CEO Robert Bollinger reckoned it made more sense to take the same basic frame extrusions and lower them as much as possible, while reusing as much of the electric technology his company had already engineered and scaling it to cover gross-vehicle weight ratings ranging from Class 2B through Class 5 (8,500-19,500 pounds).
The basic modular, flat, in-floor battery and its management system, power inverter, front motor and gearbox all carry over. A single motor provides front-wheel drive, so as to keep the rear floor area low and flat between the rear wheels. Built up of longitudinal 35-kWh modules, battery pack choices in the Deliver-E will initially include 70-, 105-, 140-, 175-, and 210 kilowatt-hours of energy, though a 35-kWh unit for use in dense urban areas with particularly short routes is also easily conceivable. The standard model will therefore get 307 horsepower and 334 lb-ft of torque, routed through the same transaxle, though Bollinger presumes a larger motor offering may be needed for the highest-capacity vans. Beyond that, as many B1/B2 subsystems and ancillary items as possible will be utilized.
What’s All-New About the Deliver-E?
The chassis and suspension will be unique, developed in conjunction with Bollinger’s frame supplier and manufacturing partner (both of which we’re told will at long last be named within weeks). It will utilize a similar construction of aluminum extrusions. A front control-arm setup with different geometry is likely. Conventional steel coil springs and anti-roll bars (at least in front) will replace the cross-linked hydraulic setup of the B1/B2.
The rear suspension is said to largely reside outside the frame rails to preserve the lowest possible load floor, like those on the rear of a vintage GMC Motorhome, which results in a rear track that’s noticeably wider than the front. The B1/B2’s portal axles dictate inboard disc brakes, but the Deliver-E will get new conventional outboard discs. Height adjustability is not needed given that the van’s 8.0 inches of ground clearance, 8.0-inch frame height, and two inches of flooring already provide a claimed best-in-class (certainly for the highest GVWR classes), ultra-low 18-inch floor height. Naturally, the van body is entirely new and is expected to feature an aluminum skin.
Robert Bollinger and chief designer Hunter Erdman spent the pandemic designing the new Deliver-E bodywork, which is depicted here in computer renderings. The goal was a sleek, friendly design that provided a bit more front-end crush space than competitive designs, with an assumption that this unique ‘frunk-space’ might be used as more secure locked stowage of particularly precious packages. The images depict side hinged rear barn doors, but a more popular roll-up design will also be offered. Most deliveries will be made utilizing the curb-side front door, which slides rearward into the bodywork. The less-frequently used driver-side door may or may not be an exact match. To keep delivery drivers happy and hence turnover low, the cabin will be thoroughly climate controlled. Finally, don’t read much into those Alcoa-style deep-dish semi-truck wheels; those were rendered largely because they look cool.
Bollinger anticipates meeting the specific needs of various fleets by offering a multiple-axis choice matrix of gross-vehicle weights, wheelbase and body lengths, roof heights, motor outputs, and the aforementioned battery sizes to suit a range of anticipated delivery-route lengths.
When you’re a small startup, there’s no sense reinventing wheels that have already been perfected by a ready supply base, which is why Bollinger is outsourcing its frame, the manufacture of its vehicles, and new van features like fleet-management telematics connectivity that will allow owners to keep tabs on all its vans (and Bollinger to monitor the health of its electrical systems).
Similarly, the company is contracting with an as-yet unnamed entity to handle installation of the central depot charging infrastructure necessary to juice up a fleet of Deliver-E vans overnight. The nature of delivery vans being parked on an off-shift means they should seldom if ever require DC fast-charging, which is hard on the batteries, another maintenance boon.
No Customer Orders or Pricing to Announce. Yet.
Rivian’s van is named for its customer, but Bollinger has no such long-term high-volume orders to announce yet. We’re told the company is still in touch with those delivery organizations that expressed interest in mounting delivery van bodywork on the Chass-E, however, and Robert Bollinger is convinced that the production partner will be able to launch B1 and B2 in 2021 and then ramp up for Deliver-E production in 2022.
We’re geeked to drive the $125,000 B1 and B2, and if they’re as cool to drive as we anticipate, our fingers are crossed that sales of the Deliver-E vans dropping off our latest online purchases will help keep the lights on long enough for Bollinger to develop a B3 and a B4.
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