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In profile: Andy Eastlake, Managing Director, Zemo Partnership
If Andy Eastlake had made a different decision in the 1980s, he could easily have made a name for himself in the defence industry, instead of becoming known as one of the leading exponents of decarbonising road transport.
Whilst studying mechanical engineering at the University of Southampton he was offered two sponsored placements: one was at RSA Enfield, which used to make machine guns and small arms, the other was with Vauxhall Motors.
However, his long-held interest in cars and all things automotive triumphed and he spent his student placements in Luton, at the Bedford truck plant in Dunstable and at Millbrook Proving Ground, then all owned by Vauxhall Motors.
“To me that was ideal,” Eastlake said, “I was getting sponsored through my university degree, working within the car and automotive environment and ultimately had a job when I came out of it.”
APPRENTICESHIP IN EMISSIONS
After leaving education, Eastlake joined Millbrook’s emissions laboratory, where his interest was piqued in fuel economy and the powertrain aspects of automotive.
“My first job there was essentially to rebuild it,” he said, “to bring it up to the latest generation. At the time, we were just starting to measure particulates from the vehicle so this was really early days in terms of concern about emissions.”
Learning from his American colleagues, he adapted the processes they were using to work with European vehicles.
“Pretty much my whole career ended up being around fuel economy, emissions and real-world measurement,” he said. “Ultimately, before I left Millbrook in 2012, I was actually responsible for all of the laboratories – crash, component testing, all the powertrain propulsion, the track work and curiously the events side as well.”
PUTTING LOW CARBON ON THE AGENDA
Eastlake first become involved in the Zemo Partnership, or the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership as it was then known, when it was first created in 2003. His role at Millbrook included aspects of government affairs, so he effectively became the Millbrook representative, at a point when low carbon was just beginning to register on the industry’s agenda.
“The UK automotive industry was arguably in a fairly parlous state around 2000,” he said, “but the low carbon agenda was being picked up by government.”
A range of government departments, including HM Treasury, the Department for Transport, Defra (then DETR) and BEIS (then DTI), all saw low carbon as an opportunity for all sectors of industry and society, sowing the seeds of what ultimately became Zemo Partnership.
Zemo Partnership aimed to build a coalition between government and industry to capture the opportunity of this new dawn of low carbon vehicles and put the UK at the forefront of the agenda. Originally, it was fully funded by government and was hosted within the Energy Savings Trust, as a partnership between industry, government and users.
“The unique thing about it was it was trying to bring not only the automotive industry to the table but the environmental NGOs, the fuel and energy companies, the user community, the academic community, the technology providers,” Eastlake said. “We’re not just the automotive industry talking to government, we are the complete picture so that what we do is rigorously tested from every perspective.”
MANAGING THE PARTNERSHIP
By the time Eastlake was appointed Managing Director of Zemo Partnership in 2012, it had moved from a company fully funded by government, to a match-funding structure: 50% from government and 50% from industry members, including Logistics UK. It also receives funding for specific projects from various bodies, including Transport Scotland, Innovate UK and Transport for London.
The agenda had moved on too. When he first became involved with LowCVP/Zemo Partnership, Eastlake said all the talk was about fuel cell buses and hybrid vehicles.
By the time of his appointment the discussion had moved on to electric vehicles, which he said had grabbed the lighter vehicle space, as well as digital technology: “The technology in batteries, in electric motors, the ability to operate your vehicle and control a very sophisticated propulsion system, these are hugely complicated and sophisticated, so a lot of the capabilities are being delivered by digital technology.”
Throughout this technological revolution, however, the Zemo Partnership has aimed to keep both feet firmly on the ground and present a complete picture of what is going on.
“It’s all very well having a nice shiny demonstrator that the minister can stand in front of,” Eastlake said, “but what we want is for the volume of vehicles, the two million cars or the 50,000 trucks sold a year to be lower carbon, ultimately zero.”
Eastlake stresses that it is not just what comes out of the tailpipe that is important, it is just as much about the fuel that goes into the vehicle and how the vehicle is built and manufactured.
Predating the Climate Change Act of 2007, the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and other government initiatives, Eastlake argues that over the years the Zemo Partnership has “changed the environment and the pace that people are working at.”
