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Electrifying Icons: The Apex Interviews Justin Lunny

The redefining of classic and iconic cars to EV is a contentious subject. Justin Lunny, the CEO of Everrati, is one of the pioneers in this space, and we had the pleasure of welcoming him to the Apex this week. In our interview we discussed the ethos behind Everrati, the evolution of battery technology and the co-existence of sustainable fuels. It was an insightful conversation that we hope you enjoy listening to. 

Source: Everrati

Archie Hill interviews Justin Lunny for The Apex by Custodian. Recorded and produced by Archie Hill. Transcribed by David Marcus.

Justin, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much, it is lovely to be here.

It is our pleasure, thanks for coming along. There will be people listening that are familiar with what Everrati does, but for those that aren't, what is Everrati all about?

Thank you, so Everrati has been formed to both redefine some incredible iconic cars, and I guess you might describe it as the back book of the most fantastic automotive brands and marques out there. You see today some of our cars, the Porsche 964, the Land Rover Series, GT40 which has been quite incredible, and also the Pagoda, but what ties those all together really is firstly they are icons of automotive, but they are also in the main, part of a series of vehicles clearly that then evolved from there. So because of the technology we are using that is in house developed, we then have plans clearly to do a number of other vehicles on that format. What we find is that some people love what we do, some people aren't so sure, less people hate what we do, thankfully. In the early days there were certain firing squads aiming for us, but once people get what we do and why we do it, it is a bit more acceptable and very enjoyable certainly.

As far as I understand, you are your team, you are massive car enthusiasts?

We are real car enthusiasts [laughs], we are also, so my background is actually in tech, but whenever I could justify or do the maths, I would ever buy a car with whatever spoils of success, but also the team is ex Rolls Royce, Bentley, JLR, McLaren, Rimac, Singer, Lotus, you name it, the team is some of the best engineering talent in the industry, and that is really what drives us all, is to create the best cars we can.

What sparked your personal interest in cars?

That is a great question, I can't remember ever not loving cars, I guess is the reality. My uncle who unfortunately has passed away, but he was always massively into cars and it was always the thing that he and I spoke about or I would go out for a drive with him in one of his cars back in the day. Just the beauty, the aesthetics, the power, everything about them. No doubt we will come onto sound shortly, which clearly is slightly different with an EV, but it is kind of that engagement you have with something that is beautiful quite frankly, so that is really how I got into cars I guess.

Source: Everrati

Was there a defining moment when you were like right, I am going to start a company that combines classic cars with EVs?

Yes, absolutely. My background is actually tech and fintech, so I have built and sold a couple of companies in that space. As I say, my passion was always cars, so it kind of made sense to try and adapt that love of cars with the understanding of technology I suppose, and try to gel that in some way, shape or form. I have also got kids who also love cars, but the way the world is going, finding a way of enjoying those vehicles in a way that is zero emissions and clean air and all the other things that go with it, was really important to me, and that has really been the ethos behind where we are going with this.

Source: Everrati

You just alluded to the sound a moment ago, I guess part of the resistance towards electrification is the argument that you lose the soul of the car a bit when you take away the noise, from my understanding that is a big deal for you guys, you want to retain the character as best you can, how are you managing to do that?

Sound is so interesting, but what I would say is that we try and keep our cars as analogue as possible. So yes, sound is part of being analogue, the other part is driveability, weight, weight distribution, how it corners, how it reacts to certain inputs. So that really is as important to us as sound, and actually the feedback we have had from a number of journalists has actually been our cars are the most analogue EVs out there, number one, which is great. Number two I would say is that even the likes of Richard Hammond in various podcasts three, four or five years ago, said people won't actually miss the sound of a V8 once they get used to an EV. I think for me personally I am not I think on about 60,000 miles in three Taycan Turbo S' as my daily driver over the last 2,5 years. That has sport sound, I think I have used it less than 5% of the time I have driven the car, because you don't really need it. It has the performance, so I think it is there, there are sound packages that we offer, which interesting are the same tech as you would have if you bought let's say a BMW 1 Series with a sport button, it's basically synthetic sound. We can add that to our cars but most of our clients haven't to date because they just want it as an EV and enjoy what it is as a car in its new world I suppose.

