By Nick Carey
SILVERSTONE, UK (Reuters) – You can stash your precious Aston Martin DB6, Porsche 911 or Mustang from the museum of the history of the internal combustion engine. Or your Fiat 500 and Renault Clio, for that matter.
That’s the message from a growing group of European and US startups seeking to define a role in the automotive transformation by transforming the roaring dinosaurs of the used age. fossil fuels into clean electric vehicles (EVs).
In the high-end segment, companies like Britain’s Lunaz sell a “remanufactured” Aston Martin DB6 for £1 million ($1.3 million), or Dutch company Voitures Extravert sells one. The refurbished Porsche 911 costs 300,000 euros ($337,000).
On a lower level, startups like France’s Transition-One have developed simple kits designed to electrify mainstream models like the Fiat 500 and Renault Clio in a matter of hours for around 8,000. euro. They are betting that they can offer drivers a cheaper and greener path to zero emissions than getting rid of their car and buying a new one.
EV conversion is a new cottage industry that has emerged in the past 5 years and has been accelerated by advances in battery and electric motor technology over the past two years. The market is largely untested, and several industry players interviewed by Reuters described an interesting, if uncertain, landscape.
“It’s revolutionary at the moment,” said Mark Roberts, a 30-year McLaren veteran who is now the creative director of British startup Charge Cars. “Almost every month there are new companies popping up and you don’t know who’s going to disappear after a year or so or who’s going to be there for the long haul.”
Next year Charge Cars will begin production of 499 electric 1960s Mustangs, built from scratch with Ford-licensed bodywork and starting at £300,000 each. The company, which originally intended to convert classic cars, spent five years developing an electric replacement.
CEO Vadim Shageleev said: “Traditional manufacturers like Porsche can afford to do the hard work. “We’re a startup, so we can’t.”
Established startups like his have attracted attention from traditional auto suppliers and manufacturers looking for technical input as they transition to electric – such as Michelin has joined partner with Charge Cars to test new technologies.
But there may be little room for error as a flurry of new EV conversion startups ramping up efforts to help them overcome standards and rising regulatory costs have begun to apply. in countries like France.
Chris Hazell, founder of UK Zero EV, another start-up that is mass producing conversion kits for Porsche 964s and other classic cars, said: many smaller players because they won’t meet the standards. Models. His company will expand to the United States next year.
CLASSIC TO GARBAGE
There are many suggested routes for scaling.
For instance, Lunaz considers classic cars like the Aston Martin DB6 to be a good start.
The three-year-old company and its competitors at the end of the EV conversion industry aim to capitalize on the vast majority of classic cars in the world, with an estimated 5 million people in the United States alone.
Lunaz usually buys a classic car on the open market or takes a customer’s existing car, peels it down to bare metal, reworks it, new paint, new interior, electric powertrain and software with range of about 250 miles.
But Lunaz sees its future in commercial vehicles, and is building a new plant at Silverstone in central England, home of the British Grand Prix, to convert more than 1,000 diesel garbage trucks a year into upgraded electric vehicle models.
Founder David Lorenz said: “Classic cars are the lightning rod that brought us to market. “But if you want to have real impact, you have to scale.”
Lorenz told Reuters the company is looking for locations for a factory in the United States and a plant in mainland Europe, and is considering going public within the next few years.
‘DO THESE CARS GO?’
In France, in comparison, the race is heating up between mass-market converts who find opportunities in the country’s road pollution plans, outstripping much of Europe.
All diesel engines older than 2011 will be banned in major cities from early 2025, affecting millions of car owners. Paris wants to go faster and implement the ban from 2024.
A new vehicle retrofit law introduced in the country last year, which startups say requires the government to test around 100,000 euros per generic model to be converted, has boosted demand for the vehicle. scale.
The Orleans Transition-One-based converter plans to start selling converters for six models including the popular Fiat 500 and Renault Clio to diesel owners who can’t afford a new EV. Kits include a new battery, electric motor, electronics and instrument cluster, and typically have a range of around 140 km.
The cost to customers could be close to 5,000 euros, including government subsidies, said CEO Aymeric Libeau, who said he aims to produce the kits “on a large scale” by Next year, after waiting for the revised law to come into effect, with equipment to be installed by independent companies. Transition-One certified mechanics.
Arnaud Pigounides, CEO of Paris-based REV Mobilities, estimates converting a car to electric will cut emissions by 60 percent compared to getting rid of an old car and producing a new one. , in a country with about 40 million passenger cars.
Pigounides said his company, which offers conversions for a wide range of cars and commercial trucks for about half the price of new vehicles, has an order for conversion of 370 cars and 1,500 trucks.
“The big question is: do we throw away all those cars or do we convert them?” he added.
‘HOW DO WE DO 10,000?’
Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of UK car charging company Connected Curb, says only “mass-market” options in the electric vehicle conversion industry can make a real difference to with the environment, not antique cars.
“The cost of making a new car is huge, so if you can reuse what you already have it is a great idea,” he said. “But the challenge is to do it at enough scale to really have a meaningful impact.”
For the four-year-old Electrogenic, based out of Lunaz, the plan to achieve significant scale is to break into the UK rural four-wheel drive market, particularly the Land Rover Defenders popular among farmers. people.
Co-founder Steve Drummond says the company is developing a £20,000 kit for the old Land Rover Defender that can be installed by local mechanics. He added that 36,000 UK farms need four-wheel-drive electric vehicles but there is no equivalent new model on the market.
Meanwhile, around the world in California, Zero Labs is aware of the limits of its current business when it comes to electrical “recovery devices” to rebuild classic Ford Broncos and Land Rovers. .
The company’s vehicles start at $350,000, but it can only convert about 50 a year — so it’s developing electric platforms that licensed auto shops can use to antique car conversion.
“We were asking ourselves how to do 10,000 a year?” CEO Adam Roe said. “Our platform will become our scale product.”
(Reporting by Nick Carey; Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Editing by Pravin Char)
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