Is your gasoline engine on the verge of death? Converting a combustion car into an electric one is now possible. The process is known as EV retrofitting that allows you to transform your old gasoline or diesel vehicle into an electric vehicle and much more.
Now you can give your car a second life by transforming it into an EV. The cost starts at around $18,000 for small conversions and can go up to $30,000 for more complex ones.
Considering the costs, is it better to buy an EV or have your current vehicle modified? We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of retrofitting before you make your decision.
As the world calls for moderating the environmental impact of the vehicle lifecycle, converting a diesel or gasoline car to an electric one, known as EV retrofitting, appears to be a desirable solution.
Although the cost is high, you’ll turn your car into a zero-emissions vehicle that will save you thousands of dollars you spend on gasoline and maintenance. So, to limit your carbon footprint, you no longer need to change your car.
In this regard, this article will share everything that you need to know about this subject: How to convert a thermal car into an electric? What is the cost breakdown? And, is it worth converting? Let’s discuss!
What is Retrofitting?
Legalized in April 2020, EV retrofitting is the operation by which a vehicle equipped with a thermal engine- gasoline or diesel – is transformed, by an approved company, into a model running with an electric motor.
It must be done by authorized professionals who have obtained the approval authorization and their transformation process according to the strict specifications resulting from the regulations.
The objective is to dismantle the car’s original mechanics to replace it with an electric motor and batteries. This way, you can save an old vehicle offering it new mechanics, or continue to drive your favorite vehicle without emitting emissions.
Today, retrofitting is officially recognized as a sustainable mobility solution, promoting the circular economy and a job-creating activity. It is a virtuous recycling solution allowing drivers to give their thermal vehicle a second life.
This transformation also makes it possible to benefit from all the advantages of the electric vehicle, such as a limited cost of use, free parking in certain cities, the absence of traffic restrictions, and reduced maintenance.
Doing this in a hybrid is relatively simple since you have the task “half done.” The car already has an electric motor and a transmission adapted to it, but in a combustion car, gasoline or diesel, you do not have these advantages and have to start from scratch; that always means more money.
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But yes, it is possible to do it. There are companies dedicated to renovating your car and achieving benefits that are quite similar to what manufacturers are offering with their electric models today.
You give them your car; they take out all the guts and all the mechanics and put their electric unit with the electric motor (usually much smaller than a thermal one). They also equip some control devices and your car is converted!
The first part consists in ridding the machine of all the elements that have become unnecessary; the engine, the exhaust, the cooling system, the fuel tank, etc. The gearbox could be kept to reduce the total cost of the modification.
Instead, an entire architecture is mounted consisting of an electric motor, a traction battery and its charger (light vehicles) or a hydrogen fuel cell (heavy vehicles: trucks, buses, etc.), and any electronic part that allows them to function.
Apart from that and a couple of changes to the instrument panel, the car is the same as before. The batteries will be located where the gas tank and the exhaust pipe are, although they can also steal useful space from the trunk if this is not enough.
The batteries are charged in about six hours using an ordinary plug and socket like those at home.
Once the conversion has been carried out, a certificate of conformity is sent by the conversion kit manufacturer. This document is essential to obtain an update of the vehicle registration document from the prefecture.
The batteries will be located where the gas tank and the exhaust pipe are, although they can also steal useful space from the trunk if this is not enough.
Apart from that and a couple of changes to the instrument panel, the car is totally the same as it was before. The batteries are charged in about six hours using an ordinary plug and socket like those at home.
These transformations are focused on utility and light commercial vehicles. If you also do not have a car to give them to transform it, but you like the idea, they also sell complete units transformed by them.
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Is it Worth Converting a Car into an Electric One?
Converted electric cars are pretty similar to the alternatives offered by the first-hand market for electric vehicles. You get a system with similar power and autonomy as an average electric car and even an unusually high top speed for an electric.
The figures show that retrofitting offers between 120 and 180 kilometers of autonomy, depending, of course, on the driving style, 140 km being a good average that you can take as a reference. The motor offers 84 horsepower, which in electrical jargon is about 60 kilowatts.
The batteries are lithium, and the manufacturer estimates their life in about nine or ten years if you use them to do 100 km a day, more or less. The maximum speed is 150 km/h.
As discussed above, there is the possibility of having an electric propulsion system with a gearbox. It may sound a bit bizarre, but it can even be a bonus.
Mechanics experts can understand that the electric motor is attached to the clutch, connecting to the gearbox and the wheels.
