Stellantis has signed an agreement with French retrofitting specialist Qinomic to investigate the business case of retrofitting EV powertrains to light commercial vehicles (LCVs) to ensure their continued usability within low-emission zones. This could also be interesting for Belgium.
No big plans have yet been announced by Stellantis: the partnership with Qinomic merely seeks to create a proof of concept to convert combustion-powered vans into electric vehicles in an economically viable way. Theoretically, this should be cheaper than buying a new electric van while allowing LCV drivers to enter more stringent low-emission zones.
Official type approval
Interestingly, this Stellantis-supported retrofitting process would ensure OEM quality, specifications, safety, and… type approval, which is precisely what is needed for retrofitting to be legal in Belgium.
Right now, there is no way to register an EV converted by a third party; you need to get it registered in a neighboring country before importing it back to Belgium. This solution by Stellantis would solve that problem, at least for LCVs.
Stellantis or Qinomic has given no details, but we’re guessing that the project will seek to convert vans that already have an electric version, such as the current small and mid-size vans from the conglomerate (e.g., Peugeot Partner, Citroën Jumpy, …). This would minimize development work and thus cost, although Qinomic also offers EV conversions of classic cars.
We’re not there yet, however, as the proof of concept from this joint development between Stellantis and Qinomic will only be finished in 2023, with potential commercialization in France in 2024 if it proves viable. A Belgian launch after that shouldn’t be a big issue, but retrofitting by a third party might already be allowed by then, negating a large chunk of the OEM advantage.