David Lorenz is the CEO and founder of Lunaz, the Silverstone-based company which started out converting some of the most iconic classic cars to zero emissions electric powertrains. It was a showcase that highlighted these vehicles could continue in a modern sustainable manner.
Some might have thought this was indulgent but it was part of a bigger plan. These vehicles grabbed the attention of all that saw them and demonstrated that the technology worked. Plus, most importantly, it could be applied to commercial vehicles, such as bin lorries, to support governments and fleet operators in their transition to net-zero fleets.
With this, the company attracted some major investors including major institutional names like the Barclay, Reuben and Dallal families, international industrialists like Adar Poonawlla and key figures from Wall Street like Frederic Wakeman. It even attracted the attention of former football star David Beckham. He not only invested in the company but purchased a 1954 Jaguar XK140 electric conversion by the company for his son’s wedding present.
From Lunaz’s conversions of classic cars, Lunaz Applied Technologies (LAT) was born. This branch of the company looks at upcycling existing commercial vehicles to electric powertrains. It’s the perfect model to upcycle rather than scrap and replace which is a huge part of the company’s sustainable beliefs.
Lorenz and his team at Lunaz have an amazing vision for helping the transition to zero emission vehicles on the world’s roads. Since the company started in 2018, Lunaz has gone on to quadruple in size and created a further 300 jobs. We caught up with Lorenz to find out more about his vision and how he sees the electric vehicle space developing over the coming years.
EDs: Can you tell us a little about your history and how you ended up in the emobility space?
I had a number of successful ventures in the hospitality industry in London but for a long time held interests in the automotive sector. As the world began to transition to clean-air mobility and as somebody concerned with the future of our planet, I began to question why circular practices weren’t more commonplace in the automotive industry as they are in aviation and rail.
This led to a period of research that evolved into a business plan and this was really the germination point for Lunaz. I became almost obsessed with answering the question of what happens to the two billion vehicles that already exist.
EDs: How did Lunaz’s early evolution of converting high-end cars to sustainable electric vehicles develop?
Converting industrial vehicles has always been part of the longer-term strategy for Lunaz. When I founded the company and brought on Jon Hilton, a double F1 world championship-winning technical director, we invested a huge amount of time in creating a proprietary powertrain technology with multiple applications.
To prove this technology and demonstrate our confidence in both the Lunaz powertrain and the upcycling process, we electrified the most world’s celebrated and historically significant cars. In applying the same principles to commercial vehicles we support governments and fleet operators transition to net-zero fleets.
What the approach of leading with classics has done is prove and socialise the concept of upcyling vehicles and validated Lunaz’s proprietary approach by successfully entering the most quality-sensitive market in the world.
When we show fleet operators, governments and senior industry figures around our facilities this provides enormous reassurance that the same obsessive approach to the quality required to electrify and restore a £1 million Aston Martin will be applied to industrial vehicle fleets at scale.
EDs: It must reassuring that you have had some big investors believing in the company?
Our investor base and board ensure Lunaz is governed and supported by the strongest possible group of strategic individuals. This includes major institutional names like the Barclay, Reuben and Dallal families, international industrialists like Adar Poonawlla and key figures from Wall Street like Frederic Wakeman.
Furthermore, the company has enormous industry knowledge among its board members. This includes Ian Wakelin, former CEO of Biffa and current Chairman of Virdor. He is steering our entrance into the critical waste management industry and ensures that we are building products and services entirely in line with the front-line requirements of local councils and private fleet operators.
David Beckham brings with him an incredible voice. As much as he is a dedicated lover of cars, he is equally active and enthusiastic about the work we are doing to sustainably transition industrial vehicle fleets to clean-air powertrains.
EDs: When did you start working on the up-cycling of commercial vehicles, such as bin lorries?
Lunaz Applied Technologies’ first upcycled refuse vehicle prototype rolled off the production line of our Silverstone upcycling campus in 2022. LAT’s Upcycled Electric Vehicles (UEVs) are currently being subject to an ongoing 10-year development programme, compressed into two years by testing five identical UEVs simultaneously.
These vehicles are currently being subject to 300,000 miles (482,803km) of durability testing, more than 500 hours of driver calibration and 800 hours of energy optimisation. We are taking orders now for delivery in Q4 2023.
EDs: How big is the commercial conversion industry going to be in the coming years?
If you consider that the global carpark for internal combustion engined commercial vehicles currently stands at two billion, there is enormous international potential for Lunaz and we are working every day to help realise this. As we make this transition to clear air powertrains the planet requires this to be a market in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
EDs: Lunaz has expanded recently. Tell us about this and what the plans are for this space?
Lunaz Applied Technologies’ upcycling campus within the Silverstone Technology Cluster, now occupies a total of 200,000 square feet – nearly four times our original size when we opened in 2018. The facility is fully operational and the first of its kind in the world.
