New EVs are pretty nice in 2023, and the options are expanding. Range is reasonable for most people’s needs, fast charging options are improving, and the technology in EVs makes for a great driving experience. But, not everyone wants to drive a new car. Automotive styles are constantly changing, and the latest and greatest thing isn’t for everybody. Some people don’t want everything to happen on a touchscreen, and they like their traditional automotive gauges. For some people, they have a car they’ve owned for decades, and they’re interested in driving an EV, but don’t want to part with their beloved friend that’s been with them on all those adventures and drives to work.
Renault seems to understand this, and is doing something about it. R-FIT1 has teamed up with it to launch extraordinary electric retrofit kits in France, specifically tailored for the beloved Renault 4, 5 and first generation Twingo. Starting in September 2023, French customers will be able to purchase the Renault 5 electric retrofit kit. The Twingo version of the same kit will hit stores at a later date.
At the renowned classic auto show, Rétromobile, visitors will be able to take a closer look at three retrofitted models showcased on the Renault stand. Questions and inquiries can be made before added with their order for an electric retrofit kit of their own through our partner R-FIT. Starting February 1st, these kits will be available online for €11,900 (including VAT and installation).
“We are overjoyed about launching these electric retrofit kits that will enable people who love their classic cars and young people to drive in France in our iconic Renault 4, Renault 5 and Twingo, powered by electricity,” said Hugues Portron, Director of The Originals Renault – la collection. “In addition to the circular economy created by these new electric engine fits, the electric retrofit kits offer a solution that combines the pleasure of driving with savings and reliability without taking anything away from the style and the original designs of these well-loved timeless classics.”
What The Kit Includes
Unlike a new EV from most manufacturers, you’ll end up keeping the transmission. This is common in retrofit kits because the expense of retrofitting a gear reducer comes with significant cost, and with a manual transmission, there’s no reason to replace it. You can leave it in second or third gear, and just drive the vehicle like any other EV. Electric motors don’t stall!
Plus, you’ll have gear options for extreme torque and more efficient highway driving, so there are advantages.
The kit basically replaces the ICE engine with a brushless synchronous motor. The press release doesn’t detail whether it’s an AC or DC system, but for conversions a DC motor is just fine. Rfitvintage’s website doesn’t tell us either, so it’s probably safe to assume it’s a DC system as those are very common in conversions. The pack is 105 volts, so it’s very likely a DC system.
The battery pack is built with LiFePo4 (aka LFP) battery cells, making for great durability and safety. Capacity is 10.7 kWh. The approximate driving range is only 80 km (50 miles), so that’s going to be a downside to anybody who wants to go on long adventures with the car. Charging time on a typical European wall outlet (16 amps, 220 volts) is 3 hours and 30 minutes, so it will definitely work well for commuting and other applications where you can charge while you sleep or work.
One big advantage to such a small battery pack is that the weight distribution, and thus the handling characteristics of the vehicle remain unchanged. The motor outputs up to 48 kW, which is similar in performance to the original small gasoline engines. Another thing that will be similar to original is the battery gauge, which should be integrated into the dash in a way that it doesn’t poke you in the eye.
Finally, it has a two-year warranty, so you’re not just getting a “Good luck!” from your friend who put the thing together in his garage with a forklift motor. It’s guaranteed to run. The kit has also passed relevant safety testing at UTAC (the French car, motorcycle, and bicycle technical union), so you can be confident that you’ve got a safe vehicle.
Another advantage to this kit is that you get all of the certification documents after it’s installed. This means you can get the vehicle registered as an electric vehicle and get all of the advantages that come with that.
The Upsides To Retrofitting An Older Vehicle
The obvious benefit to an EV is that it doesn’t emit harmful exhaust, and that’s good both for air quality in cities and climate change. For the individual driver in the short term, converting an old Renault to run on electric power could even mean a free pass into low emissions zones, which could be very helpful.
But, that’s only the beginning of the environmental benefits. Making the chassis of an EV costs around 5 kg of CO2 emissions per pound of vehicle, which can add up to a lot of emissions when vehicles weigh thousands of pounds, and that’s before you even consider the emissions that come from making battery cells. Retrofitting an older vehicle means that you don’t have to count those emissions. You’re reusing the chassis and don’t need to build a new one.
An older vehicle might not give you the safety benefits, luxuries, and technology that a new EV does, but you’re ultimately building a cleaner vehicle than a new EV, at least in terms of lifetime emissions. Add in the small battery compared to new EVs, and the emissions start lower there as well.
A classic vehicle obviously isn’t for everybody. Many people want the better crash safety, creature comforts, and modern technology that comes with a new EV. But, for people who just want to electrify a classic ride and make it cleaner and who don’t want all of the bells and whistles of a newer car, an EV conversion like this that’s backed by the manufacturer could prove to be an excellent and clean alternative.
Featured image provided by Renault.
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