I recently had a chat with Christoffer Holmsteen, founder of Greenelimo, an international booking company for zero-emissions limousine service that operates the only 100% zero emissions limousine fleet in Denmark. Below are his response to a few of my questions.
What was your inspiration to start the company?
Having worked in the high-end service industry for now 30 years, in 4 and 5 star hotels and first-class limousine services in Copenhagen and New York City, a couple of years ago I began the journey to own and operate my own companies in the travel and passenger transportation industry.
When I first read about Tesla’s plans for their Model S about 15 years ago, I was extremely excited and decided I was going to own one. Today I operate the Tesla Model X 100D, the only one on a limousine permit in Denmark, with my business partner. Indeed ours is the country’s only 100% zero-emissions limo fleet.
During the 9th grade I spent a year at a school operated by the controversial Danish organization Tvind. While they for good reason have attracted a lot of negative press, they were the first in our tiny Scandinavian nation to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine, in 1978, “Tvindmøllen” (the Tvind Mill).
Alongside the wind power project, they also developed the first electric car I ever heard of, “Dråben,” (the Drop).
As I also learned to sail by the force of wind that year, this planted a seed in me that has grown into a strong desire and firm commitment to work tirelessly for sustainable growth.
That winter, at the age of 15, I traveled with the school on a very primitive 2 month journey to North Africa in an old bus.
As a very independent soul since childhood, brought up very freely in an artist family to navigate my own road through life, and having spent most of my basic school years at a Rudolf Steiner School in Aarhus that further empowered my independence, it was a natural choice for me to become an entrepreneur.
What’s your future ambition? Please explain your green luxury business model.
My ambition with being a first mover is to show not only clients, but also my colleagues in the luxury passenger transportation industry, that it is indeed possible to provide the same level of first-class service and superb comfort while being sustainable, all at the same time.
Other limousine operators still tell me they don’t view Tesla as luxurious as Mercedes. To that I can only reply that all my clients with no exception absolutely love our X. Our 5 passenger (2-2-2, 6 seater) in fact offers features only available in a fully loaded Mercedes S-Class (and not in the E- and V-Class) like electrically adjustable rear seats.
Having driven hundreds of thousands of kilometers in the wonderful Mercedes flagship, I will admit to reminiscing about the massage and ventilation features not currently available from Tesla. However, not one single S-Class passenger of mine ever asked for those.
Adding to that the lack of any engine noise, and the amazing handling and air suspension of the electrified limousine, makes the smooth ride complete.
Whenever I chauffeur guests around to Copenhagen sights, the falcon-wing doors attract almost as much camera action as the Little Mermaid, adding to the fun experience.
Being a first mover can be a lonely journey along a challenging road. But by going that extra mile, and proving it can indeed be done with great success, it is my ambition to not only attract enough of a customer base to stay financially sustainable, but also to inspire other operators to renew their fleets and become direct competitors. Because, in the process, we will all, together, be contributing to the overall goal: To clean up the environment that so evidently is key to the survival of our species.
In order to inspire real change, it is imperative to spearhead the transformation within our individual fields, which will inevitably lead to the change needed.
How will you deal with the game-changing capabilities of future full self-driving vehicles?
As we speak, the Danish government just approved the first trial for a driverless minibus service. So it is coming, no doubt about it. So we better adjust, and fast!
While I envision taxi and public bus operations merging into one on-demand app service, with small flexible and driverless vehicles, I do see a potential for first-class limousine service to survive. However, there is one focus we cannot lose sight of if we wish to survive as an industry: Service!
Meanwhile, many operators try to compete on price, but in the long term I believe they are digging their own graves. There is no bottom for that endless spiral to reach, ensuring that a limo will end up nothing more than a glorified taxi. So how to stop that from happening, and ensure the survival of the chauffeured limousine service industry?
I see no alternative to strengthening the two points that should be the main focus of this industry: Sustainability and Service.
The age of large gas-guzzling badly utilized vehicular behemoths, taking up traffic space all for just one passenger, is dead!
However, an industry that offers unparalleled service in an environmentally sustainable manner stands a good chance of survival in the age of full self-driving vehicles.
How do you plan to expand geographically? The new Cybertruck could certainly open up exotic markets!
Today there is just one continent without a functioning limousine service, namely Antarctica. Admittance to the only continent I personally have yet to visit is thankfully strictly controlled, in order to keep human influence to a minimum.
Indeed, with the arrival of Tesla’s unmatched zero-emissions Cybertruck, my dream of carrying paying guests on an expedition to the very South Pole might just have come within range.
As a matter of fact, I’m currently selling seats in participating vehicles for 2 separate races around the world in zero-emissions vehicles in 2020. (Read more at www.80dr.com, www.80edays.com, and in this CleanTechnica article). The experience will be extremely exclusive, and one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures you tell your grandkids about.
In addition, it’s a great marketing platform for producers of sustainable solutions, accompanied by great media attention (including National Geographic). We even provide your own film and media crew, and a TV series with celebrities racing sustainably around the earth is one possible outcome.
Currently, we are in talks with a Chinese producer of a travel and sports TV program with 800 million viewers. However, one of the most valuable experiences I see is for a company to send their best clients or employees off on the team-building mission or incentive trip of a lifetime, which will serve to prove that a sustainable business model is no less fun or exclusive. Deniers continue to claim EVs still do not have the range needed. This will prove them wrong!
These special projects aside, in addition to operating our zero-emissions limousine business in Denmark, we are busy connecting with affiliates around the world who also operate sustainable chauffeur services. Take a place like California, where you have maybe 20 Tesla operators. Then there is my old hometown of New York City. So progressive on so many fronts, strangely, the city has just one or two Tesla limousine service companies.
However, I’m in continuous talks with my good friends and former employers there, whose chauffeur service is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the city, on how to transform their operation.
Who is your client base? Now and in the future?
With even corporate America going green, and environmentally progressive presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, it is only a matter of time when everyone will follow.
While Denmark is viewed as being at the forefront of sustainable development, and just introduced a new law that will cut our greenhouse emissions by 70%, there is still much to be done.
Thankfully, Copenhagen is home to many first-moving sustainable companies, which constitute our natural client base, as we are still the only provider which can ensure a 100% zero-emissions first-class passenger transportation service.
Their fellow business leaders around the world, who have committed to the UN Sustainability Goals, are certain to choose the environmentally friendly services we offer in cooperation with our international affiliate partners.
All photos courtesy of Greenelimo