One of Britain’s most memorable postwar vehicles is not a car but rather the Morris J commercial van, first introduced in 1948 and in production until 1961. Its rounded, cab-over, V-shaped front end with a distinctive pear-shaped grille was a common sight in as UK businesses recovered from World War II and Britain’s economy grew in the 1950s and 1960s.
Now Morris Commercial, a startup specializing in commercial electric vehicles, has purchased the rights to the Morris name and revealed the battery-powered Morris JE light commercial vehicle, directly inspired by the original Morris van. Morris Commercial calls the JE a “re-imagining” of the postwar Morris J. (That lingo ring any bells?)
Unlike most commercial vans, which typically use layouts and technologies that date to the 1960s, the Morris JE will be a completely modern truck, with lithium-ion batteries, a modular chassis, and a body made of carbon fiber. That’s pretty sophisticated stuff for a delivery van.
The designers at Morris Commercial appear to have paid attention to what has been going on in the commercial van market. Ford, FCA, and Nissan are competing for the title of oddest-looking commercial vehicle with the most awkward proportions; it’s nice to see a commercial vehicle maker is thinking of more elegant aesthetics: “In recent years, attractive van design has been largely neglected in favour of utility and functionality, but now the Morris JE reintroduces exciting design without compromising practicality and functionality,” Morris Commercial said in a statement.
The $77,000 (£60,000) Morris JE is slated to start production in late 2021.
Introducing the new truck, the founder and CEO of Morris Commercial, Dr. Qu Li, said, “It is a delight to unveil the new Morris JE to the world and for us to show what we have been working so hard to achieve. From the outset, our vision was to bring a new concept to the LCV market, not just in terms of the battery electric powertrain, but also to introduce a timeless design that takes the aesthetics and appeal of such a vehicle to a whole new level. What we have created is a beautiful, retro design that sits upon a cutting-edge, modular BEV platform, delivering practicality and functionality to compete with the best in its segment.”
No power or performance specs have been released yet, but Morris Commercial is claiming a 2200-pound payload, with an impressive 194 cubic feet of cargo capacity. That amount of space is, in fact, more typical of commercial vehicles in the 3.5-ton class, though the Morris JE is slotted in the 2.5-ton sector. The cargo hold can accommodate two standard Euro pallets, which can be easily loaded through the full-width rear door. There is also a sliding cargo door on the van’s curb side. With its lightweight CFRP body, range is expected to be approximately 200 miles, certainly more than enough for most urban delivery vans.
In addition to the JE van, Morris Commercial says that future derivatives are being considered, including a pickup truck, minibus, and camper conversions that are possible due to the modular design. Initial production of approximately one thousand units a year is planned.
Morris Commercial is headquartered in Worcestershire, in the UK’s Midlands region, and the company is working on locating a factory site with sufficient capacity, most likely near that headquarters. With a Chinese CEO and no word of where the Morris JE will be assembled in the press release, it appears that the Morris JE could easily be another “Designed in X, made in China” product. However, we checked with Morris Commercial’s public relations firm, which stated categorically that manufacturing will take place in the UK, where most of the van’s components are being sourced.