Source: Everrati

What is actually involved in converting these cars from a mechanical engineering side of things, how does it work?

So we very much used the term redefine, so we are redefining these cars as an EV as opposed to just converting them. The reason I mentioned that I guess is that there are people that will just stick batteries and motors in your Landy or whatever it might be, and that is perfectly fine. The difference I guess is however, what that is not necessarily doing is considering overall weight, weight distribution, driveability, balance, and all the elements that we think are really important in that original vehicle. That to us is what is really important. So when it comes to what we do, we take a car all the way back to the chassis, so for example with the Pagoda we are launching this year, that has gone all the way back to the chassis, it is 3D scanned as a chassis, so we have everything in CAD. Then we computer engineer an entirely new power train and we worry about weight, we worry about weight distribution, we worry about performance, so that when you look at that car, yes you will notice it hasn't got an exhaust pipe, but outside of that it is identical to an original, and in terms of driveability, I think we have got some really great stats, but that car really will probably drive very similar to say a Mechatronic Pagoda.

Source: Everrati

Our Porsche is driving, I am not going to say the same as a Singer, because it is very different, but it has the performance certainly of that vehicle. So really suppose within Everrati what we are doing is that overlay on cars that people already adore, and bringing them into a world where they can still be fully enjoyed, as opposed to a step back. We are always looking to evolve them forward, but the tech we use is the best in class, and it is all then about, my engineers are people that have worked for JLR on testing these vehicles to the extreme, and those are the sorts of things we were recently in Vermont in deepest darkest winter testing one of our Land Rovers. That's the difference with us is that we are going to those levels to really make sure that these cars are fit for purpose and enjoyable.

The 964 that you do, isn't that lighter than the original when you are done with the conversation?

It is, and don't get me wrong, there is some trickery there, in other words a lot of carbon fibre. So the 964 is an interesting one. As you will know, there are people out there that will sell you a kit for a 964, but I think again, what we have done with that is we have really considered the balance and the weight, and we have added things like trick suspension, so fully adjustable electronic suspension, but that particular model that we do, certainly the wide body vehicle, that is actually built at a company called Aria in Irvine, California. Not many people know but Aria built the first 150 Singer Porsches for Singer, so the very same company building our Porsches is the same company that built a big number of the Singers that are on the road. What they don't know about lightning and making a 964 special is not worth knowing really, so that is why we do the business in the way that we do. So we work with best in class builders, builders that aren't actually available to the general public, they are more of a B2B supplier, but yes, our Porsches, about, it depends on the specification, but up to 40kg lighter than the original, with a lot more power and things like adjustable suspension and what have you. If you were to drive it, it is almost in the middle of driving a Taycan and a 964, if that makes sense. You have to come and try it out when you get some time.

Source: Everrati

I haven't driven either of those, so I think I do need to come and try it out! I understand that the car can be reverted back to standard spec, is that right?

Yes, so again, this is part and parcel I suppose of being A, engineers are all automotive, but also because we are based in the UK, and it is slightly different in other countries, especially in the US, because we are based in the UK, there are a lot of rules around what you can and can't do with a vehicle, things like cutting the chassis and other things, but also for us, it's really important that it is technically reversible. It is highly unlikely that our clients will ever reverse it, but I think, at the moment we are not doing holy grail cars, the wide body 964 and all of them to date have all started life as a lowly tiptronic 2 or 4, and therefore they were pretty unloved in the first place, and we have given them an entirely new life. Now they look amazing and they drive amazing, but at some point, and we have had this already, we have got clients that are saying actually could you do me a really almost not one-off, but a special car, and for us, because again we love cars, we would never do that unless we knew it could be reversed, because if it is matching numbers, it has some value already, being able to actually take that forward into the future, when they sell the car or hand it down to their family, it is still matching numbers, it is just that the original engine is not in the car. Saying that, you go to Goodwood and see a 250 driving around, probably that is not the original engine either, so there is a race spec engine and there is an original engine, so very similar principles really. So for road use you use your EV and maybe at some point it might be transferred back to combustion.

