16th January 2020

Morris JE – A Van Load of Electric Dreams

For readers of a certain age, the sight of a Morris J-Type van on British roads would have been as much a part of their childhood as black and white television, pre-decimal currency and possibly even steam locomotives. For younger readers though, despite the 48,000 vans produced over an 11 year period, the J Type will be largely unknown. However, with less than 10 examples currently road registered in the UK this plucky little van which once formed the backbone of the British postal service, has now largely faded into obscurity. That was, until the end of last year, when it was launched into the public consciousness once again.

A UK based automotive engineering and manufacturing start up, called ‘Morris-Commercial’ unveiled a re-imagining of the van for the future – an all-electric light van for city roads, called the Morris JE at the Design Museum in November.

More than just a pastiche of the original vehicle, with exaggerated styling cues ensuring the retro cuteness is guaranteed from every angle, this is a van for the future with serious commercial intentions. More than a conversion of an existing platform, the use of an electric drivetrain has been integral to the design from the outset to allow for a maximised payload, ease of loading and importantly, a good range in an urban environment. This is achieved while still boasting the appealing good looks of the original.
In fact, in just about all environments, the electric JE van would outperform its petrol-powered forebear. Launched with a 1476cc side-valve petrol engine that produced just 45 bhp, even when a B-series engine, a fourth gear and an extra 10 bhp were added to the model in 1957, the van struggled to move weighty loads. The new electric van by comparison, has a payload of 1000kg, and thanks to the torque produced by the lithium-ion battery powertrain, it should not be unduly affected even when fully laden.

Morris-Commercial have pledged to begin production in late 2021, and with the increasing pressures on commercial operators to go green, alongside to obvious appeal of a van that it both practical and attractive, it is already tipped to be a success in urban areas. Whether or not the launch of the electric version will see a return of the original vans to the roads remains to be seen, hopefully it may encourage a few of the classic examples out of storage and back into the public eye.

Do you have a memory of the original J Type Van, or would you rather have the new electric version? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.