Little-Known startup ELMS already producing all-electric delivery vans in the U.S.

Little-Known startup ELMS already producing all-electric delivery vans in the U.S.

While well-known EV startups like Rivian has yet to start volume production of its Amazon-bound van, a little known startup called Electric Last Mile Solutions (ELMS) is already producing a fully-electric van in the United States.

The ELMS startup was formed in August last year as a plan B for Chinese automobile manufacturer Chongqing Sokon Industry Group. SF Motors, a subsidiary of the Chinese manufacturer, had bought AM General’s former Indiana-based Mishawaka plant with plans to produce an all-electric SUV called the SF5. However, those plans never materialized SF Motors CEO Jim Taylor was against it. He argued that producing and launching an all-electric SUV in the U.S. would be far more expensive than the company’s expectations. Moreover, the cut-throat competition in the western country would not allow their SUV sell fast.

Thus, ELMS decided to produce all-electric delivery vans instead of going ahead with the original idea of producing an electric SUV in the U.S. However, the Chinese manufacturer didn’t want to spend more. So CEO Taylor launched a new startup and raised funds required to purchase the Mishawaka plant. It was the same plant where once manufacturing of the Hummer H2 took place.

The startup was founded in the summer months of 2020 and initial funding was secured through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Forum Merger III. ELMS began trading on the NASDAQ at the end of June this year and made a down payment of $30 million to acquire the $145 million Mishawaka plant. It was immediately equipped with required equipment to assemble electric vans.

Production of the startup’s first electric van in the U.S. started last month. The bare-bones fully electric, light-duty vehicle is called Urban Delivery. It, actually, arrives in Indiana from China as “pushers,” complete with chassis, frames and wheels. At the Mishawaka plant, workers add steering wheels and other components to it.

The startup is getting the attention of fleet managers by offering a 35 per cent lower total cost of ownership compared to an equivalent gas-powered van. The all-electric Urban Delivery has a range of 100 to 120 miles (roughly 161–193 km) on a single charge, and offers 171 cubic feet (4.84 cubic meters) of cargo space. It costs roughly $27,000 per unit, after a federal government’s tax credit of $7,500. By the end of 2024, the startup expects to build at least 100,000 units of the electric van per year.

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