Image courtesy of David Waterworth

Plug & Play Ozdiy Electric Ute Conversions

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After hearing Jo’s story about the restoration and conversion of Peppermint Pattie, I thought I would check in with Graeme Manietta at OZDIY to see what he is up to these days. He tells me that OZDIY is currently designing solutions for battery pack upgrades for the Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Leaf, and further improvements to the i-MiEV. “These are taking up all our time and spare resources right now,” he said. “The flat pack kits for Mitsubishi Triton utes is our next project and we are meeting with grant writers to seek funding to fast track it. We are starting the Research and Development soon with or without funding.” It will be plug & play technology.

Busy OZDIY workshop in Brisbane’s south. More plug & play. Image courtesy of David Waterworth

OZDIY is upgrading the batteries of 1st-generation Nissan Leafs from 24 kW to 53 kW. “They should be able to get 300 km of range.” He is also supplying components to installers in the European Union who are doing upgrades. His international customers include installers in California, Chile, and Auckland, New Zealand.

Packs are being prepared for overseas shipment to do upgrades on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Minicab. The demand for these packs is increasing. Over 50,000 i-MiEVs were sold in the EU and the USA through Mitsubishi, and also as the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn. So, there is plenty of scope for growth.

Graeme tells me he has at least ten years worth of work just upgrading the Mitsubishi Outlander. Many thousands have sold throughout Australia, where it has been the only plug-in ute for the last decade. Although the 2024 Outlander comes with a 20-kW lithium-ion battery with a range of 84 km, the original one only had a 12 kW battery. Graeme is upgrading the older Outlanders from a 12 kW to a 18 kW pack.

A boot load of batteries. Image courtesy of David Waterworth

The Outlander PHEV has received many accolades since its introduction in 2001. In 2014, it was the top selling plug-in vehicle in Europe. “During 2015, the Outlander plug-in hybrid surpassed the Leaf as the all-time top selling plug-in passenger car in Europe. In 2017, the Outlander PHEV topped plug-in hybrid sales in Europe, for the fifth year running.

“European sales passed the 100,000 unit milestone in January 2018, and global deliveries achieved the 150,000 unit mark in March 2018. The 200,000th unit milestone was attained in March 2019. Global sales reached 250,000 units in May 2020, and 300,000 units in January 2022. According to JATO Dynamics, the Outlander PHEV became the world’s all-time best selling plug-in hybrid in December 2018. As of March 2019, the Outlander plug-in hybrid was available for retail sales in 50 countries.”

So, OZDIY has a lot of potential customers. Image courtesy of David Waterworth

Graeme’s next project is the production of a flat pack conversion kit to covert the Mitsubishi Triton from diesel to electric. Nothing can frighten a Triton — especially if it is electric! “The drive system will arrive in a flat pack on a pallet — just like any other auto accessory — like a bull bar. Everything is there — all the electrics — as much of the wiring in the battery box as possible. You just hook into the wiring loom of the car.” Plug and play!

He has already used a similar method when supplying Australian mines with conversion kits for the Suzuki Sierra. “We sent them a flat pack and two men working together can fit it in a day once the petrol components are removed, 2 days if not and the parts removed may well have a 2nd life to keep another Suzuki going. Economy of scale will make it very affordable. Investors very welcome!”

“We see a tsunami of ute conversion coming. We can provide an affordable kit. If the ute is still in good nick (condition) it can be converted for half the price of an electric ute and it works better.” He’s not wrong about the costs of electric utes in Australia — the Ford F-150 Lightning converted to RHD has just been launched and costs over AUS$200,000.

As I have written previously, 2024 may well be the year of the electric ute in Australia, with the JAC T9, the LDV Maxus GST, the Geely RADAR RD6, a Ssangyong (KGM), and a PHEV ute from BYD called the Shark expected to arrive this year. Prices and range are not all announced. If OZDIY can price their conversion kits competitively, then the new entrants might find some homegrown competition. Either way, there is plenty of room in the market for electric utes.

Workshop humour. Image courtesy of David Waterworth

At a recent automotive conference in Tamworth, New South Wales, Graeme was struck by the thought that as more electric cars hit the roads, mechanics will be looking for work. With the addition of a few new skills and some electrical safety training, converting cars to electric is work that they could do — giving petrol and diesel cars another 10 years of life with as an electric powertrain. Future proofing! Classes could be run for off-grid communities using old batteries from the Leaf, the Outlander, and the i-MiEV. “Everything has a second life, and the number of batteries going to landfill is reduced.”

Electric safety equipment. Image courtesy of David Waterworth

“We could ship a kit out to the local service station at Wagga Wagga and they can fit it. With a hoist any mechanic can fit our kits. It will be plug and play in a day. The converted ute may last another 10 years.” Graeme is very positive about the business opportunities. For reference, Wagga Wagga is inland, about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Graeme’s point is that you don’t have to be at a big city workshop with lots of extra training. He is aiming for a level of simplicity so that a backyard mechanic can do the conversion. Australians love tinkering with their cars. This could be the next big project — make the Kingswood electric!

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 748 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth