The third round may be the charm for Jim (James) Taylor, founder and CEO of Electric Last Mile Solutions (ELMS). He calls his time at ELMS the third period of his life, like a hockey match. This time around, he is going back to basics with a plain ‘van-illa’ electric van with customisable special sauce for last-mile delivery.
He reveals to Auto Futures his plans to push out plain white commercial electric vans in Indiana.
“I’m doing my best deeds now to make up for all the gas guzzlers I sold in my early years,” says Taylor. He has always been on the leading edge in start-up environments in the automotive industry.
“I started out at GM, like in the movie ‘The Graduate’ when plastics meant innovation. Before we had plastic bumpers,” says Taylor. Then he took the twenty-seven entities of GM in Europe and merged them into one. He helped bring back Cadillac into its new renaissance.
As CEO of the Hummer brand, he readied it as a separate start-up for sale that was not approved.
The next ten years were about learning about the electric vehicle space. He saw that EVs were coming. He learned how to engineer EVs from a technical side. Taylor led and/or advised Workhorse Group, Karma Automotive LLC and SERES (SF Motors). Additionally, he advised various start-ups through the JET Group.
“At the last phase of my life, I am getting smarter. I’ve had different trials and different cases to learn how to make-over the automotive business. We’re now in an era where EVs make the most sense in commercial vehicles,” says Taylor.
“I went from sexy vehicles, such as the Karma Revero, to the anti-sexy. When you try to make those sexy vehicles, you are going to chase 300 to 500-mile ranges making the vehicle expensive,” says Taylor.
“At ELMS we just have plain vanilla ice cream. Everybody likes vanilla ice cream. You can put some toppings on it and customise it,” says Taylor about the plain white vans that ELMS will be delivering.
“It gets very confusing for investors to figure out the landscape of electrical vehicles.”
The company and name are simple. The name describes exactly what they’re trying to do: Electric Last Mile Solutions that includes both the hardware and data solutions, says Taylor.
A 150-mile range is enough to cover the distance for commercial last-miles vehicles. It saves 35% over an ICE vehicle. The customers for commercial vehicles are very simple. They just want to know what the hardware is and how to get their data. They do not need anything exciting. The routes are short and everyday costs are set. They just care that it will cost less.
With last-mile delivery, there is a fixed route. And, they come home to rest that night for the charging, says Taylor.
“It’s all about keeping costs low,” says Taylor. He adds the simple designs keep the cost down. The parts are tested, are U.S. safety compliant and come from traditional automotive suppliers.
In February, the company announced that Jing-Jin Electric North America, LLC will produce the motors for the vans in the U.S. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) will supply lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery packs.
Most fleets need customisation. ELMS will offer customisation during the production process. The vehicles will have available electrical outlets for powering tools and charging.
ELMS partnered with Geotab for telematics with connected mapping and tracking. The vans will have the telematics black box already installed, says Taylor.
Taylor estimates that the vehicles have 35% more cargo space than competing Class 1 vans.
He says he is still a comrade of Steve Burns but explains that an ELMs van is not the same as the Lordstown Motors’ electric truck. In fact, they worked together at Workhorse Group. However, the Lordstown truck is not a competitor of the ELMS’ vans.
“It gets very confusing for investors to figure out the landscape of electrical vehicles. The bottom line and all of this is – if you can push out the vehicles that are needed,” says Taylor.
The EV Landscape is a Wild West Rodeo
In a way, Taylor’s life has come full circle. ELMS bought back the closed Hummer plant from the second owner of the plant, SF Motors in Mishawaka, Indiana. In fact, the plant manager is the same plant manager he worked with years ago.
Because it is a vehicle plant is optimised for electric vehicles, it will be a lower operational cost to start. “We’re starting at third base,” says Taylor.
“Now we are dealing with the chip shortage and problems of logistics for containers,” says Taylor. He expects the plant to reopen in the fall and to start shipping to customers afterwards.
Taylor is careful about, “what we want to say and what we cannot say as being part of a SPAC.” “It’s that fine line of winning customers and also high awareness for investors,” says Taylor.
The company is working through the regulatory process with CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
He says he likes the challenges of new technology and going into places where no one has gone before.
He sees the electric vehicle landscape as a wild west rodeo. His posse is a band of automotive colleagues he’s riding with through the years. During a Zoom interview with Auto Futures, he was wearing a white shirt against a white background talking about plain white vans. What kind of management style is Jim Taylor?
“I’m the guy on the white horse coming in to clear up the confusion and to make vehicles right again,” says Taylor.