Lash Saranna is currently the founder and CEO of Electric Zoo that offers electric vehicles (EVs) on subscription. Along with his wife, Charnjit, they officially launched the business in 2018.
Lash understands the motor world well having worked in it for over three decades. In 1985 he founded Autobahn Porsche and went on to grow the business into Europe’s largest Independent Porsche Centre.
In 2012 his world changed forever when his daughter told him she wanted to study Global Sustainable Development (GSD) at university. This led to him and his wife looking into sustainability and wanting to make a change.
As a result, they gifted the Porsche business to their employees and looked for something new in the world of sustainability. In the process, Lash saw a newspaper article in 2014 about the Tesla Model X. He went on to order one which was believed to be the first in the UK.
Lash and his wife came up with the Electric Zoo subscription model as a sustainable new business idea. The object was to make zero-emissions electric cars accessible and affordable to the masses.
They are currently looking to expand their fleet to over 1,000 cars in 2022 and up to 6,000 over the next three years as the transition to electric cars continues to increase.
EDs: You came from a combustion engine background selling Porsches. What made you think early on that electric vehicles (EVs) were the way to go?
My first realisation of electric cars being a mainstream product was reading an article in the Times about the Model X that Tesla were planning to launch in 2015. I read this article in early 2014 and went to leave a deposit for the car and the salesperson at Tesla refused to take it because he knew nothing about such a model.
I drove home to collect the Times and then drove back to Tesla to show them the article and leave a £1,000 deposit. I viewed the car in November 2015 and took delivery 2 January 2016. I believe it was the very first Model X in the UK.
EDs: Tell us about your sustainability journey. What got you interested in being green?
My sustainability journey started in 2012 when our 12-year-old daughter came home from school and said she wanted to study Global Sustainable Development (GSD). I agreed to it despite not knowing anything about it.
A few weeks later we went to a sample lecture for GSD at Warwick University. Three hours later I was besotted by the subject. Up until that point, I had no idea about climate change, rising ocean levels or air pollution.
EDs: How did life change after this new found love?
The effect of another five lectures at universities across the UK, ranging from Glasgow to Southampton via London, convinced my wife, Charnjit, and I that we had to make a change.
Over the next 12 months, we gifted our business Autobahn Porsche to our employees for free. This was after spending 28 years of our lives establishing the business as Europe’s Largest Independent Porsche Centre that retailed over 500 units of new and used Porsche per annum.
EDs: What challenges have you personally faced in launching an electric vehicle (EV) start-up and how have they changed over time?
There have been many challenges. Our initial concept was to open an electric car innovation centre in Coventry and the idea included offering electric cars on subscription. This was back in 2016 and it took the council until Christmas Eve to confirm it was ‘not the vision they wanted for Coventry’.
EDs: When did Electric Zoo launch?
In January 2018 Charnjit and I officially founded Electric Zoo as an electric car subscription offering. The problem was we could not fathom out the insurance element for the business to cover any individual over the age of 25 to drive an electric car.
We spent a considerable amount of time trying to find the solution whilst also developing a ‘black box’ that could be placed in any ICE vehicle to collect journey data.
From this data, we could produce a heat map of the journeys over 30 days to find the ideal replacement electric car. We were also able to demonstrate savings in running costs and carbon dioxide.
We were set to launch this product and go to market on 1 April 2020 but Covid got in the way when we were all forced into Lockdown in March of that year.
EDs: What did you do once lockdown halted the business launch?
In the first week of lockdown Charnjit and I looked back at everything we had planned for Electric Zoo. The one thing that stuck out was the subscription offering, so we went back to the drawing board.
Over the coming 90 days using the power of Zoom and the internet, we found a solution to the insurance element that had been missing for so long. This allowed us to launch our electric car subscription platform in July 2020.
EDs: Besides the obvious business hurdles, how did the pandemic affect you?
Covid-19 reminded us to appreciate the simple things in life that are often forgotten including clean air, noise reduction, walking and cycling. We can all go a long way to reducing our carbon footprint, creating cleaner air and reducing noise through the use of electric vehicles.
EDs: What do you see as the challenges bringing consumers along on the electric vehicle ride?
I believe we are reaching the point where the challenges of bringing consumers on the EV ride are beginning to fade away. The three biggest concerns that consumers have include price, insufficient range and not enough charging points.
With our subscription offering, which only requires one month’s advance rental, we have removed the price barrier altogether allowing the most affordable entry to a wide choice of electric cars.
The average range on most electric cars available today is around 200 miles (322km). When you consider the daily use of a motorist in the UK is around 35 miles (56km), this quashes any range anxiety.
As for charge points, there are now more across the UK than we could have possibly imaged a couple of years ago. There are now over 47,000 charge points in more than 17,000 locations. Plus, being able to charge at a faster rate than ever before should remove any infrastructure worries.
EDs: Did you ever think Porsche would launch an electric car?
Porsche has been in my blood since I was a teenager and I never imagined they would produce electric cars in such a short period of time. Then in 2020 Porsche launched the Taycan and we have one in our fleet.
EDs: What’s your vision for Electric Zoo?
My vision for Electric Zoo is to help accelerate the uptake of electric cars. This will be through procuring a high volume of cars from city runabouts through to premium models that will cover all budgets for a subscription model.
This will allow us to provide easy access to electric cars for the majority of drivers. Our aim is to support everyone switching to an electric car which in turn helps preserve our environment through zero-emissions motoring.
Our aim is to grow the fleet to 1000 cars by the end of 2022 and up to 6,000 cars within the next three years.