While the Volkswagen ID.Buzz is causing a sensation with its retro looks, it might not be the only fashion-focused electric van on the market for long. A plucky startup with a ‘50s-inspired retro van seems intent on reviving the Morris brand name. The Morris Commercial JE isn’t a production vehicle yet, but it finally passes my litmus test for startup EV realness: Someone impartial outside of the company needs to have driven one somewhere that isn’t a manufacturer’s private test facility, in this case Jonny Smith of The Late Brake Show. With that in mind, let’s jump into this charming little van.
I’m not normally a fan of retro stuff, yet I reckon the heavy-handed ‘50s influence works here. This isn’t so much a used-and-abused work van as it is a fashion statement that conveys a certain brand image and normally requires turning a Citroen H van into non-functional transportation. You know what I’m talking about, $8 oat milk lattes, $15 burgers, that sort of stuff. If it saves properly old-school vans from being parked attractions, I’m all for it. Compared to the original Morris J-Type, the Morris Commercial JE feels like it’s out of the claymation world of Wallace and Gromit, but it’s the exaggeration that makes it fun.
At the heart of the Morris Commercial JE sits a trilogy of battery options. For urban deliveries in smaller cities, there’s a 40 kWh battery pack offering 150 miles of estimated WLTP range. The next rung up the ladder is a 60 kWh pack purported to offer 200 miles of WLTP range, and the top dog is an 80 kWh pack that should be good for 250 miles of WLTP range. Compared to say, the 229 kWh pack offered on a Ram 1500 REV, this thing’s battery capacity is tiny and that’s a good thing.
Speaking of tiny, Morris Commercial quotes a feathery curb weight of 3,307 pounds. That’s less than a Volkswagen Golf R. So how did the company manage this? Well, the chassis is made from rust-proof aluminum while the body panels are made from carbon fiber. That sounds awfully expensive, but it’s also recycled carbon fiber, so it’s fairly green. What’s more, carbon fiber works out fairly cheap in the long run because it doesn’t rot. The U.K., a bit like the midwest, uses salt on its roads in winter, so a body that won’t need welding after several years on the job saves companies downtime and keeps vans like this running longer.
British roads can be tight, so the Morris Commercial JE measures a reasonable 177.9 inches long and 73.6 inches wide. Yes, this enormous-looking thing takes up less space on the road than a Ford Edge. Hard to believe, right? However, don’t confuse reasonable footprint for dinky cargo space. The JE will swallow two Euro pallets, four-by-eight-foot sheet, and can haul up to 233.1 cu.-ft. of what have you. That’s what a cab-over layout, a 107.3-inch wheelbase, and a vehicle height of 82.6 inches can do for you. Oh, and thanks to the light curb weight, this thing has a one-tonne payload capacity. Smart.
Because the rear lights are in the bumper, Morris Commercial has pushed the bay door hinges out to the extreme edges of the JE and wrapped the door panels around the rear corners of the vehicle for a very wide opening indeed. They can even slide back while opening to stay out of the way of loading. Interestingly, the sliding side door opens without tracks, instead riding on a unique mechanism that lets it swing out in a tight space.
As for the cabin, there’s a lot of parts bin going on here. The steering wheel switches look to be Ford items, the infotainment looks extremely aftermarket, and the side-view mirrors are cameras, but the air vents still look properly old-school and the tiny black-on-white analog clock in the dashboard just adds to the vintage tone. It’s a weird yet charming mix of old and new, just like the van itself.
Pricing for the Morris Commercial JE is expensive at £60,000 plus VAT, but this isn’t a high-volume vehicle. Instead, it’s a bit like the Morgan of vans, a designer item for those who want a little slice of the ‘50s with modern construction. If this does indeed enter production in the third or fourth quarter of this year, it should find a small but devoted legion of fans. Oh, and those fans might not just be Brits — Morris Commercial wants to start exporting these vans to other markets next year.
(Photo credits: Morris Commercial)
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I think they’ll be able to do a fair bit of business selling these to upmarket florists and designer cupcake bakeries, but I’m not quite sure what this delivers over the ID.Buzz? The VW is noticeably cheaper- starting price is £48k. It still has the retro styling that will appeal to the bougie LuluLemon wearing women of Belgravia, so looks good delivering their flowers. It has a much better payload capacity and a more space- but are those sorts of businesses needing that much space? I’m unconvinced. Cakes aren’t heavy.
Businesses that *need* the capacity are going to stick buying Transits- nobody wants to spend £60k+ on a van that’s going to get trashed.
I really hope they succeed- but I’m not sure that the market is there. I know they say to Jonny in the video that they’re not trying to sell tens of thousands, so I hope their sums add up. Would be fun seeing these zipping round London.
I hate it when people just rip off good old design “but as an EV”.. It’s the same with the Isetta copy thing which I don’t remember what’s called now, and the luckily now bust Bollinger (even the name was a copy..) Land Rover Defender rip off. It’s just lazy bad design.
Not comparable to the VW ID-Buzz or the LEVC taxi cab, which are totally reworked with bits of inspiration from old times.
Imagine if Jaguar slapped round fenders and the oval Mk2 grille on a new EV: Yuck.
