By on October 15, 2019

Startups come and go, and in the age of electrification a great many companies are issuing promises their meagre resources can’t deliver.

Time will tell if a reborn Morris Commercial follows through on a plan to return the iconic J-type commercial van to the rainy streets of Britain — and beyond. Retro appeal has its perks, but getting a new production vehicle, least of all an electric one, off the ground and into garages is fraught with challenges. So, without further introduction, here’s the Morris JE.

Morris Commercial LTD, a UK-based startup that acquired the rights to the defunct British marque not very long ago, plans to build the JE — a spiritual successor to the van seen everywhere in that country in the years and decades following WW2.

Fully electric and boasting a lightweight platform and body born of an “experienced team of established automotive designers and engineers,” Morris Commercial’s JE retains the former model’s profile and “funky” styling. A fully functional prototype is said to be undergoing testing.

“The combination of advanced lightweight chassis with a complete carbon fibre body makes the Morris JE one of the lightest LCVs in the marketplace,” the company stated in a release. “The result is an outstanding power-to-weight efficiency which fully maximises the range of the vehicle.”

Note the liberal use of carbon fiber — a material not often associated with affordable commercial vehicles.

Built from 1949 to 1960, the blunt-faced half-ton J-type excelled in its role, offering voluminous cargo capacity, a compact footprint, and efficiency and affordability in equal measures. A 1.5-liter side-valve four-cylinder provided motivation. The company itself entered the Morris Motors fold in 1924, accompanying it on a journey through BMW and later British Leyland. Morris Commercial ceased to exist as a brand in 1968; its Adderley Park assembly plant closed in 1971, marking the end of the line for the brand’s products.

During its time, Morris Commercial vehicles found their way to 25 countries.

How exactly the new Morris Commercial plans to build, disseminate, and price the JE is unknown at this time. That, and the vehicle’s specs.

“The working engineering prototype has undergone extensive road testing and the end of 2019 is an amazing conclusion to the first phase of the project,” Morris Commercial CEO and founder Dr. Qu Li stated. “We still have a little way to go to bring the project to full production, but we have the team and the product to make this an enormous success. As a business we are committed to environmental sustainability and we are trailblazing a new approach to the production of appealing, fully electric commercial vehicles.”

Dr. Li received much British press a decade ago when her specialty vehicle engineering company, Eco Concept Limited, purchased the assets of fallen UK van manufacturer LDV. She sold the intellectual property rights to Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC Motor Corporation Limited the following year. Li is also the founder and director of business consultancy China Ventures Limited, which owned the now dissolved Eco Concept, and purchased the assets of UK-based Multidrive Limited, a designer and manufacturer of specialty on- and off-road vehicles, in 2007.

What little we know about the vehicle, the company’s suppliers, and Li’s plans for production, coupled with the nature of the fledgling EV market and the list of job vacancies posted by Morris Commercial on August 28th, compel the reader to temper their expectations for an immediate resurrection of the J-type.

[Image: Morris Commercial]

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12 Comments on “New Life for a Long-dead Van?...”


  • avatar
    Fred

    But contractors like the new modern efficient vans, and I doubt many are willing to pay extra for style.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Hopefully this goes better than that time a Canadian startup wanted to repurpose old Renault Dauphines as EVs

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Turd world excepted, don’t you have to demonstrate some sort of crash safety features – crush zones and the like? That thing looks as safe in a frontal collision as an old MicroBus.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Unlike the microbus, the engine is right alongside the driver. Other than a serious crash, the driver would crawl away with just two broken legs.

      This is an urban delivery vehicle designed for Britain’s narrow winding roads and tight city lanes. Why design for a severe frontal crash that’s unlikely? Divco delivery trucks were designed the same way.

      It’s more economical to design the tool for the job, instead of every evenuality. Besides, Britain isn’t as litigious as America, so it wouldn’t be exported here in the original configuration.

  • avatar

    I would be more interested if they made EV replica of 1958 Pontiac Bonneville Tri Power convertible.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Knowing restomod culture, it wouldn’t be a replica, they’d ruin a perfectly fine real example.

      Not that I think EVs of classic vehicles are a bad idea (the opposite in fact), I hate that they’re destroying the remaining examples to do it.

      This on the other hand is great because it’s an entirely new thing inspired by the original

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    There may be an actual use case for a BEV van, it could work I just don’t think commercial ventures will care about styling only the acquisition/running cost.

  • avatar
    Garak

    The UK has probably more experience with electric vans and trucks than the rest of the world combined, so Morris Commercial isn’t exactly treading new ground. I wonder how they’re going to keep the price even remotely competitive.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Subscribed .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Someone should convert a Citroën HY van:
    https://www.google.com/search?rls=en&q=citroen+hy&tbm=isch&source=univ&client=safari&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidnayLyaHlAhVPI6wKHTtbBWAQsAR6BAgGEAE


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