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Electric-vehicle maker ELMS moves out of the shadows at CES 2022

Focused on building affordable, battery-powered commercial vehicles, Electric Last Mile Solutions could quickly become a household name.

ELMS Urban Delivery - van
Versatile and affordable are the best adjectives to describe this all-electric commercial van.

Tesla, Rivian, Lucid and Fisker are the EV makers that grab headlines: They're sexy, tech-y and oh-so glamorous. But countless other electric vehicle manufacturers are working just as hard to build battery-powered vehicles. Arguably, one of the most important ones you've probably never heard of is Electric Last Mile Solutions, or ELMS. (Pronounce it "elms," like the tree.) And at CES 2022, the company moved out of the shadows -- in short order, ELMS could become a household name.

"I'd still call us relatively stealth," Jim Taylor, the automaker's co-founder and chief executive officer, told Roadshow. Despite flying way below the radars of most people, he explained, "We're real, we're not a PowerPoint [presentation], or a car that will come out in two years."

ELMS is building and delivering all-electric vans right now. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan, ELMS has a manufacturing plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, at an old Hummer factory that was converted to build EVs. Bringing things full circle, Taylor used to be an executive at GM: He was in charge of Cadillac and, as fate would have it, the Hummer brand.

The Urban Delivery is a heavily reworked Wuling van imported from China.


About the polar opposite of those two marques, ELMS focuses on offering solid, affordable commercial vehicles. "Extreme technology is not our play," said Taylor, rather, "It's extreme affordability." The company's Urban Delivery van is tailor made for painters, couriers and other businesses in need of long-lasting, workhorse vehicles, so don't expect this hauler to feature Nappa leather, an adaptive suspension system or ventilated seats.

At 186 inches long, the Urban Delivery is about the size of a Ford Transit Connect. It rolls on a 120-inch wheelbase and weighs a claimed 3,133 pounds. Cargo space clocks in at a generous 157 cubic feet, and its maximum payload is 2,100 pounds. (Yep, more than a ton.) As for performance, this vehicle is no rocket: It features a 41-kilowatt-hour battery pack provided by CATL, which ELMS estimates will deliver 110 miles of range in Environmental Protection Agency testing. A single electric motor cranks out a modest 60kW of oomph, about 80 horsepower. The top speed is a claimed 55 mph -- pretty slow, but more than enough for downtown delivery duty.

Based on its outward appearance, this van looks pretty utilitarian and oddly unfamiliar. This is because at its core the Urban Delivery is a Wuling design from China. Taylor explained a lot of people accuse them of just importing Chinese vans but he said emphatically "that's what we aren't doing." ELMS does start with a body-in-white rolling chassis that's supplied by Wuling, because "it's out on the road with proven reliability," but ELMS reworks them significantly, adding seats, sensors and safety gear, new bumpers and headlights (everything it takes to make the vehicle street legal in the US). ELMS also installs its own electric powertrain.

Don't expect cutting-edge tech inside this van.


But why start with Wuling? Taylor explained the company imported a bunch of the most-popular commercial vans sold in China and compared them. Wuling's established offering came out on top, which is why ELMS chose it as the basis for its first model. And of course, by starting with an existing product, you don't have to develop a vehicle from scratch, which saves years of work and untold billions of dollars.

The first Urban Delivery vans were handed over to customers in September, but they are not street legal. The Urban Delivery Campus Vehicle as this variant is called, is intended to be used in closed settings, such as on university grounds. Taylor explained, ELMS decided to launch a non-homologated product first in order to iron out any production or supply issues. But simultaneously, engineers were developing a roadworthy version of the van, one that meets all federal standards. Work on this model is complete, and vehicles should begin shipping to customers by the end of this month, meaning you might start seeing the Urban Delivery quietly rolling through your neighborhood sooner rather than later.

Aside from this light-duty offering, ELMS is developing an all-electric chassis-cab model, which will also be a reworked version of a Chinese vehicle. Called the Urban Utility, it's expected to go on sale in short order, likely early in the second half of 2022. Large, Class 3 trucks like this one have nowhere near as many safety requirements as passenger vehicles, so the company is able to get this product out the door a whole lot sooner than its smaller sibling.

The Urban Utility chassis-cab truck is the next project ELMS is working on.


The ELMS Urban Delivery starts at around $34,500 before any EV incentives. Making things interesting, the available $7,500 federal tax credit should drop the price to one that's right in line with combustion-powered rivals. When you factor in the generally low cost of electricity and EVs' dramatically reduced maintenance, they become an even better deal. As for availability, "We're only focused on this commercial side," said Taylor, though for fans of boxy and basic vehicles, there's nothing stopping the average driver from grabbing one. ELMS products will be sold through three handpicked distributors located in key US markets.

Taylor can't comment on how many units have been ordered or what companies are interested, but he seems highly optimistic about what his team is doing. He said the Urban Delivery "is going to put us on the map." And who knows, maybe someday ELMS will be mentioned in the same breath as Tesla, Rivian and other high-profile EV makers. 

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