And how do you even get recycled carbon fibre? Crush grey haired men’s expensive bicycles or? Would be cool if it was made from recycled wind turbine blades, as it seems to be kind of an environmental problem what to do with those.
But I guess there are “retro” people enough out there with no idea about good design, so someone could actually make a business out of it anyways. With all the hand made parts it must be ridiculously expensive though.
I know I am starting to sound like Adrian Clarke, but I am a designer and it IS raining here (DK) also 😉
It would be nice if a major company made a mass produced EV version of the 1967 Panhard CD Peugeot 66C LeMans race car. It is so aerodynamically slippery that you could get the highway range of a base Tesla Model 3 with only a 20-25 kWh battery pack, is a beautiful design overall, and if mass produced to get the cost down, could be a Miata or Toyobaru competitor. You’d only need 150 kW peak or thereabouts to hold 200 mph in such a slippery thing.
Beautiful car, the 66!
But it would probably be hard to get other people than nerds like us to crawl into such a small low thing 😎
-And now I want rear fender skirts on my 356!
If the purchase cost was under $25k AND it could do 200+ miles range at 70 mph, accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds, and top out at 200 mph, I think they’d sell themselves, because nothing else on the market would come close. This sort of performance would be cheaply available thanks to mass and drag reduction due to greatly less power needed to obtain said performance. This price point obviously is not possible hand building them, but only by mass producing them and making them a narrow margined product with minimal features and tailored toward the entry level car market.
Alternatively, this sort of platform is also how you could get 30+ mpg city and 60+ mpg highway with a V8 taken from a Corvette. Albeit that would be greatly more expensive to pull off than an EV.
Is it ripping off a design when technically it’s your own design? (I guess “yes”, but it’s a bit more acceptable).
The original Morris company trademarks somehow ended up with MG (I suspect via British Leyland), which are now owned by a Chinese company, who are behind this venture. So in s strictly legal sense, this is a continuation of the original Morris company.
This is it, this is the EV that makes me want an EV. In anything else I’d want an ICE, but I don’t care what drivetrain is in this thing, I want it anyway. Part of me wonders how hard it would be to add a little range extender engine but it’s still the coolest new van in the world.
That’s how I am with this and the Nobe 100, neither meets my needs, but I don’t care, I’d want them just to have as a driveway ornament and think of places to drive them to for no reason
I was very “meh” on these until I saw the green one lurking in the background.
Now my appetite for BRG British vehicles with tan interiors is wanting to add another one to the “want” list.
It’s cute but I don’t see much of a market beyond a few hipsters and a handful of twee little shoppes willing to pay the premium for this over an electric Transit Connect
This is more Transit Custom than Transit Connect-sized. Ford haven’t yet released UK prices for the new Transit Custom EV, but the similar-sized Mercedes e-Vito starts at £44k.
I am SO here for this. It looks fantastic.
Oh man, if they offer like a 5 passenger version of this I would be all over it. It would obviously change quite a bit with adding windows and such, but I have no need for a cargo van, but would love a way to make this work for me!
They’ve shared renders of a planned passenger version with extra side windows, as well as a cabover pickup truck version.
I’m in. When can I get one in the US?
Maybe next year if that’s one of the international markets they’re looking into? That would be the earliest.
Kinda looks like an Isetta on steroids, but I like it. This is the kind of thing I wish more automakers would try instead of building UFOs (or UROs, I guess), or maybe in addition to future-leaning lineups. Guess it’s up to the start-ups to fill the niche.
The two tone is gorgeous, but I still think it needs a rocket ship airbrushed on the side. Love this rad little van!
That’s a real head scratcher, considering this thing is trying hard to mimic the original 50’s van. A nice chrome, round mirror would cost less and look perfect for the aesthetic.
Better for aero which in turn gets more mileage from the battery.
For normal electric cars, yes. But there is very little “Aero” on this van. Look at the headlights, for example.
It’s amazing how much drag factors into urban and suburban driving speeds. /s
This van probably could be made a lot more aero without giving up that 50s look. As it is, a bluff style front end could allow it around an upper 0.2X or low 0.3X drag coefficient. There exist full-sized passenger buses with a Cd in the upper 0.2X or lower 0.3X range. I don’t know what its actual Cd value is, but lower than that is also possible with some tweaks.
Obvious places to start:
-get rid of the slightly flared fenders
-add a rear wheel skirt(which could make it look even more 50s)
-taper the rear of the roofline to a more teardrop shape, with a sharp cutoff
-no openings in the front grille, or the bare minimum required for any cooling
-“mooneye” style wheel discs as the salt flats racers use
-if not already present, full/sealed underbody paneling
I think a mid to low 0.2X Cd is possible for a cargo van, and 50s-style curves/styling cues could actually play into achieving it. It would take a lot of wind tunnel optimization to get it right though, as there are subtle changes to various bits and pieces of the vehicle that would make all of the difference, and you do not want to do this at the expense of cargo capacity as that would defeat the entire purpose of the vehicle.
Carbon fiber is actually nearly indefinitely recyclable. You don’t just have to strip off the resins and rebond with chopped fibers like they have here. The chopped carbon can also be re-extruded and re-carbonized into new strands. Really neat shit.