The arrival of the new Morris Commercial JE van has been eagerly anticipated since the first teaser pictures were revealed early in 2019. Well, here it is in its full glory, and there’s no doubting that this ‘premium’ van could well hit an emerging market sector for lifestyle, city-friendly LCVs perfectly suited for serving your your skinny cappuccino. Needless to say, the stylish new concept has created a storm online.
What make this project so interesting is that it matches a carbonfibre body with an all-electric drivetrain and has been developed here in the UK, where it will be built. The company behind the project is headed up by a CEO with, er, extensive MG Rover and LDV experience. The JE van is due in 2021 and, although prices aren’t confirmed yet, the company says that this one-tonner will weigh in at a cool £60,000. That’s expensive, but as a retro statement, there’s no denying that it oozes retro appeal from every pore. Even better, Worcester-based Morris Commercial reckons it’ll build 1000 JEs every year.
It’s a re-imagining of the 1948 Morris J-Type, which was blessed with one of the most recognisable shapes of its time. The new JE is closely modelled on that vehicle’s looks, with prominent wheelarches and front lighting pods. Spotters might also notice the Land Rover Defender door mirrors. Lead Designer is David Obendorfer, the talent behind the Type H 70th Anniversary Van for Citroën and the Volkswagen T1 Revival reboot, as well as some interesting retro-remixes, such as the lovely Fiat 127 Concept.
Who’s behind the JE?
It’s a pure EV which Morris Commercial Limited says will travel up to 200 miles on a full charge – although it has yet to be tested officially, as it’s still a prototype. It uses a bespoke modular platform, with a ‘state-of-the-art’ lithium ion battery powertrain, all sourced from the UK, according to CEO and founder, Dr. Qu Li.
The fact that the JE is an EV should be the biggest news here, but it isn’t. That honour goes to its construction. Morris Commercial is bullish over the prospects of a carbonfibre-bodied van, although we’re not sure how practical it will be in service. The company says the material can be cost effective for low-volume projects, and, although it’s more expensive than aluminium, it’s also an efficient material to build from. Benefits are lightness and strength, which are important given the weight of the drivetrain. Composites Director for Morris Commercial is Nick Smith, who is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry as well as a Director of SHD Composite Materials Limited.
Mike Schooling is also on the founding team – he’s an EV specialist, and currently serves as Director and lead tech for Indra Renewable Technologies Limited. Tony Frazier is another part of the management team – he’s Director of Engineering and Supplier Development, and also heads up his own consultancy Frazier Business Services. Before that, he held senior positions at Kellands Agriculture and Multidrive Tractors. Dutchman Ewoud Vroegop is the Director of Sales and Business Development, and has significant experience in the motor industry.
Is the JE the real thing?
The company was formed in 2015, and has progressed to the JE’s launch at the Science Museum after a two-year development programme. Early reactions have been very positive, and there’s no denying it looks both striking and pleasing. It will be interesting to see how the company can scale-up the JE into a limited-production reality at its Worcestershire base.
The CEO and founder of Morris Commercial is Dr. Qu Li, and she has form and experience via LDV and MG Rover. Regular readers will recall that Qu Li heads up automotive consultancy China Ventures, and was instrumental in the purchase of LDV’s assets after that company went into administration back in 2009. Before that, in 2004-2005, Dr. Li was also employed by MG Rover as a consultant in the company’s dealings with the Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor – earning around £1.7m in the process – she was also said to be Phoenix Four Director Nick Stephenson’s lover at the time.
Dr. Qu Li said at the global reveal: ‘It’s a delight to unveil the new Morris JE to the world and for us to show the what we have been working so hard to achieve. I am so pleased to reach this stage after two years of intense development. It’s been a fantastic journey and I am extremely proud of what the whole Morris Commercial team and its incredible suppliers have achieved.’
Morris Commercial JE Van specs
- Battery: 60kWh
- Range: 200 miles (claimed)
- Charge time: 80% in 30 minutes via rapid charger
- Payload: 1000kg
- Price: £60,000 (TBC)