I guess another part of why this is quite appealing to some people is also that the maintenance costs, it might be a bit tricky to go into the real details, it is quite subjective between different cars, but how do the maintenance costs compare between an internal combustion 964 and your 964 for example?

I don't want to knock 964s, they are pretty reliable in the first place, but what I would say is, our clients are really split, so either they are out and out car guys and girls, or they are tech and sustainability or a mixture of those. A couple of our clients use their cars as their dailies. There is a guy driving around San Francisco, this is his daily car. There is a lady in London, this is her daily Land Rover. I think what we would say is, yes by definition an EV is far more reliable, a tenth of the moving parts of a combustion engine car. Not to say that they will never go wrong, but it is a very reliable vehicle to run. Then it is things like no congestion charge, no ULEZ charge, and depending on where you are in the world, that is important, or maybe it isn't, but certainly people buy them for different reasons than you might think.

Source: Everrati

What is the range on the batteries, how long do the batteries last, and also I always wondered, can the batteries be used for anything else post car life?

The ethos of Everrati, because we are doing the entire car, we are not just selling a kit, so when somebody comes to us we will help them source a donor, it will be entirely stripped down to the chassis and then rebuilt as a new vehicle. Because everything we do is in CAD, it also means that we have upgradability through the life of the car. Poor old me, I have got a brand new Taycan, but the next version has just come out. I can't probably upgrade my Taycan, I have to go and buy a new Taycan, whereas what we do is actually offer an upgrade pass within our vehicles. So you have just spent your money on this incredible car, maybe in two years time the battery technology has moved on, which it no doubt will have done, and we will offer, and we already have done, a couple of upgrades on existing vehicles to date. So that sustainability message is true, which is that is a 30 odd year old vehicle, we are already giving it a second life, and now we are extending that forward.

What I would say just to answer your question, so on our Porsche, it is around 200 miles, just over if you are careful. There are a couple things to say, one is that we can do things like vehicle to home or vehicle to grid, so actually if you don't use your car so much, the energy stored in the car could be used in your home, so that is quite an interesting opportunity there. So if you have solar, if you have other forms of energy storage in your home, and then absolutely, once the natural life of that battery in a car has diminished, but it is unlikely if I am honest in the use case that we have. That battery is still very much usable in things like home energy storage, or there are a number of big battery recycling companies popping up now as well.

Source: Everrati

What is the build time on these cars, if I wanted one, how long do I have to wait?

Right now I think we have got 12 cars in build, but we are distributed, so as I say, Aria in California build most of our Porsches today. We have launched our ST, that is a different build and again, there is productionisation there. Land Rovers again we have a different partner in the UK. Mercedes we have a different partner. So in essence we are not backed up in one facility, but something like a Porsche right now is about 9 months.

And obviously in terms of pricing as well, they are not cheap, you are targeting the luxury end of the market, do you think that prices will come down as the technology becomes more readily available?

You could argue if you go to Singer, because they have done more of them, they can do them a bit more cheaply, but they are not reducing their prices. I think there is a space in the market for doing things really well. By definition however Moores' law is the technology will evolve and actually increase and you will get better tech, but generally speaking you will just get more for your money. So you will get where it is 200 mile range, you might get 220, 240, 260 or whatever, so I think generally speaking that is what will happen. Certainly with us, we do see a reduction in battery prices, but actually what we tend to do is then go for an even bigger capacity, so it really depends on the proposition. Some of the cars we have got right now in development are going to be significantly more than we are doing today because they are using tech from the Lotus Evija, they are using tech from the Rimac Nevera, they are using tech from some of the best EV cars on the road today.

