After France created a legal framework for retrofitting vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE) into an electrical (or hydrogen) EV, Belgium is also ready from June 1st, 2023.
Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) drafted a new Royal decree by mutual agreement with the Regions, which now have their homologation services to publish updated regulations.
500 shops in Belgium
Until now, some 500 conversion shops in Belgium were already active in retrofitting all kinds of ICE vehicles to electric, but the homologation process was very cumbersome.
The retrofitted vehicles had to be exported abroad to countries like France to get a European homologation for the road and then reimported and presented again to the Belgian technical inspection to be allowed.
“Retrofitting is an excellent example of the circular economy applied to the automotive sector,” says Minister Gilkinet. “With this new legislation, we are creating a framework that allows retrofitting on a semi-industrial scale and facilitates the development of an activity that makes a lot of sense from an environmental and economic point of view.”
“But its viability has been difficult to guarantee due to a lack of clear standards and the possibility of developing a solid business model. From now on, everything will become easier for those who want to embark on this promising adventure.”
In practice, all kinds of ICE vehicles will be eligible for retrofitting: cars, commercial vehicles, agricultural vehicles, motorcycles, or quadricycles.
Certificate of conformity
For this, the shops that do the retrofitting must acquire (once) a Certificate of Conformity’ (COC) from the regional authorities after an initial inspection by an authorized verification company like AIB-Vinçotte or KIWA.
On top of that, the shops themselves will have to do several technical tests or have them done at specific specialized centers that have the right equipment to do that. That could apply to brake testing or specific electronics, for instance.
Already today, many shops that build specialty vehicles like ambulances or campers have a comparable COC for their conversions. A similar COC will be needed for retrofitting to electric or hydrogen.
According to the newspaper L’Echo, who asked the minister’s cabinet, even shops without a COC for retrofitting to electric will be able to get their vehicles homologated after testing at a shop with the right COC. However, they will have to prove they have full access to the vehicle’s technical documentation.
No boosting of power
There will be several restrictions on how far the retrofitting and conversion of the vehicle can go. The maximum power output of the electric motor must be between 65 and 100% of the original ICE vehicle.
Only when the output of the original ICE was lower than 60 kW (80 hp), this power may be boosted by a 20% maximum. Converting a classic car like a 240 hp Ferrari 308 to a 480 hp electric version with a Tesla engine like Richard ‘Moggy’ Morgan is doing in Wales – known from the popular Discovery show ‘Vintage Voltage’ – won’t be possible in Belgium.
One can increase the unladen weight of the retrofitted vehicle (to host the heavy battery) but not the loading capacity. The weight distribution per axle shall not change more than 10%. Also, the external dimensions of the vehicle can’t be changed.
More lenient legislation
In the end, the Belgian legislation is considered even more lenient than the French, as once the shop is certified, not every retrofitted vehicle will need to be presented for homologation individually. In France, the conversion kit must be homologated, and each car equipped with it.
Georges Gilkinet hopes that this legal framework, in combination with the growing demand for electric cars, will make electrification more accessible for every Belgian and allow semi-industrial retrofitting businesses like in France.
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