The expansion means that we can significantly increase the production of our UEV refuse trucks, with the capacity to produce 1,100 vehicles per year. As well as manufacturing, our expanded facility also incorporates more space for research and development, where Lunaz Applied Technologies’ exceptional team is exploring new technologies and practices to create even greater efficiencies in our upcycling process, enabling further savings for our customers.
The new facility also allows us to develop new chassis and vehicle models to meet future fleet and operator needs. In keeping with our wider environmental mission, the LAT facility is powered by renewable energy.
Our expansion has also created 300 new jobs, making LAT comfortably the largest company within the Silverstone Technology Cluster by space and employees. It’s a huge vote of confidence in our own technology and upcycling model, and in Silverstone as a location.
EDs: Are you working with councils to help with their move to zero emission vehicles?
At present, there’s pressure to focus on sustainable net-zero fleets. And rightly so. There are certainly options out there for commercial organisations and governmental institutions looking to do this.
Unfortunately, though, the majority of these options come with a very large price tag and they create more waste and emissions by producing brand new, rather than prolonging the end of life which is what we want to do at Lunaz.
This is why we entered the market and now take fleet vehicles that already exist and re-engineer them to bring fleet owners a more affordable, greener, alternative that is just as good as a newly produced vehicle with all the same technology and safety elements buyers expect from any of the big OEMs’ brand-new fleet vehicles.
EDs: Will conversion prices fall with economies of scale, falling battery prices and as technology develops?
At Lunaz Applied Technologies, the industrial vehicles arm of Lunaz, we have dedicated a huge amount of time to seeking efficiencies and delivering value to our customers.
We address a strategically critical sector by offering a cleaner, functionally better and less expensive alternative for local authorities and private waste management authorities as they make the challenging transition to clean-air alternatives.
Their response to our product has been exceptionally positive While it’s never possible to predict future commodities prices, like any business, as we scale efficiencies will be found in larger numbers.
EDs: Do you think it will reach the point where we will see majority of the commercial ICE vehicles being converted rather than companies just swapping to EVs?
Lunaz is dedicated to breaking the replace-with-new cycle and we believe that a UEV is cleaner, cheaper and better equipped than an all-new equivalent.
More private businesses and governments are signalling their commitment to Lunaz every day and it is our belief that our approach of unlocking the potential of embedded carbon represents the only truly sustainable path for vehicle manufacturing.
EDs: Will this model work and be affordable for the majority of cars on the road?
Currently, our focus is on furthering the legacy of iconic cars and supporting fleet operators and local governments in their urgent mission to transition to net zero. If we explore a mass mobility upcycling solution we will ensure that it is accessible for the end user but this is not on our immediate road map.
EDs: Does your location at the Silverstone Technology Park help with development and recruiting staff?
The UK and Silverstone have long attracted engineers operating at the highest level. We’re investing heavily in the UK, and see Silverstone as the ideal location for our upcycling campus, which consists of Lunaz Design and a separate building for Lunaz Applied Technologies.
Looking solely at Lunaz Applied Technologies, the team finds it very important to make the right investments to set the company up for success and have the ability to achieve the big goals we have for the future.
Our campus within the Silverstone Technology Cluster is the best example of achieving our bold ambitions. It has recently undergone a major expansion which will play a large role in the development and growth of the company.
With 200,000 square feet, the site has plenty of room to grow our production capacity – about 1,100 vehicles a year at full capacity – and further develop new, proprietary technologies to make our overall impact on the world bigger and better.
Silverstone is the UK’s hub for technology and engineering, so we feel very proud to now be the largest company within the Silverstone Technology Cluster by footprint or space and employees.
Our ambitions at Lunaz have always been to be the best at what we do and to dream big. Keeping this foundational vision in mind, it’s incredible that the expansion has created a further 300 jobs and overall has quadrupled in size since our start in 2018.
EDs: What does the future of transport look like to you?
Legislation is driving the automotive industry towards cleaner alternatives to petrol and diesel-powered cars. Aside from this legislation, I really hope society, in general, is becoming more aware of the need for cleaner air quality and the importance of putting steps in place now to ensure that future generations have a promising future.
With this in mind, I believe urban mobility will see significant changes. At Lunaz, we aim to equip the vehicles we deliver after the upcycling process with the technology required for a better, cleaner future.
Our aim is to prolong the life of vehicles beyond initial electrification, and with the modular EV powertrain system, I’d like to think that we will see customers return to upcycle their vehicles again and again as the technology continues to grow and advance at pace.
EDs: Where do you see Lunaz developing over the next five years?
We are always conscious that the path to long-term success is ensuring that growth is measured, sustainable and balanced. For this reason, we will be consolidating our leadership in the upcycling sector through innovation, product development and volume growth, which in turn supports governments and fleet operators in their drive to net zero.
EDs: What EV do you drive and why?
As CEO of Lunaz, I am very lucky to have access to our incredible electrified classics. This serves an important function because I like to personally test drive as many vehicles as possible to ensure they exceed our clients’ expectations.
EDs: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will continue to support governments, fleet operators and businesses in their transition to net-zero fleets.