News : Morris Commercial JE van takes the internet by storm

Morris JE electric van

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?

Morris Commercial JE Electric Van
Morris Commercial JE Electric Van’s sliding side door

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)

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

29 Comments

  1. What a pity that this could not have been the product of Drews Lane, Ward End?

    I feel that way every time I see a Chinese Maxus Van

  2. Making the Morris J van look stylish is quite a considerable achievement,but is having a carbon fibre body and costing £60k + would restrict sales somewhat I’d think. Although the company is led by a UK management team,where is the production vehicle going to be built,not in Britain? I’d think.If it does go on sale it’ll probably be bought by a company for advertising use as a mobile billboard rather than as a panel van.

  3. Leaving aside the electric-ness of the van, some aspects of the design niggle at me…

    The grille looks a bit too small for the size of the front panel. The proportions are wrong.

    The side loading door looks like it’s hinged, not sliding. That’s going to make the van less practical as a working vehicle. Is there any reason why they couldn’t fit a sliding door? Won’t the carbon fibre side panels support a sliding mechanism, or something?

    What’s going on with those rear lights? They’re (mostly) mounted on the rear doors, which means when the van is parked up with the rear doors open, the lights will not be visible to other vehicles coming up from behind. That’s obviously a safety risk – and also, as I understand it, illegal. UK vehicle lighting regs require rear lights and indicators to be visible when doors or tailgate are open. That’s why UK-spec SUVs often have their rear lights and indicators in the bumpers, which on the face of it is rather impractical, even if there are other lamp clusters on the rear bodyshell. Surely this van’s rear lights won’t meet the regs?

    I’ve seen people remark that the van could be a good alternative to the ubiquitous Citroen HY van, as a catering vehicle. But the main reason the Citroen works so well as a coffee bar/burger van is because it has a very low load floor, which gives full standing height inside, and easy access to the sales counter for people outside. What’s the floor height of this van? I suspect it’s going to be pretty high. After all, they’ve got to put the batteries somewhere…

    And finally – is it me, or are those old school Land Rover Defender mirrors?

  4. Think that looks great. A niche product though at that price

    Intrigued by the use of the Morris Commercial brand, have they licensed/bought the rights to the brand from SAIC?

    • SAIC have dealings with the people who run the new company so a win win as long as the price starts at what they state and not get another year down the road and up the price .

      This could be a great opportunity for the UK as long as we don’t cock it all up

  5. Must admit I thought this was a late April Fools joke (never heard of this van ). It does look retro good though and with up to date technology… expensive however.

    Certainly reminds me of the old Morris J vans which were used extensively by Royal Mail and others back in the day. I’m sure that Dinky / Corgi made models of the J Type

  6. Next up, a Morris 1000 Traveller, I hope, and priced the same as a Mini. While I can imagine the van having a cult following, a remake of the Traveller could become a big success, as it would have estate car practicality and modern, green electric power. Also the Morris Minor and Traveller have been cult items for decades now.

  7. Speaking of Fiat 127’s, I once saw a facelifted 127 (wide headlights and smooth bonnet) which had the bonnet from the early model (with ridge spaces for headlights). Maybe they were LED headlights and needed cooling ducts? Such a shame I didn’t have a camera with me.

  8. “this one’s interesting because its a rolling abomination that wouldn’t be out of place in Rick & Morty.”

    There, fixed it for you.

    It’s a steaming retro turd in the water pipe. It’s the road going equivalent of making Baldric into a porn star.

    I can just see them doing a 4×4 version and trying to pitch it to the British Army..

    Colonel: Sergeant, where is that Morris rep?

    Sergeant: In the latrine sir, face down with a curtain rod rammed up his arse.. *

    Colonel: Very good, carry on.

    *Thank you Monkey Dust

    It’s the Dame Edna of road transport. No one male or for that matter over the age of 12 will touch it. Can you imagine the AA buying a fleet of these?! Even Postman Pat would tell them to “naff off out of it, yer southern pansy”.

    It’s the van equivalent of the girl from the Sun Bingo ads.

    It’s not so much “they did it to the other side” as “they did it at all”.

    Please Dr Qu Li, for the love of do the honourable thing and put this out of our misery. If it’s not bad enough you made an electric van (2nd law of thermodynamics anyone?) you created something that looks like a kit car got drunk and slept with a Ford Thames.

    This is a wheeled reason why the human race deserves to go extinct. An electric van with the aerodynamic finesse of a small stately home – the absolute worst of all possible worlds. And you just *know* there is a sad git somewhere just drooling to chop, drop and slam this and put 21″ rims on it – like a retarded chav Chip Foose.

    • Blimey, Jemma, you don’t hold back. Mind you 60k for a retro 1940s van is very steep, considering you could buy something like a Jaguar XJ for the money. I’m hoping if this vehicle turns a profit, as someone is bound to buy it, the money is invested in a remake of the Morris Traveller or Minor and pitched at the Mini and New Beetle market.

        • I showed the pic of this monstrosity to my electrician and asked him if he knew *anyone* who’d touch one. Guess what the answer was. He even went a shade of green. I asked if his 12 year old daughter would be interested – the answer was a resounding no.

          There is nothing I can support about this – it’s horrifically twee, has abysmal aero – will be heavy and is the total antithesis of a sensible electric vehicle if there is such a thing (spoilers, there isn’t).

          Compared to this the Tesla pickup – invented by the Electric Peanut – actually makes sense. That’s not good.

  9. Looks great! I can imagine a campervan version would sell well. Also i could also see it as an ice cream/coffee van.

  10. Seems to be some younger folk here who can’t (through no fault of their own) remember every Coop in the land, Brook Bond Tea and just about every other company had one too! I believe it outsold the stub nosed pre-transit Thames by a considerable margin!
    Details mentioned about the rear lights legality apart – it’s brilliant – just enjoy!
    It’s a unique vehicle being made in the U.K. – what’s not to support!

  11. Error – Apologies.
    Brook Bond Tea used mostly Trojan vans – it was the Post Office and GPO Telephones that used the Morris.
    Just came to me when I was walking the dog!

    • If they’d put an updated petrol/diesel version of the two stroke DKW triple I could excuse it. As an an electric it’d be a joke if it was remotely funny instead of depressing. This if you could call it British is a national disgrace.

    • Go back 40 years and GPO Telephones still had their evil handling Commer vans. Also the Royal Mail loved their Bedford HAs, another elderly design that sold because it was cheap. At least Mr Plod had his modern Ford Transit to sling villains into the back.

  12. Yes I remember those odd looking Commer vans with the funny wheel arches. The Bedford HA Van was very long lived with the GPO / BT and Royal Mail. There was also the Martin Walter bodied Bedford Beagle HA camper van.

    Round our way the Royal Mail now use Fiat Doblo vans (13 reg)

    • The HA was also used by British Rail and some local authoriities, who liked its low running costs and cheapness, which explains why it lasted until 1984, when it should really have been replaced in the seventies by the Chevanne. Nowadays the Royal Mail uses a variety of vans, locally it seems to be Vauxhalll, the successor to Bedford.

Add to the debate: leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.