The beating heart of Everrati's GT40 // Source: Everrati

That makes a lot of sense. Another concern I had is the way the raw materials are extracted, the actual making of the batteries, the mining of the lithium, is that improving as well?

There is a lot of fear and doubt created by media on that. What I would say is two things, first of all if you look at the mines it is far more likely that actually they are extracting gold than lithium when it comes to human rights issues. Certainly all of the battery companies that are of any status, have full traceability on where that lithium comes from, and it certainly doesn't come from those mines. That is the first thing I would say. Secondly it is more likely to be gold that anybody is wearing or using in computer chips or other technology. I will say there are keyboard warriors out there talking about this, that don't realise that they are on a mobile phone that has exactly the same tech, and people say yes, but the battery in the phone is tiny. 5 billion mobile phones are thrown away every single year, most of those to landfill, so the argument that not only phones but laptops, everything we have is lithium batteries, so I think it is an easy one to point at EVs, but actually it is generally either A, untrue, or B, everybody is using these devices unfortunately already anyway, it's just in a different form.

Source: Everrati

What is your view on the way that the EV market will progress over the next few years?

There are a number of points. If you look at EVs in the USA, we are on a technology adoption curve at the moment, and I forget the exact stats, but I think EV adoption in the States for example in the last, since 2019, I think the stat is that it has grown by 345%, so it is that standard EV technology adoption curve. And yes, there will be bumps in the way, but it is still growing. What I think is really interesting is brands such as Rolls Royce, 100% EV, Volvo, 100% EV, JLR will be going 100% EV, so this is happening, the train has definitely left the station. The fact that the Porsche Macan which is one of Porsche's most popular cars, is now only EV, so there will be people that push it away, but actually this is happening anyway, and really what I would say is, there will be more and more really exciting products out there. There will be really cool stuff. I think the big challenge if I am honest, for the more established manufacturers is unfortunately like it or not, there is a plethora of Chinese cars coming through, different brands that nobody has every heard of quite frankly, and they will start to flood the market. I think that is the only challenge, which is that a lot of western manufacturers have been asleep at the wheel on EV and have been pushing it away, I just hope not too many are lost along the way, because they, by definition, haven't really had the products available for people to buy at the right price.

We have interviewed some people in the motorsport world as well, so the other week we did an interview with Patrick Peter, the guy behind the Le Mans Classic and Peter Auto, and he was talking about the grid for the Le Mans Classic is moving towards, I think the last one had 30% running on sustainable fuels, and that is quite a hot topic in the historic motorsport space, the Revival mandating it as well, are synthetic fuels a rival to EV, what is the whole play there?

I would say everything has its place. Synthetic fuel, hydrogen in certain environments, not currently in cars if I am honest, the stats probably show that the whole VHS Betamax war has already been won by EV, but that is not to say never say never. I would say on sustainable fuels, the word sustainable is not correct, because it still limits CO2, and the argument is that it is taken out and it is remanufacture, it still has air quality issues, it is not for cities, I think race tracks are basically the perfect environment. I was asked this question the other day, but even Porsche who have partnered with an oil company, the volume of sustainable fuel they think they can produce in 10 years time would cover the US' requirement for petrol for a few hours in a single day in a whole year, so it is tiny volumes, but again, we would never say never. I think that it is more, the reality is there is massive air quality issues in many places. Global warming is here, I have not met many people recently that think it isn't, so we have to decarbonise, and I think sustainable fuel is one part, it is a small part, but it is one part for that, and we would always say, if it can be done but it is in the right environment, then why not, but my personal view is EV is certainly by far won the battle in the mainstream. Saying that, I would never dream of turning something really special into an EV, because there are things like a work of art, a Monet, you don't want to cut the corner off just because it doesn't fit in your room, so there are elements to that. But I think in terms of mainstream, EV is definitely where it is at.

