Why Wait For A New Electric Truck When You Can Upcycle Your Old Gas Guzzler?

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Electric truck makers are cheering for new legislation that pushes their diesel-powered counterparts off the road, but diesel owners and fleet managers are not so happy. The big question is how to dump thousands of old diesel trucks into a market racing towards electrification. Diesel-to-electric conversion kits could provide a solution, so let’s take a look at that.

Upcycle Your Old Diesel Truck To An Electric Truck

Electric vehicle conversion kits for passenger cars have been around for a while (see more CleanTechnica coverage here), and you can also get kits to convert your regular bicycle to an e-bike.

Converting a diesel truck is a bit more of an engineering challenge, but the pressure is on to ramp up the electric truck pipeline, and conversion could help supplement the output of new vehicles. Here in the US, the push for electric trucks got a shot of adrenaline last April, when California passed a new law that phases out the sale and operation of medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Electric truck conversion activity is already beginning to pick up in other parts of the world. In the UK, for example, the startup Lunaz is remaking a fleet of old diesel garbage trucks into zero emission electric vehicles for the waste hauling firm Biffa, and the firm SEA Electric ramping up its commercial diesel-to-electric business in Australia.

New Opportunities For Automotive Stakeholders

The conversion industry is also attracting interest from older automotive firms. That includes Renault, which announced that it is dipping a toe in the diesel-to-electric conversion waters in October, beginning with a 12-tonne (about 13.2 US tons) retrofit.

Another example is the German firm Promwad, which is applying its 20 years of software and hardware engineering experience to help convert gas and diesel fleet vehicles to battery power. The current focus is on smaller garbage trucks and other utility vehicles. Boats are included in the effort, too.

“The company believes its services will be in high demand as the EU and other regions in the world enact stricter controls on CO2 emissions,” the company notes, citing new regulations in Norway as well as California.

“The conversion of diesel and petrol trucks to electric power will enable our client’s company to attract new customers not only in the DACH [Germany-Austria-Switzerland] region but also in the EU: electric-powered utility trucks are in demand in European cities, as the EU has an environmental zone regulation which restricts the entry of large diesel or petrol-powered vehicles,” they add.

Promwad provides behind-the-scenes services to clients in the truck conversion industry. As an example, the company describes how its team refined the electric truck controller system for a client, to ensure that dashboard displays would reflect signals from the electric drive, not the out-of-commission internal combustion engine. The work also involved replacing sensors that were removed with the engine.

US Startup Revs Up Electric Truck Conversion

Here in the US, the startup Evolectric has been pitching the upcycling angle with its proprietary CircularEV system, which leverages upcycling and other waste-reducing circular economy principles.

“We integrate circular economy principles with the latest EV technology to make EV adoption the best long-term choice for your business – and the planet,” the company states.

Evolectric company got some big news on September 12, when the newly launched investment firm Seismic Capital Company announced plans for investing $15 million to help scale up its the electric truck conversion activity. The arrangement is to include an administrative assist enabling Evolectric to concentrate on refining its technology.

“By focusing on existing vehicles, Evolectric avoids the supply chain, development, and validation bottlenecks, explained Evolectric Co-Founder, Co-CEO, and CTO Bill Beverly in a press statement. “Scaling our electrification solutions ensures our customers can quickly meet their long-term zero-emission targets.”

“Software enhancements, such as vehicle-to-grid technology, will benefit our customers beyond the vehicle conversion,” Beverly added, referring to bidirectional charging. Vehicle-to-grid systems enable an electric truck to use its battery as a power generator, providing electricity back to the grid when needed. Similar systems also enable electric vehicles to power home electrical systems, tools and equipment, and military facilities among other uses.

Evolectric is new to the CleanTechnica radar, but they have attracted attention from LACI, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. We’re reaching out to confirm that plans for the Seismic investment are moving forward, so stay tuned for more on that.

Everybody Wants An Electric Pickup Truck

The pickup truck market is also ripe for conversion. Pickup trucks continue to be a popular choice for US auto buyers, whether they really need the extra cargo space or not.

Ford is among the legacy automakers to make bank on new electric versions of their iconic pickups, and wait times have dropped. Still, it’s not like you can find one waiting whenever you stroll into your local dealer, and a conversion kit would help ease the bottleneck. Back in 2021, Ford teased the idea of dropping a new high-performance electric motor into your old gas guzzler, though it seems the idea has yet to catch on with the general public.

In the meantime, GM’s Chevrolet branch has stepped up its plans for marketing the eCrate soup-to-nuts electric conversion kit. The kit can be applied to “most” gasmobiles, presumably including pick-up trucks, but the last time we checked it will only be available in limited quantities.

What About The Heavy-Duty Conversions?

So far most of the activity has revolved around lighter duty trucks, but activity is also stirring at the heavier end of the spectrum. Last December CleanTechnica’s David Watersworth got the scoop on semi electric truck conversions from the firm Janus Electric, which does business in the US and Australia.

The Irish company Cool Planet Group has also leveraged its pickup truck conversion business into an order for thousands of mining truck conversions.

Then there’s Toyota, which may also get the last laugh on fuel cell electric technology. The company’s Mirai hydrogen fuel cell passenger car has been struggling to catch on in the US, but the long haul trucking industry is picking up on the potential advantages of fuel cell mobility compared to battery power, including longer range, lighter weight, and faster fueling times.

Last April, Toyota announced that it has received the all-important thumbs up from the California Air Resources Board for its new heavy-duty fuel cell electric powertrain conversion kit, which includes hydrogen fuel storage tanks, fuel cell stacks, batteries, electric motors and transmission. The company plans to manufacture the kits for sale at its plant in Kentucky.

What’s Next For Electric Trucks?

In other electric truck news, if all goes according to plan your friendly neighborhood ice cream truck will no longer spill diesel fumes onto the lines of children waiting for their ice cream.

While New York City is considering a bill that would ban the polluting trucks, automakers like Nissan have already gotten a headstart on the zero emission electric ice cream truck concept, so stay tuned for more on that.

Image: Parts included in the eCrate electric conversion kit (courtesy of Chevrolet).

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3147 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey