British nostalgia is resurrected in Worcestershire – Chris Mullett reports.
British vehicle manufacturing has a splendid history in The Midlands of the United Kingdom, but to the knowledge of Delivery, the village of Hinton on the Green, in the Vale of Evesham, was never part of that great heritage.
With the opening of the Midland Railway in 1864, an essential connection was established to link the Hinton population to Birmingham and Gloucester, which lasted until 1963 when the rail link, then operated by British Rail Western Region, was closed.
Now in 2019 there’s a new industry in the village, based on the development of an electric vehicle with every reason to rapidly grow sales and market share and to capitalise on the name of Morris Commercial, leveraging off the iconic design of the Morris J-Type.
In 1924, Morris Commercial Cars was formed when William Morris took over the factory of axle manufacturer E.G. Wrigley & Co. Ltd or Soho, Birmingham. From 1924 to 1968 Morris Commercial Cars manufactured a total of 85 different types of vehicles, making it one of the main commercial vehicle providers in the UK. Its range included light car-derived commercial vehicles based on the Morris Minor to large multi-ton vans, heavy trucks, pick-up trucks, tippers, single and double-decker buses, six wheelers, prime movers, taxicabs, ambulances and fire engines.
First unveiled at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1948, the forward-control J-Type one-tonne van was marketed as a vehicle for business, with sliding doors on both sides and a 150 cubic foot load-carrying capability. It continued in production from 1949 through to 1961, when it was replaced by the Morris J4.
Now, in a masterstroke of making the electric vehicle more interesting and desirable, the J4 has returned, only this time it bristles with the latest technology. Whether you remember the original J4 or not, even the most casual of onlookers would have to agree someone remarkable disinterested in vehicle design must agree the new J4 has a presence and appeal that brand-new competitors simply cannot match.
The original J4 offered 150 cubic ft of cargo area within overall dimensions of 3795 mm in length and 1626 mm in width. Now, thanks to a brand-new design based on the original J4 concept, the launch of the all-electric Morris JE van heralds a re-introduction of the Morris Commercial name and adds immense appeal to small van purchasing with a pollution-free, electric vehicle for the high street.
With production stated to begin in late 2021, and with a retail price of approximately £60,000 ($110,000), the Morris JE is an all-new approach to a battery-electric light-commercial vehicle.
With a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery powertrain and featuring a modular chassis and carbon-fibre body construction, the JE is a unique proposition. Its technically advanced engineering and highly distinctive styling take the original, iconic Morris J-type van as its inspiration. There is nothing else quite like the new Morris JE, making it a compelling and welcome new entrant into the LCV market.
Presenting the Morris JE were Dr Qu Li, CEO and founder of Morris Commercial; Johanna Kriisa, Director of Marketing and Investor Relations; Tony Frazier, Director of Engineering and Supplier Development; and Ewoud Vroegop, Director of Sales and Business Development.
“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,” said Dr Qu Li.
“What we have created is a beautiful, retro design that sits upon a cutting-edge, modular battery-electric vehicle (BEV) platform, delivering practicality and functionality to compete with the best in its segment,” he added.
The new JE boasts a state-of-the-art, fully electric, UK-sourced, lithium-ion battery powertrain. The vehicle benefits from a lightweight, modular chassis making it highly adaptable for future derivatives such as a pickup, minibus or camper van. The combination of an advanced lightweight chassis and a carbon-fibre body makes the Morris JE one of the lightest LCVs in the marketplace. The result is an outstanding power-to-weight efficiency that fully maximises the range of the vehicle, which is expected to be 320 km.
The JE is not intended to be a replica or a continuation of the original Morris J-type, but a re-imagining of the original, iconic design.
The original J-type was unapologetically distinctive, with its minimal front overhang, distinctive pear-shaped grille, split front windscreen and swooping roofline.
The JE will be attractive to small boutique businesses that crave individuality, as well as larger corporate fleets. There are numerous luxury and lifestyle brands and businesses that could make significant use of a vehicle such as the Morris JE, where the clear differentiation from other LCVs can be exploited. Obvious examples would include the hospitality industry, the sport and leisure industry, high-end manufacturing businesses, the events industry and green logistics.
The JE is an LCV that boasts a one-tonne (1000 kg) payload and 5.5 cubic metre carrying capacity. It will accommodate two standard Euro pallets on the rear loading space. Access is provided via full-width rear doors and a sliding side door on the nearside of the vehicle.
Delivery readers keen to differentiate their fleet from other competitors, with a keen wish to add desirability back into design rather than commonality and boredom can register their in the production run scheduled to start in January 2020 by emailing their details to www.morris-commercial.com.