FROM LOW CARBON TO NET ZERO
After almost 20 years as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, the organisation decided to change its name in February this year to the Zemo Partnership. Eastlake said that the new name reflects how the agenda has moved on.
“When we started out, low carbon was the agenda, that was the target. We had an objective that 10% of new cars should be below 100 grammes in 2012,” he said. However, in 2019, during one of her last acts as Prime Minister, Theresa May MP made the commitment for the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, making it the first major economy to do so.
“With the pace of change, the pace of climate change quite frankly, and the adoption of the net zero target embedded into our Climate Change Act in the UK, it felt right and proper for us to really grasp that accelerated agenda and reposition ourselves. Low won’t be enough. We have moved to low-carbon solutions in a number of areas, but ultimately, we’ve got to get to zero. So that drove us to think that now is the time to change our focus.”
From day one, the Zemo Partnership has focused on all road vehicles, from electric scooters to 44-tonne trucks. While 55% of the greenhouse gas emissions from road transport come from the car parc, vans and trucks account for roughly 40%, with buses only emitting around four per cent of emissions.
“If we look at the commercial vehicle sector, it’s the next biggest sector after private cars,” Eastlake said. “Vans are the fastest-growing sector in terms of volume of vehicles and have been for some years.”
As the pandemic has increased the use of courier services and home deliveries, he argues that vans should become a greater focus in terms of greenhouse gas targets.
On trucks, Eastlake said the opportunity and appetite to make a difference is now increasing. After years of having relatively small tools at their disposal, such as low-rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamics to mitigate fuel consumption, he said the big opportunity for trucks is in renewable fuels, be that biodiesel or biomethane.
“Now we are starting to see, not only real increases in the uptake of renewable fuels, but also the opportunity for zero emission solutions,” he said. “Now’s the time to really be pushing hard at that and asking what do we need to do to make that transition and make that switch and make it economically viable for the sector, which often runs at incredibly low margins.”
BAN ON NEW PETROL AND DIESEL CARS AND VANS
When the government published its Road to Zero document in 2018, it proposed a phase out date of 2040 for selling new petrol and diesel cars and vans.
In November 2020, as part of its 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the government brought that date forward to 2030 for petrol and hybrid cars and vans and to 2035 for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
While Eastlake believes that the pace of technological change, which has dramatically driven down the price of batteries, enabled the government to be more aggressive, he also thinks societal pressures have had a significant role to play in moving these goalposts.
“We have to accept that the pressure on society, the climate challenge, Extinction Rebellion, all of these things are really pushing at the policy makers to go faster than they were planning, and if we’re only banning them in 2040, we wouldn’t be getting to a zero emission transport system by 2050.”
On the basis that cars are scrapped at around 15 years old, the UK must sell its last new fossil-fuelled cars in 2035 to remove them from the vehicle parc by 2050.
“To get that to happen, we need to be pretty aggressive in the 2030/2035 timeframe to try to shift the psyche,” Eastlake said, “Because the last thing you want is a huge spike of great big V8 engine cars being sold in 2034 for example. It’s much better to try and push as early as possible.”
TRANSPORT DECARBONISATION PLAN
The logistics sector is now expecting the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) to be launched shortly. Has the Zemo Partnership helped inform the plan’s recommendations?
“The TDP is a government document so we can’t lay claim to any parts of it,” Eastlake said, “but there will be some elements in there that reference Zemo Partnership and the role we play in bringing things together.”
Eastlake said that he hopes and expects that the TDP will be one of the first times the government has looked at transport in a far more integrated and multimodal way, working through the Avoid-Shift-Improve process.
“Taking that slight step back and looking at it in a more holistic way, I think, will open up some quite big opportunities to do things differently, more creatively,” he said, “I think the people who will succeed will be the logistics companies that grab that opportunity and look at every aspect to see what they can do to reduce their impact.”
He expects to see a consultation on the end of the sale of new diesel HGVs too. “The exact timing of course is down to government, but there’s no doubt we’ll get that consultation,” he said, “I think we’ll also see consultations on other areas too. There’s already discussion on ending the sale of diesel buses.”
FUTURE LOGISTICS CONFERENCE
Eastlake is due to speak at the Future Logistics Conference, part of ITT Hub, on 30 June 2021. What does he hope delegates will take away from the session he is speaking at on future vehicles and future fuels for the heavier side of the fleet?
