'Keeping it clean' with Carl Bayliss
The fourth instalment of the ‘keeping it clean’ blog series, which features interviews with a variety of experts in the world of sustainability, clean technology and future mobility.
After the recent announcement last week, that Lotus and Centrica have agreed a partnership to redesign electric vehicle ownership, I was lucky enough to interview Carl Bayliss, the Vice President of Mobility & Home Energy at Centrica.
Carl has a diverse and rich understanding of operations within the luxury automotive industry, built though an impressive career. He has worked for an array of organisations at the top of their game including Ferrari, Porsche, Bugatti, Infiniti and most recently as Head of Electric Vehicle & Energy Services for Nissan, before joining Centrica last year.
I was excited to find out more about Carl, how he got to where he is and of course the new partnership with Lotus; this partnership aims to create a new model of integrating connected customers, connected cars and connected homes. They are planning on building a flexible platform designed to power a future digital mobility lifestyle, and delivering a global sustainability programme targeting net zero carbon across Lotus operations.
Carl, it’s safe to guess you may have a passion for cars, but how did that lead you to where you are now?
It’s been a long road and actually! I’ve always been very close to innovation within the automotive industry, working with the most cutting edge companies. It’s really interesting to see how the innovation from the supercar market is adopted elsewhere; being front and centre of these technological advancements, is what has kept me interested for so long.
Working abroad has given me the opportunity to experience different cultures, and better understand the way people live, work and travel all over the world. Also, it’s been interesting to see how energy, both renewable and fossil fuels, is used and the way we respect and challenge the norms for decarbonisation.
Having returned from a few years in Asia, I came back to the UK, and prior to Centrica, I looked after innovation and launched new energy services with Nissan. We were building out the customer experience far beyond the car, so I got to see firsthand people with solar panels creating microgrids and looking for modes of transport supported by this. People who were choosing EVs and wanting to power them with renewables. A real convergence of home energy and mobility.
Is it much more interesting working in the world of EV than the wider automotive industry?
Yes, it’s been great, the adjacent industries of automotive and energy now have a common playground in electric vehicles. It’s created an entirely new customer journey; electrification, the interaction with data, the connectivity and the customer interaction have changed dramatically. We now stream our favourite music, use route planning tech, we are more conscious about consumption and running costs; partly due to regulations and partly the natural inquisitiveness of people into new technology.
The electric vehicle offers a new generation of technology which interfaces with us as people going from point A to point B . A new phenomena which means I can leave home with 100% charge and not need to go to a petrol station; I know how far I can go and have extra awareness of the different aspects of my journey and that is where it becomes very interesting with both energy and mobility.
Let’s talk about the partnership…
We are redefining the experience between owning a car and how it interacts with the home, my connected being, what are my preferences and what I do habitually. It makes for a seamless, single point of access into my energy and mobility solutions at home and on the move.
Owning an electric vehicle isn’t the same as owning an internal combustion engine car. We see a future where the customer, car and home are connected, enabling new services beyond charging the car, and new products and experiences replacing the unremarkable standard relationship with energy and the ownership of a car today. Lotus is the perfect partner as we embark on this, given the recognition and appeal of the brand globally and the fact that it is right at the beginning of its electrification journey.
What is unique about Lotus?
We found the perfect partner in Lotus because this is the start of their journey, as they implement their vision and strategy. We are approaching it as a new generation, starting with a clean sheet of paper, so there is limitless opportunity — no precedent, no legacy and therefore no compromise!
What do you think will be the biggest impact of these changes?
Not only are we supporting the end product in Lotus’ net zero story, we are also planning to help decarbonise their manufacturing process; supporting electrification through solar panels, batteries and really driving down the carbon footprint of vehicle production. We are well placed to support everything possible including their employees, business partners and dealerships — so really, that entire vertical from manufacturer, through to product and then the customer! At every stage we are really looking to drive down carbon consumption and realise their net zero ambitions.
What is the best way to encourage change?
Having seen how people respond to change, whether that is through enlightenment in what they are doing with their home energy management systems, be that solar or smart controls, adopting new technologies, or in their transition to electric vehicles, I believe the power of change through sampling it is far stronger rather than buying into the myths. My rally call would be to implore people to experience the next generation of products and they will likely adopt them!
What do you see as the main challenges facing the automotive sector in the coming years?
The transition and investments needed for electrified platforms. We have already seen through acquisitions and joint ventures that a number of brands who have been successful on their own for many years, are now starting to consolidate and reaching even greater success!
We should acknowledge that this pandemic is accelerating the change of behaviours which we’ve anticipated and have now begun to realise. We need to consider whether we should go back to how we used to operate?
The path to purchase is now very different, the traditional distribution network is changing, so click to buy for example is going to disrupt the sector. I think that people’s view around owning vehicles is changing too, and we have already seen a shift towards people leasing cars and not owning them over the last 10 years.
Do you think car sharing will reach the high-end market?
People will want more choice. Some manufacturers are very well set up for this, with subscriptions to access different products within the range. I think that base model will start to proliferate and yes, for high end cars, it’s something that’s likely to happen.
In the ultra-high net worth category, owning because it is a collectable, a piece of art is very important to some. You will still have people with aspirational ownership, but accessibility will also be important, and if you look at some of the large brands across the world they’ve already started. You can now pay a premium, even for a month to have a very high end car and then drop back down for your every day car. So accessibility and choice is another consumer demand which has changed massively over the last 10 years.
If we could turn back the clock 10 years, what should we’ve done differently?
In hindsight, it is 2020, we should’ve seen the decarbonisation strategies across industries coming. We should’ve reacted and responded earlier.
A lot of change has happened in the last 10 years in the automotive sector, where we’ve invested heavily in ICE technology; making cleaner petrol and diesel engines. Ultimately the answer is an advanced alternative fuel vehicle. Electrification of vehicles is something we should’ve taken more seriously 10 years ago when Tesla and Nissan were already breaking into the market; this would’ve set ourselves up for a stronger adoption curve.
I do think at this point we would still have fossil fuel vehicles, perhaps in heavy goods, perhaps in buses, but as legislation and regulation has pushed decarbonised transport to the top of the agenda, we have already seen massive accelerations in the adoptions of electrified technologies, both retrofit and new products. If you take the bus segment as an example, it is one of the fastest growing electrified segments out of any of the modes of transports, and I think if we adopted that curve earlier, we would be taking millions of litres of diesel off the roads every year.
If you had one wish for the future of our planet what would it be and how do you think we can get there?
One wish for the future of our planet is that we learn to respect the resources, strive for cleaner air and quieter streets, and do our very utmost to reduce our impact on the environment.
We need a joined up, single minded approach on how to tackle the issue, we do an awful lot in our own industries, and within our own power, but you can’t help but think that the public sector and private sector could be more connected, as well as consumer behaviour, as well as regulation and legislation, and aspirations and innovation. There is a lot to join up, but I think we all have the will, but we need to move towards a common view in order to address the future of the planet.
Connect with us to keep the clean discussion going… and if you would like to feature in the series, do get in touch! 🌏
And here is a link to the partnership press release: https://www.centrica.com/media-centre/news/2020/lotus-and-centrica-agree-partnership-to-redesign-electric-vehicle-ownership/