Edison Motors’ hybrid semi-truck passes government regulations but is forced to relocate operations to Terrace, B.C.

After six months of testing and paperwork, Merritt-firm Edison Motors’ L500 hybrid semi-truck has passed all government regulatory requirements.

“Turns out it was actually way easier to build the truck than it was to submit all the paperwork to make the truck road legal,” said Edison Motors Chief Executive Officer Chace Barber. “But we did it, we’re done, it’s officially a truck!”

After meeting all regulations, the prototype L500, nicknamed “Topsy,” is the first B.C. original equipment manufactured semi-truck since Western Star shut their Kelowna based plant.

“First one in 30 years, actually feels quite incredible,” said Barber. “It feels pretty cool, it’s really incredible to be able to bring some truck manufacturing back to the province.”

After passing regulations, Edison Motors will continue to test Topsy for an additional six months. “I’m going to be driving the truck around empty, seeing how it does, then picking up an empty trailer, then a loaded trailer, and we’re just gonna keep building up our testing distance,” said Barber. “The whole point of a prototype is to break it, I want to push it to its limit, find out when things break, and then find out how to make it more reliable.”

Despite a regulatory victory for the L500, Edison Motors is being forced to move operations to Terrace, B.C., in order to grow the business. Since 2021, Edison Motors has operated on three acres of land located in Barber’s mother’s backyard.

“(Having to leave Merritt), it sucks, there’s no better way to say it other than it sucks,” said Barber. “We grew this company here, we grew up here, it sucks having to leave here, I don’t want to leave Merritt.” “We tried for a year and a half to stay in this town and we just couldn’t do it,” said Barber. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair when you grew up in a town, everyone that helped grow it is in this town and can’t grow your business because foreign development companies bought every piece of land that’s available and won’t let domestic manufacturing occur on it.”

The American State of Nevada reached out to Barber, offering 60 acres of land outside of Elko free of charge. “I said what about the zoning, they’re like ‘don’t worry, it’ll take about one to two weeks to do the zoning change’,” said Barbers, contrasting with the “two to three years if it gets done, with three, four town meetings” with Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD).

“I can’t wait three to four years on our technology and park it,” said Barber. “Why are we at a disadvantage in our place?”

Barbers alleges he reached out to the TNRD asking the same question. “I asked that lady that works at the TNRD that. I said, how come the States is friendly and it’s so hard here,” recalls Barber. “And all that we were told by the regional district was ‘if that’s the way it is, I suggest you move to the States and she hung up the phone on me… They’ll work like crazy to try and keep jobs but they won’t attract new jobs.”

Edison Motors had posted on social media stating their operation is moving to the States in which Terrace reached out to Barber. “The City of Terrace was like, ‘well how do we keep you in B.C.?’,” recalls Barber.

According to Alexander Krause, the general manager of development services at TNRD, the situation mentioned by Barber “absolutely did not happen.”

“We explained that industrial uses, for example, often conflict with residential areas so it’s not as simple as just finding rural land,  it would need to be one that’s appropriate for industrial land use, and that process takes about three to six months,” said Krause. “From the notes, what happened is the gentleman then said that it’s much faster in the State of Nevada, and that the State of Nevada would welcome his economic opportunity, so we did not tell him to go somewhere else, that’s simply not true.”

The City of Terrace offered to change the commercial zone of their near-future facility into an industrial zone within four weeks.

Barber was also given a tour of the town.

“The economic development officer connected us with other local businesses, he was like, this guy owns a reload facility for the ports, this guy owns a steel fabrication shop, look at all these businesses we have in town that can help you with your business. Here’s a symbiotic relationship that can occur in Terrace,” recalls Barber. “They went above and beyond to help us feel comfortable with it.”

Edison Motors is set to move to Terrace during the summer. Their new facility was once owned and operated as a factory by Hayes Manufacturing Company, a Vancouver-based bus, van, and truck manufacturer which closed in 1975.

“Like we did with (our first proof of concept) “Carl,” we’re taking something really old, refurbishing it, and bringing it back into the modern age, and that actually feels cool, because if we’re gonna bring truck manufacturing back to B.C., why not use the old truck manufacturing plant?”