He said the key point is that you can’t think about vehicles without thinking about the fuel and the engine that goes into it, as well as the infrastructure that delivers that fuel and energy.
“I hope that people go away thinking, crikey it’s not just about the vehicle that I buy, it’s about how I use it, what energy I put into it, where I use that energy,” he said.
Far from being on their own, Eastlake’s hope is that conference delegates go away thinking that there are people who can help them grapple with the different pieces of this jigsaw and begin assembling them in the right order.
“I genuinely believe that we have all the pieces there in front of us and we’re now putting them the right way up,” he said, “It’s now about fitting them all together to really deliver the picture of the future that we want. But we know what technologies will work and what they can do. We know that electric motors can drive a truck, we know we can store energy in batteries, we can use hydrogen to store energy. How do we now make that work and how do we make it work sustainably – and that means economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable.”
BARRIERS TO DECARBONISATION
One of the problems that faces operators looking to decarbonise their fleets is the amount of disorienting noise that fizzes around the decarbonisation debate, Eastlake believes.
“One of the things that I really despise is the sort of battle between hydrogen and electricity and the throwing of (metaphorical) rocks at each other and throwing rocks at renewable fuels,” he said, “We have got to use every tool in the box right now, and the more we do on every front, the easier it’s going to be in the future when we’re getting down to the really, really tricky places to think about.”
Decarbonising fuel is a good place to start, he suggests, before moving on to the next stage of the solution. Eastlake also advocates breaking the decarbonisation process down into manageable chunks to help identify real, tangible actions that can make a difference. But he also acknowledges that size of operation will influence what operators will be able to achieve.
“Some of the big blue-chip companies are running hugely sophisticated data telematics and logistics operations,” he said. “They have already put every single aerodynamic aid on their trucks and low-rolling resistance support mechanisms, they’ve electrified their ancillaries. So, at one extreme how do we help them? They’re probably the people trialling the latest technology to see if it will work, if they’re prepared to take that risk.”
At the other end of the spectrum, family-owned haulage firms running two or three trucks may not have adopted even the most basic decarbonisation measures. “We’ve got to get them to take the next step,” he said. “Everybody can take one or two steps forward. Across the spectrum they may well be very different steps. Taking a look at yourself and what you’re doing is probably the first step.”
Zemo Partnership is currently working with DfT and Energy Savings Trust on a Freight Portal. This will help operators understand their next steps toward decarbonising their operation.
“Have you looked at your tyres and your maintenance regimes? Have you looked at your aerodynamic structures? Have you looked at backhauling and trying to limit empty running? Basic stuff, because let’s get those right before you contemplate buying an electric truck,” Eastlake said.
A TIME TO BE BOLD
While the economy is now recovering following the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term outlook remains uncertain. When many transport operators are simply trying to survive, is now the time to be bold and put radical policies in place to help the UK decarbonise its road transport sector?
“We’ve got through this huge shock to the system,” Eastlake said, “The public and industries have kind of taken stock of what they’re doing. Some of them have clearly suffered very badly, some have done well out of it.”
Freight has become a more critical piece of the jigsaw, he argued, as home deliveries have risen during the pandemic, but a large volume of old diesel vans making inefficient parcel deliveries in residential areas is the last thing the sector needs. “That wouldn’t be a good solution,” Eastlake said, “so we really need to get on top of this now.”
From a government perspective, he said he has never seen an administration with an appetite to move as quickly as it is at the moment and to back that up with some serious policies: “The concept of banning fossil fuel vehicles is an incredibly bold concept that a lot of countries haven’t taken yet. But at the same time there is money being pushed into this space to try to deliver the infrastructure we need.”
While vehicles will last 15 years on the road on average, the infrastructure may last 20 or 30 years so it is imperative that it is fit for purpose.
“We need to make sure we make the right choice about the infrastructure, Eastlake said, “because the infrastructure we put in today is probably going to be the same we’re running in 2050, whereas we’ve got at least two or three vehicle cycles between now and 2050. I think now is the time to be really bold and make sure we put in the maximum number of no regrets solutions for the future.”
Andy Eastlake will be speaking at the Future Logistics Conference on HGVs – Future Vehicles and Future Fuels on 30 June 2021.
Published On: 13/05/2021 17:00:20