Greening the final mile: 5 minutes with Gnewt founder Sam Clarke


Greening the final mile: 5 minutes with Gnewt founder Sam Clarke

August 13, 2018


For almost a decade now Gnewt (Green New Transport) has been driving change in the UK logistics market. With a background in the electric vehicle sector spanning Europe and Asia, founder Sam Clarke saw an opportunity to bring his knowledge to the UK. We caught up with Clarke to learn more about the potential for electric vehicles to revolutionise last mile delivery - and why this is only just the beginning…

PostTag (PT): What inspired you to launch a final mile business?

Sam Clarke (SC): This is my third start-up company. My second business, founded in 2003, was designing and developing electric bikes and scooters, and I soon learnt that the market here wasn’t moving quickly enough at that time.

We built Gnewt from a standing start when I realised I could convert my knowledge of electric vehicles into an affiliated and existing market.

Gnewt is a last mile multi-drop delivery company with a fully electric fleet - our electric vehicles make us a unique service offering in the last mile logistics sector.

PT: How can businesses improve last mile efficiency?

SC: For a decade I’ve been banging the electric vehicle drum. But the one thing we have failed at - and this goes for all - is to reduce congestion. We’re doing something about air quality, emissions and electrification, but companies need to consider how goods are delivered not just what they’re delivered in

At Gnewt, we’re also looking into portering models based on the traditional method of one horse and cart with several porters dropping wares to buildings. If we could create a model that uses armies of walkers with each van rather than a one man, one van model, then that might make a difference.

At the end of the day though, it all boils down to one thing - It’s about being innovative, operationally viable whilst maintaining profitability.

PT: In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of sustainable last mile practices?

SC: Technology remains a barrier. EVs have been around a long time but electric vehicles still don’t go very far. Right now it’s about using smaller vehicles as efficiently as possible, but the greatest barrier to adoption is the cost of batteries. It’s almost impossible for any fleet manager in the country to replace their fleet when the cost is so high.

Even though the long-term maths proves that EVs will pay for themselves, the upfront costs are still a bitter pill to swallow. Most EVs can cover 100 miles or less. For us that is more than enough but for many that’s nowhere near enough.

PT: How can we overcome these barriers?

SC: It comes down to partnering with companies that completely understand these challenges and how to overcome them, especially for established brands and larger companies that naturally find it much harder to diversify. Then it’s about working hard to make the maths stack up as all negotiations ultimately boil down to cost.

There’s no doubt about it, EVs are a long-term solution. There is a benefit to be had if you manage your fleet correctly.

The sustainability angle is important and becoming more of a necessity as a commercial play - not just an environmental one. In 2040, we’ll no longer be able to buy petrol or diesel vehicles in this country so businesses need to be prepared.

PT: What do the next 3 years hold for last mile delivery?

SC: Legislative intervention will play a huge role in reshaping the last mile in the years to come. For example, Oxford is planning to ban all but electric vehicles from the city centre, and I think we’ll see other cities follow suit. We’ll also see lessons from London over the past 20 or 30 years start to apply across the UK, with cities imposing their own interventions and electric only areas.

For businesses, it’s about being aware of the fact that legislative changes are coming and that it’s harder to do things last minute - especially where EVs are concerned. If supply cannot meet the increasing demand for EVs, businesses may struggle to keep up.

Being prepared now means you’ll be able to reap the rewards when the next leg of legislation starts to roll out.

Nicole Lyons