Troy-based EV delivery van startup partners with Chinese supplier

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Electric Last Mile Solutions, a Troy-based startup that plans to build commercial electric delivery vans, has signed a supply agreement with Chinese automaker Liuzhou Wuling Automobile Industry Co. for component parts, the company announced Tuesday. 

ELMS went public in late June and plans to produce Class 1 EVs aimed at the growing market for last-mile deliveries — potentially the first of its size to launch in the U.S.

ELMS's Urban Delivery van is slated to launch this fall.

Under the agreement with Wuling Motors, the company will have long-term access to component parts from the Chinese manufacturers' commercial EV cargo van platform. 

“We are reimagining the design of commercial vehicles as efficient, intelligent and profit-driving e-mobility workstations for our customers,” ELMS Co-Founder and CEO James Taylor said in a statement. “We are delighted to be collaborating with a company of Wuling Motors’ caliber to broaden our long-term, strategic supply base."

The company's "Urban Delivery" van will have a starting price of around $25,000 with federal rebates and have a range of around 150 miles. It will be built in Mishawaka, Indiana, at a former Hummer production facility, but the company will remain based in Metro Detroit. ELMS plans to launch the van later this year.

"We believe that this partnership, as a part of our solutions ecosystem model and supplemental to our core vehicle integration and engineering capabilities, will enable us to quickly bring to market, segment-defining and U.S.-made EVs customized to our customers’ individual needs and optimized for the qualities that matter most to them: efficiency, reliability and total cost of ownership,” Taylor said. 

The company is also planning to build a second electric vehicle, the "Urban Utility" medium-duty cab forward truck. Amid a push to improve shipping sustainability and increasing demand for e-commerce, the company aims to be an early entrant into the emerging market. 

Wuling Motors is a leading automaker in China, where electric vehicle sales and production are outpacing those in the U.S. and Europe.

The country's EV lead is only expected to grow in the coming years, a major focus of policymakers in Washington who are hoping to prop up U.S. companies to better compete with Chinese businesses, which have benefited from significant investment by the Chinese government. 

China produces and sells just under half of the world's electric vehicles, according to data from research firm LMC Automotive. And the country is moving quickly to expand that lead: China is building electric vehicle factories faster than anywhere else in the world, and by 2028, it's projected to produce 8 million electric cars annually, compared with 1 million last year.

But the electric vehicle market in the U.S. is expected to take off in the coming years as U.S. automakers have pledged billions to developing EVs. For startups like ELMS, that means there's a window of opportunity to capitalize on the growth potential. 

"ELMS needs to execute really well and really quickly to grab some market share and hopefully hold on to it," Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights, told The Detroit News last month.

Twitter: @rbeggin

Staff Writer Jordyn Grzelewski contributed to this report.