Thanks to the rapid decline in lithium-ion battery prices and their increased energy storage density, we are moving into the electric car age. So much so that some countries, including France, India and the UK, are targeting to completely eliminate internal combustion engine vehicles by 2030 or 2040.
Individual cities and territories can clean petrol-driven cars step-by-step in cleaner air standards hunting more quickly.
While it is necessary for countries with stringent, net-zero emission targets to be confident of meeting their targets, this could put the consumer in a bind. A few other affordable electric cars will also push you through the tens of thousands of dollars, which is beyond the reach of many. Maybe you want to get stuck in the age of electric vehicles, but you can’t buy a newer model, or you have too many sentimental values attached to your old car. However, selling petrol aircraft for scrap seems futile.
That’s where the new French startup, the Transition One, hopes to make a difference: for a fraction of the price of the new electric car, they are offering some of the most popular car models to retrofit. For $5,600 (including government subsidy – without it, $9,000), a more efficient electric engine, batteries, and connected dashboard will be added to the car. It is compatible with the cheapest brand-new electric car for $22,000 price tag – and the entire process can be completed in less than a day.
While the complete ban on internal combustion engine vehicles may seem harsh or impossible to fulfill, it is an example of the innovation they hope to drive. Transition One hopes to begin fulfilling orders in September, after regulatory approval. The company’s founder, Emerick Libeau, hopes to raise six million euros each year to produce a factory that can retrofit thousands of vehicles.
While the idea of a fast conversion to drive your old car with electricity is appealing, there are still obstacles to overcome. Although it may be more environmentally friendly, doing so is not always economical, especially if the life expectancy of a car is limited by other components. There are ongoing concerns surrounding electric cars, including a range of concerns and a lack of fully-established charging infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
During retrofitting, multiple battery packs replace the gas tank and are mounted on the front of the car. Because sophisticated lithium-ion batteries are also much less energy-dense than gasoline, this means that inevitably more space is consumed by the fuel and for the maximum driving range.
Additionally, retrofitted cars have to pass rigorous safety tests to remain roadworthy. This is the type that has historically dealt with recycling efforts, especially if expensive bureaucracy and testing layers stand between you and your electrified car. A particularly difficult roadblock has been set up in Italy, where retrofitted cars were suddenly declared ineligible again in 2012 without express permission from the manufacturer. But Transition One and its competitors want to do this on a large scale, and with the help of the government, hope that some efficient infrastructure is established.
Previously, retrofitting efforts were largely restricted to the specification of a classic car, and this was a very appropriate operation, probably with a total of 30,000 retrofits performed. These previous retrofits are more about innovation rather than an affordable option to go electric; Some do most of their driving on vintage Porsche and have spare cash for a retrofitting project. And, if nothing else, it allows people to continue to tell their car about James Bond without being banned from the road.
Yet in the long run, there may be other industries that benefit greatly from retrofitting exercises. The progress towards developing electric vehicle fleets for vans and other heavy-duty goods is considered to be slow, but logistics and freight companies may not be able to replace their entire fleet. Complete Coach Works is a California startup that aims to do this for state buses – and rebuilding the bus is hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than building a new one from scratch.
Ultimately, retrofitting is only one part of the electric car transformation and is only likely to make sense under certain circumstances. But as we move towards revolutionary changes in our transportation system and a more sustainable, greener and cleaner lifestyle, we need every tool in the arsenal.