Start-up transforms a city car into an EV
A French start-up wants to convert old diesel and petrol cars into electric models – for barely 5.000 euros. Not everyone is convinced.
Conversion costs 8.500 euros
The French entrepreneur and activist Aymeric Libeau founded Transition-One. With his start-up, he wants to give old diesel and petrol cars an electric makeover on an industrial scale. Libeau has his prototype ready. He took the combustion engine and fuel tank from an old Renault Twingo (built in 2009) and put in an electric motor and Tesla batteries.
According to him, the conversion costs 8.500 euros, but tax incentives could bring the price down to 5.000 euros. However, this seems very unlikely, as buyers of a second-hand EV are not entitled to eco-premiums either.
“Not everyone can afford a new electric car,” says Libeau. “We must also have the courage to innovate with existing technology,” he says. His prototype has an autonomy of 100 kilometers. The car is primarily intended for shorter journeys, for example in the city.
In addition to the conversion costs, the customer must, of course, also give money to a suitable donor car, and you can quickly pay it 5.000 euros if you want a vehicle that still has some life expectancy. In this sense, a converted EV is not necessarily cheaper than a second-hand Mitsubishi i-Miev, Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf.
Realistic but complex
According to Mark Pecqueur, Professor of Automotive Technology at Thomas More College, it is relatively easy to convert a car. “You can replace the combustion engine with an electric one. The price tag also seems realistic, because the highest cost is the battery. But for a small car with a limited range, this seems realistic. More important issues are the brakes and the suspension, which have to be adapted because of the higher weight. Finally, after the conversion, the car has to go through all the homologation tests again,” Pecqueur adds.
Motoring journalists find this approach interesting from a technical point of view because it preserves the classic manual gearbox. In this way, the engine speed remains much lower than with the electric cars of today.
These electric cars have a fixed ratio, so that the engine speed at highway speed is out of control (more than 10.000 rotations per minute), just like the energy consumption. That’s why your range is shrinking rapidly when driving at these high speeds.
For the ‘converted’ cars, an additional question is whether the classic gearbox and clutch will be able to digest the much higher engine torque of the electric motor?
Transition-One employs seven people, wants to industrialize its technology, and extend it to other models, such as the Citroën C1, Peugeot 107, Fiat 500 and Volkswagen Polo. “In the end, it should be possible to convert a car in four hours,” says Libeau, who is looking for 6 million euros.