all the latest updates and insights for scalable last mile solutions

A sunny day at Millbrook proving ground and the world of attendees at Electric Vehicle events was changing from woolly jumpers towards sharp grey suits.  If you are an environmentalist this is a good day as we are finally starting to hit mainstream, and business is starting to take note of the opportunity,  but that is not the story for the day dear reader.

I had just escorted Julia King off stage from her keynote speech and walked her out into the sun.  As we walked over to the assembled array of EV offerings I suggested we needed to get her out in a Tesla – the convertible sports car Tesla created by Lotus to launch a lesser known brand of the time.  Julia has a withering look for people she considered either stupid or plain misguided, and the reply was that the said vehicle was a waste of valuable grid energy to achieve what any other EV couple reasonably do between two points (I paraphrase for effect a longer debate about energy policy and EVs).  15 mins later she emerged after a test driver took her out for a spin around the high speed bowl and alpine track.  The smile was suppressed as much as possible,  but the eyes gave it away and I have a moment logged in my brain for ever.


So we come to the subject of parcel deliveries and does anyone care when they have 120 stops and 200 parcels to get our in their shift? – enter Peter Harris of UPS sustainability fame.  Very early on in our collaboration his statement to Fernhay was that the delivery staff using UPS trikes in Hamburg were like ‘rock stars’.  So when we started to look beyond the function of Breathe, Fresh and Air, Peter became part of the team that drove the styling decisions for what is Breathe In (covered version) and Breathe Out (erm I think you can work it out).

The question is what importance is style when most of the time it costs money to achieve (see Steve Jobs articles for a fuller debate!)?  Surely the only thing that matters is the performance of the equipment.  Within our project together we focused on Utility Price and Style (or UPS for short)

  • Utility – decide on what is the primary and only function that matters on this piece of equipment and ensure you are best in class for quality on this issue – where quality is the best something can be for the price that is achievable for the business case to work for the customer and market
  • Price – must match what the market will stand which means you need to offer something that works at scale for the customer and turns the right profit and / or other KPI’s
  • Style – it must make people smile for the right reasons.  It must be engaging and a conversation point.  It must meet the brand expectations of the customer and it must be desirable

In the market for sustainable last mile logistics we must become more corporate if we are to go to scale.  We are still transitioning from niche organisations that are the true believers of the cause and would cycle all day because it is the right thing, towards operators that are paid to do a job and if the job is not great then they will go to another company where the job is better or the deal works better for them.  There is nothing wrong with this and clearly if we wish to make the biggest positive impact on the world we live in, we need to make the leap to sharp suits world and hard business profits (without losses).  There is probably a whole lot of philosophical discussions we could have about big business,  but as my time at The Climate Group showed,  ‘carbon down and profits up’ kind of works for the world we live in and makes an easy sell for the corporate corridors that people like Peter Harris operate in.

How did Breathe evolve?  

  • It was developed to hit Utility performance indicators – a lot of those were identified and at each stage of the design we checked against key dimensions and ambitions.  
  • We worked through the business model and benchmarked current van based costs for CAPEX and OPEX.  This is how we got to the system price we needed to achieve for companies like UPS to consider us seriously.  Its complex and its not all about the sell price for Breathe,  but it still comes down to brass tacks in the end.
  • We went through a traditional automotive styling process and had customer workshops to establish whether our clients would be happy to associate there brand with (and on) Fernhay Breathe. Note - early Breathe ‘mule’ test beds were probably considered by our clients as ‘mules of the horse and ass’ variety

We hope that what you see makes you smile for the right reasons.  For sure the step through solution is totally driven by utility, 4 wheels by package space et al... but most of all we hope it makes city residents, city policy makers, logistics directors, and the riders and walkers that deliver parcel have a good day, because who needs to walk towards a new world that is unhappy. Why get out of cars and onto cycle ways and pavements if it doesn’t make you fitter and healthier and our cities more livable.

Long live the rock stars of sustainable last mile deliveries with their Fernhay Breath of Fresh Air!





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