Snapshots of David Beckham in expensive cars were a tabloid staple during the footballer’s time as a star player, but now his interest has taken a surprising turn: garbage trucks.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder has acquired a 10% stake in Lunaz, a Silverstone-based company that electrifies classic Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and Range Rover cars. Now he hopes to take the same engineering logic and apply it to garbage trucks and other specialized commercial vehicles, giving them new life in the transition away from fossil fuels.
The company is part of a small but growing trend in the new battery economy: starting polluting engines and installing batteries and electric motors with zero exhaust emissions.
The attraction to Beckham was evident during a Guardian test drive Wednesday afternoon next to the famous Silverstone race track in the well-upholstered rear of a 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom. Electric motors may lack the roar that gasoline engines love, but the smooth, quiet ride they offer fits well into the more rarefied atmosphere of chauffeur-driven luxury. At first glance, the luxurious interior might have been hand-upholstered 50 years ago, but the wooden load and power dials tell a different story.
New cars powered solely by petrol or diesel engines will be banned by 2030 in the UK, but the government is unlikely to order classic cars off the road, regardless of their emissions, while the ultra-low emissions zone London exempts historic vehicles. However, there is still a growing demand for upgrades in the automotive market. Shops are springing up across the country catering to this new class of customers as batteries finally reach the point where they can be put into older models.
The technology is there, but financially, it will likely take some time before mass-market car conversions are within reach. Lunaz’s charges for classic models start at £ 245,000 for a Range Rover, putting it within the reach of only the very wealthy. For a historic Rolls-Royce, those prices are £ 350,000 and up, well above, judging by the range of bespoke options on offer.
One or two new electric motors take up much less space than one motor, allowing Lunaz to incorporate custom-made batteries and whatever newer technology customers need, from air conditioning to power windows, phone chargers and built-in televisions.
Other companies take a different approach, buying parts like second-hand batteries from the few electric cars that hit the second-hand market or are written off in accidents. Electrogenic, an Oxfordshire-based classic car converter, has said that prices can start at £ 30,000 (albeit increasing according to customer requirements). Another, Swindon Powertrain, cites pretty much the same thing for converting an old Mini.
You could convert a Rolls-Royce Phantom, or for roughly the same price you could get a garbage truck. The uses are probably very different, but the thinking is strikingly similar, according to David Lorenz, who founded Lunaz alongside Jon Hilton, who won the Formula One world championship three times as Renault’s technical director.
“When you take these vehicles, you realize that the new electric vehicle alternative is priced higher with the same components,” says Lorenz, standing next to the skeleton of a garbage truck that was built in 2011 to a diesel standard. which will be quickly ruled. out of city use.
Retaining many of the container lift components and renovating others means that the cost for a local council to upgrade to electricity can be 40% less than buying a new diesel version, Lorenz says. On top of that, electricity is less than a third of the price of diesel equivalent power, which means the total cost of ownership gains could be very attractive.
Container trucks are particularly suitable due to their short and predictable routes – the distance between loading points remains a limiting factor preventing the widespread use of electrical equipment trucks. There’s room to fit six battery packs about the size of a car where engine, fuel tank, and exhaust cleaning technologies used to be.
Lunaz only started in 2018, and the new Silverstone location should be able to handle around 120 cars a year. A larger facility that will open soon will take care of trucks, and Lunaz expects to upgrade 4,000 vehicles a year by 2028.
Beckham is not the only investor whose interest has piqued: Others on board include the owners of the Daily Telegraph, the Barclay family, the Reuben brothers, the real estate billionaire, who ranked second on the Sunday Times list of the richest people in the world. Great Britain, and Alexander Dellal, a section of a family of real estate investors. The size of their investments was not disclosed.
Representatives for Lunaz and Beckham declined to comment on whether the footballer, previously photographed at the wheel of a succession of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Porsche models, has upgraded one of his collection to electric technology.
The costs are still prohibitive, but they are falling. Lorenz says that demand is high and that EV conversions will have to play an important role in the transition from fossil fuels.
“We have to get out of the ‘buy it new’ mentality,” he says. “There are 2 billion cars on this planet. Each of them can be turned into electric. “