March 16, 2021 9:45 AM, EDT

Electric Last Mile Gets 45,000 Van Orders Amid E-Commerce Boom

Electric Last Mile vanElectric Last Mile Inc.

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Electric Last Mile Inc., the plug-in delivery van startup that’s in the process of merging with blank check company Forum Merger III Corp., said it has 45,000 preorders and will start production at the former Hummer plant in Indiana in the third quarter.

The company is trying to get a jump on competitors that plan to sell electric vans into the booming market for e-commerce. A growing number of startups and established automakers are racing to sell plug-in delivery vehicles to the likes of FedEx Corp., Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, which need more trucks but want to reduce their carbon emissions.

“The e-commerce explosion is self-evident,” Electric Last Mile CEO Jim Taylor said. “There’s huge demand right now. We’re going to be standing at the right place at the right time because we will have truck capacity, and it happens to be electric.”

The other factor pushing demand, Taylor said, is that companies such as FedEx, Amazon and fleets run by the federal government want to go electric to reduce their carbon footprint and lower operating costs.

The company’s Urban Delivery van is a Class 1 truck, which is about the size of a minivan and ideal for some delivery uses and for utilities and other service fleets. The van will sell for $25,000 — the same price as a similar size gasoline-powered van — after the U.S. government’s $7,500 tax rebate.

“When we’re selling this at $25,000 and the gasoline version is $25,000, there’s not a penalty anymore,” Taylor said. “With electricity, it’s 30% cheaper to run than the gasoline version.”

There is competition coming from Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., U.K. startup Arrival Ltd., and Rivian Automotive Inc., which is part-owned by Amazon and plans on making electric delivery vans.

Ford will sell an electric van that is larger than Electric Last Mile’s Urban Delivery next year. GM also will launch a similar truck in 2022 with its BrightDrop business unit.

Electric Last Mile agreed to merge with Forum Merger III in December in a deal valuing the company at $1.4 billion. When the deal is done, Electric Last Mile will change its name to Electric Last Mile Solutions, and trade on the Nasdaq under ELMS. The company then will officially acquire the former AM General plant in Mishawaka, Ind., from a unit of China’s Sokon Group, which already sells ELMS’ van in its home

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market. GM made Hummer SUVs in the plant more than a decade ago.