E.C.D. Automotive Design
Brings Fun to Sustainability
Electric vehicle sales will rise from 2.5 million this year to 31.1 million by 2030, about a third of the market share from new car sales, according to a July 2020 research report by global professional services firm Deloitte. As emissions regulations tighten around the world, green and eco-friendly living becomes more necessary, and electric cars become more widely available, it’s no surprise that the electric vehicle is staying in the spotlight.
Manufacturers around the world are adapting. E.C.D. Automotive Design in Kissimmee, which specializes in restored custom Defenders and Land Rovers, is carving out its own niche with its latest announcement: the first electric Defender in the U.S. with a Tesla drivetrain.
E.C.D. was founded by Tom Humble, Elliot Humble and Scott Wallace. The three grew up in England, just 40 miles from the Lode Lane Factory where Land Rover Defenders were famously produced. Their fond memories of driving through neighbors’ farms, over pastures and down hills in the English countryside would eventually inspire them to start their entrepreneurial venture.
One night, as Wallace tells it, the three were having a few beers. “Tom showed up in a Defender, and we all just started talking about our passion for the cars,” Wallace said. Suddenly they were wondering, how would a restored classic British agricultural vehicle fare on the market today? A case of beer later, their business idea was off to the races. Within a week, Tom Humble had resigned from his job and Elliot Humble and Wallace had set their own affairs in order to get started.
It was time to start living up to what would soon become their slogan “Create it. Build it. Live it.”
From an 18,000-square-foot production space in 2013 to 40,000 square feet in 2020, E.C.D. has steadily grown from its home base in Kissimmee. Wallace and Humble credit Central Florida’s consistently pleasant weather, a good network of people and the facility’s proximity to Orlando International Airport with contributing to their success by creating ideal conditions for inventory and supply lines.
“Orlando also has an incredible amount of talent across the area and nearby,” Wallace said. “It’s always been here, and now we are calling upon it.”
E.C.D. employs more than 50 people, ranging from mechanics to upholsterers, so that each of the bespoke vehicles the company manufactures can be built entirely in-house, from stripping the base vehicle to installing the drivetrain to custom upholstery.
In August 2020, it was announced that the company would partner with Electric Classic Cars (ECC), which specializes in converting classic vehicles to electric, for a new venture. “We’ve seen the trends in changing legislation,” Tom Humble said, “the migration from gas to electric, and how it’s made its way to the luxury market, and we change as those demands change.”
The zero-emission vehicle is compliant in all 50 states, and an August press release from the company revealed that the vehicles also feature downhill assist and traction control, an anti-lock braking system, regenerative braking and a fully upgraded driveline to cope with the power. With the ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than five seconds at 450 brake horsepower (bhp), and even in the three-second range at 600 bhp, the electric option keeps all the fun of the classic but with no guilt for eco-conscious buyers.
Making It Fun
The Tesla drivetrain is just the latest in a legacy of giving the company’s audience exactly what it’s looking for, with the same charm and character of the cars the company builds.
“I don’t think the automotive industry is particularly customer-focused,” Wallace said. “I don’t think it ever has been. In the past, I don’t think buying a car has been a particularly pleasant experience. One of the things we got right, even years ago when we first started, was that we were selling the experience of creating a vehicle unique to you with our support. We brought elements in from other industries that we’ve been a part of — hospitality, leisure and retail — to ask, ‘Why does it have to be a bad experience?’ It’s as simple as treating people in a way where you hold their hand, educate them about these components and make their experience a great one.”
Throughout the process of completing the car and even after, E.C.D. offers guidance for design choices, mechanical advice and staff on call 24 hours a day to answer customer questions.
At the end of the day, Humble and Wallace agreed, E.C.D. wants to pay homage to the spirit of its products. From designing to driving, E.C.D. is recapturing all the fun they felt as kids themselves of exploring the world in these “toys” — while proving that sustainability doesn’t have to mean sacrifice.
Photography by Julie Fletcher
As seen in October 2020 i4 Business Magazine