David Beckham was not in the original business plan.
When Lunaz Group said on June 3 that the celebrity footballer had purchased a 10% stake in its business converting Rolls-Royces and Bentleys into electric vehicles, the company had already announced backing from Jamie Reuben, the son of British billionaire investor David Reuben; Alistair Barclay, the son of David Barclay, who’s one-half of the British billionaire “Barclay Twins”; and Alexander Dellal, the grandson of Jack “Black Jack” Dellal, who at the time of his death in 2012 was one of the wealthiest men in England. In April, Lunaz’s 63 employees had moved into a 44,000-square-foot space, five times larger than its original facility.
But at a brief meeting in 2020 at company headquarters in Towcester’s Silverstone Technology Park, Beckham got a glimpse of what fellow Brit David Lorenz has planned for the future of the company he founded in 2018. It wasn’t the Bentleys, Jaguars, and Rolls-Royces running on batteries that clinched the deal. It was the trucks.
“When David was down at Lunaz, I couldn’t really not mention [the planned commercial applications], because we had a lorry sitting right there,” Lorenz says. “I started discussing the wider applications of what we were doing with industrial vehicles, and that got around to a discussion about investment.” (Beckham was unavailable for comment.)
Lunaz produced its first converted car—a Jaguar XK120—in 2019, selling itself as an “upcycler” that offers a sustainable alternative to the often finicky conventional engines found in beautiful vintage vehicles.
“My wife was constantly telling me, ‘Please don’t take [our daughter] Luna out in the car,’” Lorenz says, referencing the family Mercedes-Benz 190SL that would inevitably break down carrying the company’s then-4-month-old namesake. “I had to put in that awful call to my wife, [and] it really was then when I took the viewpoint that something had to be done with the usability of these vehicles, as well as the sustainability.”
Electric car conversions have been around since at least the 1960s, when free-thinkers and tech nerds used old airplane generators and golf cart batteries to power their Beetles and hippy vans. Starting in 1979, Electro Automotive near Santa Cruz, Calif., sold thousands of converted EVs until founder Mike Brown retired 30 years later. But it remains a doggedly niche market, with no more than a few dozen boutiques around the world specializing in renovating old cars with new electric technology. Oz Motors does it outside Tokyo; EV West does it in San Diego, Calif.; Electric Classic Cars does it in Newtown, Wales.
At Lunaz, the process for converting a classic car into an electric one starts with an extensive inspection of the chassis, powertrain, and suspension. Then engineers remove the internal combustion engine and associated systems and create a CAD model to study its frame and help plan the retrofitting.
After the car is stripped down to a bare metal shell to further inspect for body defects, the shop’s restorers build it back using traditional coachbuilding skills. Inside, each classic car incorporates such modern conveniences as WiFi and navigation. Total electric driving range can exceed 200 miles, depending on the vehicle, with power and torque comparable to its initial figures—or “dialed up significantly,” according to a company spokesperson, since the powertrain is uniquely configurable per each client’s specifications.
Prices range from £275,000 ($388,000) for a Range Rover classic to £350,000 for a Jaguar XK120, Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, or Bentley Continental; an electric Rolls-Royce Phantom V starts at £500,000. The cars are sourced by the company or provided by the client. A new, non-British model will be announced in the coming months. Lorenz declined to say how many they have sold but said the ultimate goal is to produce 120 classics annually.
Lunaz announced on June 3 that it will begin performing the same process on commercial vehicles such as garbage trucks. The electrified truck will be fully restored to like-new condition and, with the powertrain swap, set back “0” miles on the odometer. It will cost the same as the equivalent new vehicle with an internal combustion engine, the company says—roughly 40% less than what it would cost to buy a brand-new EV truck.
The challenge is in the making. Clients will need to cultivate patience, as the laborious process for the classics takes 12 to 15 months. Wait times stretch into years, with deliveries of the current batch slated for the latter half of 2022.
Deliveries of the garbage trucks will likely take longer. A spokesperson for the company says it will announce timelines later this year.