Morris Commercial: old name, new tech, premium promises

Published: 18 November 2019

► 1,000 a year to be made at £60,000 each
► Carbon fibre body
► 200 mile electric range

The Morris name is coming back to UK roads in 2021 after a 35-year hiatus. And it’s being pushed at posh, small business owners who want a premium zero-emissions van.

Morris Commercial will start making its all-new electric van, called the JE, in Worcestershire next year. 

Upcoming electric cars

Those old enough or boring enough to know about old Morris vans will know this pays homage to the iconic Morris J-Type, made from 1948-1961.

The £60,000 van will have a bespoke chassis, according to engineers from the company. It’ll also have a carbon fibre composite body. For real - because with enough volume, Morris Commercial reckons it can make it work. How much volume? Morris is predicting 1,000 vans a year. How far? 200 miles per charge, with a 0-80% battery charge time of 30 minutes from a rapid charger.

Vital stats

  • Battery: 60kWh
  • Range: 200 miles
  • Charge time: 80% in 30 minutes via rapid charger
  • Payload: 1,000kg

Big changes over the original?

Well, the overhead valve 1.5-litre petrol engine has obviously been replaced by a 60 kWh battery. And the original J-Type was made from steel, not carbon fibre.

But to look at, it’s definitely an evolution of the J-Type design. The original J-Type’s sliding front doors are gone, replaced by traditional front doors and sliding side doors instead. 

The front metal bumper has fallen by the wayside too. Barn style rear doors remain. As do prominent wheel arches and those frog-like front lights.

Premium van, you say?

Yep. Well not just us either. CEO and founder of Morris Commercial, Dr. Qu Li, defends the £60,000 price tag by saying that it isn’t merely a van, it’s a ‘premium van and a marketing tool.’

She adds: ‘It offers a working business and marketing solution in one. It will appeal to small premium businesses who crave creativity. In the past, premium brands like Dunlop and Cadbury’s used J-Types.’

On the outside it certainly looks like it could serve millenials £5 artisanal fairtrade coffee out of a recyclable cup made from corn starch.

As far as retro-kitsch-niche-filling goes, the pastel colours (14 of them available) and bulbous front lights are spot on. The layman on the street might not even know that it’s a new van, and not from the 1940s.

Inside is a different matter. The early pre-prod model we saw looked shabby and more like a kit-car. The orange coloured leather looked plastics, the touchscreens weren’t integrated at all, and the drive selector and manual handbrake looks to be lifted off an LDV. 

Still, we’re promised production vans will be very very different. 

Morris is back then?

Yep. A UK-based management team acquired the rights to the Morris Commercial Ltd name, and CEO and founder of the new company, Dr Qu Li, has set up shop in Worcester. She has links to the old days of MG Rover, and is experienced in the automotive sector. 

This team owns the trademark for the Morris Commercial name, but the numerous Morris clubs up and down the country will not have to change their names if they use the term Morris Commercial.

A serious business proposition?

Take away the price and it does make an interesting business proposition.

Dr. Qu Li says: “At its core, it’s still a commercial vehicle. And it needs to remain a van to build your business with.’

Dr Qu Li reckons she’s on to a winner already. She told CAR that she has received ‘more than 20’ serious enquiries, with some of those serious enquiries interested in ordering more than ten vans.

No word on how expensive the carbon fibre will be to fix yet.

Pickup and Minibus planned

Ultra-cute pickup channeling Daihatsu Midget vibes and a VW ID. Buzz style minibus are in the works.

Details are sparse, but renders have been made, and Morris Commercial promises both will come to fruition. They will run on the same chassis and battery pack as the van, and will come in the same natty hues.

Dr Qu Li says she’s not concentrating on the derivations until the first deliveries of the vans are completed.

By Murray Scullion

Bauer Automotive’s finance editor; keeps an eye on finance trends and manufacturer deals. Loves old fast cars