If you own a perfectly fine conventional automobile but want to join the EV revolution, you have two choices. Engineer an electric drivetrain swap yourself, which involves hours and hours of lying on your back on a creeper in your garage, or buying a new electric car. Now, if you live in France, there’s a third way. Transition One will take your current car, remove the existing internal combustion engine, replace it with batteries and an electric motor, and give it back to you in about 4 hours.
The first question anyone will ask is, “OK, that sounds interesting. How much does it cost to do this?” The answer is about $8,500 in round numbers. But wait. The process now has the official stamp of approval from the French government, which makes it eligible for EV incentives that can bring the total cost down to around $5,500. Once the process is complete, you will immediately derive the benefits of owning an electric car, including greatly reduced maintenance and fuel costs. Remember that gasoline costs a lot more in Europe than it does in the US. Transition One estimates the conversion will pay for itself in about 4 years time. Range after the conversion should be in excess of 100 miles — more than enough for most daily driving chores.
In addition, you will be doing your part in lowering carbon emissions. The company estimates for every 10,000 kilometers driven on electrons instead of molecules, one ton of carbon dioxide will be kept out of the atmosphere. The best part? You get to keep your old car — which you obviously love because why else would you do this? — and you won’t have grease under your finger nails at the end of the day. The idea is finding support from the Solar Impulse Foundation, the organization behind the first round the world flight by a solar powered airplane.
The idea benefits greatly from how small, front engine cars are manufactured. The engine, transmission, and the entire front suspension including brakes are mounted on a sub-frame. On the assembly line, the whole sub-frame is slapped into the car from underneath and secured to the chassis with 4 bolts. Undo those 4 bolts and the whole shebang comes out so it can be worked on easily. Rip out the engine and tranny, slap in the electric motor complete with BMS and inverter, cram it all back into the car and that’s that. Unbolt the gas tank, swap in a battery pack, connect a few wires, and you’re done.,
At present, Transition One says it can convert these conventional cars to electric power — Renault Twingo II, Fiat 500, MINI, Volkswagen Polo, Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1, Peugeot 107, Renault Clio 3, Peugeot 207, Citroën C3, Dacia Sandero, Renault Kangoo, Citroën Berlingo, and the Peugeot Partner. The transition adds a bit of connectivity as well. Drivers can track battery life and state of charge on their cell phones. They can even use it to find where they left their car after a hearty meal of tartiflette washed down with copious quantities of vin du pays.
So, does this idea make any sense? If you have a 2 year old car, maybe it does. If your car is already 10 years old with 200,000 km on the clock, maybe not. Still, it’s an intriguing idea but bear this in mind. The New 500 electric car from Fiat costs under £20,000 in the UK after all incentives.
It’s a bit like the PHEV vs battery electric conundrum. The financial calculations between retrofitting, buying a PHEV, and buying a new battery electric car are approaching parity, especially as battery prices continue to fall. Short term, retrofitting may be a smart choice. Long term, battery electric will win hands down.