Therefore, when you’re talking about manual cars, although being an electric motor that drives the car, with its flexibility and its wide range of revolutions in which it can work, you can go from the gearbox without fear of getting stuck in traffic lights.
Now it’s time to talk about the downside of these transformations, which is the price, of course.
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The Cost of Converting a car into an EV – Is it Worth it?
As mentioned above, the cost starts from $18,000 up to $30,000 according to the vehicle type and the battery size. The battery size determines the final autonomy of the vehicle.
Although it is not little, it is still not crazy to get an EV. As always, there will be people who may be interested and people who may not.
These converted cars are more oriented to the urban and peri-urban terrain where they express their true potential and can delight many users as fleet cars or light delivery vans, saving thousands of bucks on gasoline, maintenance, breakdowns, and blue zones.
So, what is worth more, converting a car for around $18,000 or going to Tesla, Lucid Motors, or other manufacturers to buy a new electric vehicle with the guarantee and security provided by the brand for thousands more? There’s no definite answer for this, but the good news is that there are alternatives for consumers now.
Some people prefer the conventional aesthetics of lifelong cars, and electrification of these characteristics can save more than one car with mechanical breakdowns. It is a good option and even economically profitable.
In addition, costs are expected to decrease in the future thanks to increasing sales and purchasing volumes of batteries and parts. And even more, if the State participates in the conversion bonus, which seems appropriate.
Read What to Do When Your Electric Car Runs Out of Charge?
What are the Conditions to be Respected for the Retrofit?
The transformation of a car into an electric vehicle is possible if it respects certain conditions defined by the decree:
- Battery: It is possible with a motor power supply from a traction battery or a hydrogen fuel cell.
- Vehicle conformity: the device must guarantee the initial conformity of the vehicle. The conversion must not change the dimensions of the base vehicle.
- Engine: the power of the new electric motor must not exceed the original power of the converted thermal vehicle.
- Vehicle weight: the car must not vary by more than 20% after conversion.
- Conversion: can only be carried out by a professional established in France and authorized by a manufacturer of retrofit kits.
- In addition, retrofitting is not for everyone. Only combustion-powered cars over five years old and 2 and 3 wheel motor vehicles over three years old are eligible for retrofitting.
Each converted vehicle receives a “prototype approval,” a transformation plate is then affixed to the converted vehicle, next to the manufacturer. It includes the name of the kit manufacturer, the vehicle’s VIN, that of receipt of the prototype approval, and the motif “conversion of the engine to electric.”
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Benefits of Retrofitting
- Price: the first advantage is undoubtedly the price. Although it costs a substantial sum, it is still lower than purchasing a new “zero-emission” car. Currently, the cheapest EVs on the market is around $25,000
- No loss of identity: the law requires that the conversion to electric, which involves heavy interventions on the chassis, does not change the car’s originality. For example, the weight and mass distribution must not vary by more than 20%. The car, when modified, should not vary much.
- Environmental movement: An EV improves the air quality and concerns rather old vehicles. Models that are often quite polluting, which, perhaps tomorrow, will be banned in areas where low-emission zones are multiplying at high speed. Giving a second “electric” life to a thermal car is a good idea to fight against global warming.
Cons of Retrofitting
With a conversion cost much cheaper than buying a new EV, retrofitting may interest some people. However, it has a few drawbacks:
- Autonomy: it will inevitably be significantly below what “real” electric cars offer. If the price can be an advantage, it will be necessary to ignore a range -record: a few hundred kilometers depending on the vehicle. This is nevertheless sufficient for the commute to work or the journeys in the city but not really for going on vacation.
- Reliability: the second drawback is reliability compared to the manufacturers such as Renault, Tesla or Lucid Motors.
- Price: if the price is an advantage, it is also a disadvantage, and it deserves reflection. In absolute terms, it is indeed much less than the purchase of a new electric car. Still, some of the first used EV models are now trading at a much lowered price, technically more successful and reliable and offering a range at least twice as long as a retrofitted vehicle.
You may also like:
- Benefits of Electric Cars Other than Just Being Cost-Effective
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- What kind of batteries used in electric cars
However, without further going over its drawback or the reasons for buying an EV instead of retrofitting, remember that the conversion makes it possible to moderate the footprint of your thermal car’s journey than to destroy it or allow to circulate it.
Through retrofitting, you can give a second life to your old vehicle and avoid CO2 emissions and pollutants linked to the premature destruction of a machine. It is, therefore, an ideal option for the cost it takes.
My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.