City of Merritt hopeful Edison Motors will reconsider decision to leave Nicola Valley

Will Edison Motors move?

The City of Merritt is trying to sweeten the pot to help keep electric vehicle maker Edison Motors from leaving the community for a fresh start in Terrace.

Edison Motors founder and CEO Chace Barber says the hybrid-electric logging truck company began in his backyard in the Nicola Valley but is now ready to move north to an old truck factory in Terrace.

“We put it in an offer, the offer got accepted but it's pending rezoning. We just need a conditional zoning amendment to allow us to do one specific activity on commercially zoned property,” Barber said.

The company is currently working to complete eight orders of its hybrid truck, and wherever they end up they are planning to hire between 40 and 50 employees.

“You just can't afford anything around here. It's all being bought up, like I said, by investors who are selling to other investors,” he said.

“We bought the land and a shop in Terrace, an actual shop, for less than a third of the amount of buying just the bare land [in Merritt] and with nothing on it. Like, it's not economically feasible for businesses.”

Limited land in Merritt

Pending the rezoning amendment, Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz said the city would absolutely like to see the company stay. He said the city has a limited amount of land and none that would suit what Edison is looking for.

“We started working with them and some developers around the community, getting them together to talk about possibly leasing, buying or working on some sort of a project,” Goetz said.

“All of that falls through, then the city has some acreage that we are developing right now that we would be putting in to lease it out to somebody. It's about four acres and it's something that we could look at working with them on a fair lease agreement.”

Goetz said much of the land in Merritt has been purchased by private industry and there isn’t much the city can do to influence the sale of property.

“We've begun densification because our borders are full as far as they can go,” he said.

“It's private people that own these pieces of property and the city doesn't really have a lot of pull on what they do when they go to sell it. So we would like to see it developed but we kind of get stuck in that game.”

He said while he hopes Edison will stay, ultimately they’ll go with the options that’s best for their company.

According to Barber, Edison has received invitations to set up in the U.S., including in Arizona and Nevada. He said he wants to stay in B.C. to contribute jobs and business to the economy.

“I don't think the answer to when we look at things and say, ‘Hey, cost of living is going up things are going worse,’ is to just put our tail between our legs and run to the U.S.,” he said.

“I think we should stay and make Canada and make British Columbia a better place to live, rather than just tucking and running down to the U.S. That's not a solution.”

‘Built by beer and mechanics’

Barber said Edison Motors began two and half years ago after spending several years prior pitching around the idea with his co-founder and Edison CTO Eric Little.

“The first two years was just drinking beers and saying cool ideas, I'm not gonna lie,” Barber said. “And we just grabbed some mechanics and started pulling wrenches.”

"This truck was built by beer and mechanics," he joked.

Barber said logging in B.C. would be one of the most practical uses for a hybrid diesel-electric truck.

"Up here you're logging, so you're going up the mountain empty, and you're coming down hill loaded with logs, so you can recharge those batteries on your way down and then you go back up again empty," he said.

Through attention they received online by documenting their project, Barber said they were able to crowdfund enough to cover the $300,000 cost of the first model, as well as the $1.5-million cost to develop their second model.

He said the videos also attracted experts who would recommend parts or assist in the development of the vehicle. He said approximately 130 people contributed to the first model.

“It's really been a huge community thing where local mechanics, engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, all kinds came together,” Barber said.

Barber said he reserved a Tesla semi-truck when it was first announced, but became annoyed after seeing no finished product after several years and decided to withdraw his deposit.

“I’m calling it Edison because we're stealing Tesla's idea to build an electric semi. Give me my money back, I'll start my own company," he said.

"And that was the fundamental thing. So that $25,000 that we got refunded from Tesla actually went to build this truck."

More Kamloops News