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New rules for electric car conversions revealed

Companies who have been pushing for the measure, are now racing to get their electric conversion schemes recognised by the authorities, with most saying they hope to have the first vehicles delivered to clients by next year

29 April 2020
By Brian McCulloch

Regulations allowing petrol or diesel engine cars, vans and motorbikes to be converted to electric vehicles have been published by the French government.

Companies who have been pushing for the measure, are now racing to get their electric conversion schemes recognised by the authorities, with most saying they hope to have the first vehicles delivered to clients by next year.

“It is very good news,” Aymeric Libeau, the CEO of Orleans based Transition One told The Connexion.

“Because of the lock-down the whole business is working from home but we have all started looking at the papers, and doing the engineering studies that will be needed in the file when we make our first applications.”

The regulations apply to cars and vans which are over five years old and motorbikes, including mopeds, which are over three years old.

France is one of the last EU countries to allow electric conversions, and they will have to be done by or under the supervision of people holding approvals for specific models.

Transition One is concentrating on second-generation Renault Twingo models and modern Fiat 500s.

Mr Libeau said he expected the approval process to cost €5,000 per model and he chose the Twingo and Fiat 500 because there were a lot of them on the road, usually used as second vehicles.

At the moment the company is looking at a price of €5,000 with all taxes paid to convert cars bought to it, or its future network of partners.

For that price the cars will have a range of around 100km from a 15KwH battery, which will recharge from a domestic wall plug in three or four hours and from a six kilowatt wall box in an hour and a half.

“We are looking for people who use the car to go to work, with the average distance to and from work driven each day in France being 26 km,” he said.

“They are also cars which are used by many local authorities and we hope to be able to interest them in conversions too. After all even a small car like the Twingo puts around a tonne of CO2 in the air from its exhaust each year under normal conditions.”

Not all companies are looking at small practical cars. The company RetroFuture, whose co-founder spoke to The Connexion for an article in the November issue, is aiming to have a approval for two Porsche sports cars, a 504 coupé, a Fiat 500 and a Triumph Spitfire.

“It is a bit crazy doing it all at once,” said Arnaud Pigounides, the co-owner.

“But we have planned so long for this to happen that we have already done some of the work.

After the first batch of applications, he is already planning a second wave, which will include an electric Land Rover.

Mr Pigounides is also the president of a lobby group formed to push for retro-fit electric cars and said he expected all 12 members to have projects lined up.

Other cars Transition One are considering getting approvals for include the Toyota Aygo, Citroën C1 and Peugeot 107 family, the VW Polo, third generation Renault Clio, the Dacia Sandero, Minis, the Renault Kangoo and the Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner.

The larger vehicles in the list will probably be offered with a 200 km range, which will bring the price of the conversion to around €11,000, with the difference being in the price of the extra batteries added.

“In theory you can convert any car, but we looked at converting a big Audi Q7 to an electric vehicle with 400 km range for a potential client, and the weight of the batteries and the distribution of the weight meant you would have then have had to change all sorts of things, like the suspension. It just would not make financial or engineering sense,” Mr Libeau said.

Engine blocks of the cars that have been converted by Transition One will be melted down to ensure that they do not emit anymore carbon dioxide, while auxiliary parts, such as radiators and alternators will be sold as spare parts.

The company’s business plan is to grow the company using a circular economy model, with the electric motors and electronic controls all sourced from France, and only the battery cells having to be imported, mainly from China, South Korea or Japan.

A network of garages will be formed, all trained and able to convert cars using the procedures in the Transition One approval, with each conversion signed off by the company.

Plans, before the coronavirus, were to raise €6 million to fund expansion, through venture capitalists, banks and a crowd-sourced inspired share sale.

“Instead of raising money through a crowd-source site with a promise to pay it back with interest, we think it will be more interesting to raise money through a share issue to interested people,” he said.

“There are some individuals who have come to us asking how they can invest with us, proposing sums from €1,000 to €30,000, and that is one way we can let people, who do not have €6 million in their back pocket, to help invest in the company. For the rest, we had interest from a number of venture capitalists, and banks, but they all were waiting for the government regulations to be issued. Now we can go-ahead full steam, as soon as the virus restrictions are lifted.”

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