Robert Bollinger is in the middle of raising a mere $50 million to get his self-named startup’s Hummer-like electric trucks into production.
It’s not looking like a hard sell -- a handful of special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, recently knocked on his door to buy a chunk of the company.
Still, Bollinger is facing a big decision: Take the big money and risk the scrutiny that newly public electric-vehicle companies are getting from short sellers, or slow things down and go it alone.
SPACs are publicly traded shells that raise cash from investors. They in turn trust startup founders to do the due diligence and access the public markets via reverse mergers. There have been at least a half-dozen such deals over the past 12 months, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into electric or hydrogen-powered vehicle startups, including Nikola Corp. and Workhorse Group Inc. Almost all the startups have little or no revenue to speak of.
Bollinger said he’s so far spurned advances from SPACs he declined to name. He’d rather wait until he has agreements with existing manufacturers in place to build his planned commercial trucks and delivery vans. That will raise the value of his company before selling a stake.
Becoming a public company brings scrutiny and pressure from investors. In the past two months, short sellers have targeted clean-truck startups Nikola and Workhorse. A Sept. 10 report on Nikola called the company a fraud and sent the shares tumbling 25 percent in two days. The SPAC VectoIQ acquired Nikola in June on the promise of its hydrogen-fuel-cell freight trucks. Founder Trevor Milton departed the chairman’s seat on Sept. 21, following accusations in the report that Nikola had no working technology.
“A SPAC is wonderful because they drop a ton of money in your lap,” Bollinger said. “The downside is that being public is a lot more work. If we sell to a SPAC, it will be after the dust settles on Nikola.”
Bollinger Motors plans to work with third-party manufacturers to build its B1 SUV and B2 pickup truck, starting in late 2021. The 44-person company says it has 1,000 customers who’ve each ponied up $1,000 to reserve one of the vehicles. Bollinger is working on similar arrangements to build commercial delivery vans and other commercial trucks.
The B1 and B2 concepts are working vehicles. They have a military look, with squared-off edges that reference the original Humvee. Bollinger said he needs $50 million to finish engineering work and a total of $250 million to get the B1, B2, and his commercial vehicles into production.
All of the company’s vehicles use someone else’s battery cells. Bollinger has designed the battery packs and battery-management system, along with the chassis for each model and the styling. The company uses 35 kilowatt-hour battery packs that can be connected to each other, Lego-like, in the chassis to give the trucks more power on board.