Source: Everrati

Taking it back to what you are doing at Everrati, obviously you have a very comprehensive list of cars that you can do now, you have got your Porsche 964, Defenders, classic Range Rovers, you have got the Pagoda as well, what cars are you looking at doing next?

We do have a bespoke program where we put all of our efforts into one different car, but actually in the main we do series of cars. So we do the 964, we do the Land Rover series and Defender, and Pagoda and obviously GT40 is a bit different because it is a rolling chassis from super forwards. All of those cars have an evolution of course. 964, what is next, 993, 996, 997, who knows, there is definitely something there. There is also another couple of Porsches bizarrely that are currently not necessarily big in terms of this market, but I think we can do something with. So I think for us it is all about evolution. As car enthusiasts evolve and as people desire different things, the story at the moment is if you go to a Concours event, I was at Pebble Beach last year, and there is a lot of talk about the 30s and 40s car being actually not so interesting, because the market for those, the people who want to buy them when they could afford them are unfortunately either having to sell them or no longer with us, I think therefore the car market as we know is very cyclical like that, but certainly there are some cars in the pipeline that are really exciting, and putting, so if you think of our GT40 as an example, we have had an F1 engineer helping us tune that car. This is what people don't necessarily know about EVs, is they are just as tuneable, if not more tuneable than a combustion engine, but there is a lot of work that goes into it. Of course you are using that technology and experience into some of these other performance cars, is kind of where we are going. I would say watch this space, but lots of evolution of current cars we are doing into something a lot more exciting I would say.

Everrati's SL Pagoda // Source: Everrati

That sounds great, I think to wrap up, we normally ask some quick fire questions, a bit more light hearted. I am interested to know what your favourite electric/hybrid car on the market right now is?

I would say just because it is ridiculous in terms of all the records, is probably the Navera. That said if you are looking at hybrid, let's be honest, Koeningsegg have some pretty special products as well. I can't say I have actually driven either. I have sat in one of them, but this is the thing, from a performance perspective, they are unbelievable, and that just gives the opportunity to do so many different things in that environment. Those two are probably my favourites today.

Modern cars or classic cars?

I have always been suckered into buying modern cars, but I like classics. I think it is that whole daily driver versus something, because unfortunately I do a lot of miles, the modernity of something like the Taycan Turbo S works for me, but saying that, I just love driving, one very brief story, my son at the beginning of the pandemic, he was 5, he has now just turned 9, I had a Pagoda in my garage alongside Ferraris, a GT3 and a couple of other things, and I had to go and get some bits for the BBQ, May 2020, the sun is out, daddy can we travel in style today, can we take the Pagoda? I think for me that says it all, which yes, these modern cars are great fun and engaging and have all the mod cons, but there is something special about a classic as well.

Source: Everrati

That is lovely, brilliant, what would you say is in your dream three car garage?

I love a 275 long nose Ferrari, obviously something quite special there. I love something like a really classic Mercedes, almost like take the Hangover car, but of that era, I think is really cool. Last but not least, something that is probably a bit out there, I have always loved the likes of, by the way, I am not talking practicality here, but I have always loved the BMW M1, so the original BMW M1, which I think again, just from a style perspective, not great for hauling kids or dogs around, but yes, that could be a lot of fun to have those three in the garage.

Absolutely, well Justin, thank you so much for coming on and having a chat with us today, it was really interesting to learn more about Everrati and what you are up to, so thank you.

Pleasure, thank you for your time.

The Apex Team

The Apex Team

The Apex Editorial Team @Custodian: Archie Hill - Interviewer & Editor, Archie Hill Jeremy Hindle Charles Clegg - Editors, Archie Hill - Production, David Marcus - Transcription.