As electric vehicles come down in price, the question must be asked: Do I do an EV conversion on my beloved petrol car, or do I buy a new EV? To retrofit or not to retrofit? In Europe, China, and even America, electric cars are being produced that achieve price parity and below with existing petrol models. Despite that, there are businesses popping up every day that are putting batteries and electric motors into old petrol cars— and they are flourishing.
In Brisbane alone, there are at least 4 that I know of. There’s a French company making kits for conversions that I recently ran across, too. For €7000, they will ship an electric motor, battery, and “the bits” to your local garage to turn your Fiat 500 or your Renault Clio into an electric car. Apparently, you can buy an old Fiat for about €2000, so that would give you a cheap electric run about for around €9000 — even less with French government subsidies. On the OEM side of things, Mini is offering EV conversions for its “classic” Mini Coopers, offering them for sale in the UK with plans to roll it out to other markets.
Will the EV conversion business make sense when the cheap Chinese cars reach Europe?
A retrofitted 5-year-old Fiat 500 is still a 5-year-old car without the modern tech and connectivity. When I sold my Wolseley 24/80 last year, one of the prospective buyers was seriously considering electrifying it. I talked him out of it — it would be even more dangerous, all that power with 70-year-old brakes and suspension!
James Pauly of TractionEV in Brisbane only performs EV conversions on iconic classics. His yard has a line of VWs (Beetles and Kombis) and Land Rover Defenders to be worked on.
“You have to have the love,” he explains. “I am not competing with the likes of Nissan and Toyota. I am converting cars that there is no equivalent for.”
Since the recent spike in fuel costs, he has had a corresponding spike in enquiries and is looking to expand and take on more staff. He doesn’t believe it is economically viable to pull a 10-year-old car apart and fit it with a battery and a motor. Despite some starry-eyed environmentalists who think it would be a good idea to electrify the entire current fleet, hard-headed accountants would disagree.
“Recycling junkers is already a well-established industry. Metal recycling is quite profitable,” Pauly adds. So, to answer the question, whether to retrofit or not to retrofit, it comes down to emotional attachment juxtaposed with economic reality. Listen to your heart, then check your wallet.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Latest CleanTechnica TV Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.