Introduction

This is a summary of my research to date and I will update it constantly with any new links. In each section there is a summary accompanied by links and videos.

Terminology

DIY = mechanics who do not do commercial projects, but are experimenting and proving what is possible

Werkstatt = commercial mechanics garage which is doing retrofits for customers and can meet certification requirements

Suppliers = Engineering companies that are developing and selling parts for retrofit inkl batteries, drivetrains, etc.

Retailers = Companies selling new or used cars to customers.

Associations = Media, advocacy, and lobbying groups who are working to improve the possibilities and landscape for e-power, e-vehicles, retrofits, etc.

Homologation = This is the English word used in Europe to describe the various regulations for giving permissions that the cars are legal to drive.

Technology

The short version on technology is that it’s improving so quickly that it’s hard to finish a retrofit because better parts are already made. And everything is getting cheaper very fast.

Many mechanics (DIY & Werkstatt) are working with used parts out of Tesla, Leaf, etc., as suited to the project. Many are also proving that it is possible to do conversions for €1000, or proving they can do a conversion in one week.

Damien Maguire is an Irish electronics engineer and DIY retrofitter who has converted one of each BMW series to prove it can be done, documented on his youtube channel. (Unfortunately he doesn’t edit these videos and he’s not a topnotch communicator, so they are long and difficult to get information from. I have offered him to help re-edit and write summaries of each build but have not yet received a response.) Maguire believes the “kits” are overpriced. He sells control boards from his webshop.

New Electric (Holland) develop drive trains for one model of car at a time. They seek “partners” who are doing fleets with many cars of one model. They also have a Werkstatt.

Battery and car weight will become less of a concern when hydrogen fuel cells are accepted for commercial use. Here’s an update on that technology.

Heiko Fleck in Germany provides equipment for any car to be installed DIY “from about €8500” and does conversions from €4000.

Training

Weber online university offers three consecutive courses of training for mechanics.

EV4U offers a 3day hands-on conversion training in Southern California and an online video-based self-study program covering all aspects of conversion. The cost of the program is $595 and all the lessons are available during the one-year enrollment. 

 

Jesper Thuno, Managing Director of E-Cap Mobility (DK)
gives an overview of the process of conversion.

DIY mechanic Botts does a time lapse video of an entire conversion.
(Note that destroying the interior and fenders is no longer necessary
for saving weight.)

Regulations

Homologation

According to Anne Kloppenberg of New Electric (NL), while some countries have pathways to certification, the UN ECE regulations R10-5 and R100-01 are valid for all of Europe. Therefore cars retrofitted in one EU country are accepted in countries that do not yet have national certification systems. This is confirmed by the fact that electric imports to Germany are certified according to these same laws.
 
On 13.March 2020 France passed a “regulatory framework” for retrofit: “The aim was to develop a regulatory, technical, administrative and economic framework enabling professionals to convert a combustion car into an electric one… under the necessary safety and quality guarantees.” (Retrofit Daily, text of the Law (in French).
 
In France cars more than thirty years old cannot be converted, as their “carte grise” (collector’s certification) requires having the original engine. Also cars less than 5 years old are not eligible for retrofit subsidy. Thus in fact the market is more focused on popular icons and less on true “collector’s” cars.
 

Incentives/Subsidy

Italy offers €10,000 to people who junk an old car and buy a new electric vehicle. For retrofit, Italy offers €3,500 and France offers €5,000.
 
In Germany, non-hybrid electric cars receive a 10 year tax exemption.  So far I do not find a retrofit subsidy in Germany, although they have doubled the subsidy for new e-car purchasers and there are government subsidies for R&D.
 

Hydrogen Batteries

Hydrogen batteries are already legal in California. There is a European association doing research and lobbying for regulation and infrastructure in Europe.

Market

In addition to the market for new electric cars, there are companies selling electric replicas of iconic cars: VW Bug, Rolls-Royce, Mini, etc.

Car collectors hire mechanics to retrofit their beloved cars.  There are Werkstatt all over the world who have done some of these big-budget projects. This has been a source of R&D and they share some videos. Also some Werkstatt do impressive retrofits as part of their marketing.

Peugeot-Citroën has launched an official project collaboration between the car collectors club and the brand to retrofit customers’ cars. (This is evidence that they anticipate a market!)

Other Werkstatt are focused on making retrofit cheaper than buying a new electric car. In this category are the New Electric Werkstatt (Holland), London Electric Cars (England), and E-Cap Mobility (Denmark). In Germany, the Werkstatt Falkenberg is doing it, but there’s not much info on their website about what they are doing. Fleck offers kits, equipment, education, and service.

Several Werkstatt, such as e-classics in Renningen-Malmsheim (DE), focus on specific models, offering two services: retrofit your car, or find the body for you and then retrofit it. By focusing on fewer models, they are able to follow a repeatable engineering and mechanical model as well as producing very attractive promotional material. (Example at right.)  Swind offers kits to convert any Classic Mini.

Retrofuture FR chose 15 iconic classic cars, offered 100 units for presale priced from €19,000-€60,000, and promptly sold 70 in 6 months, before delivering any. They are partnered with CarJager to facilitate purchase of the cars, “allows us to reintroduce the silhouettes we love so much into cities.” 

With regard to price, an important point made by the founders of New Electric and London Electric Cars is that for metropolitan use, most people don’t need a lot of speed or range, so by realistically addressing how the car will be used, less batteries and power are needed, reducing the cost and making “heavy” cars less problematic.

Many cities in Europe will be electric-only by 2030, so the market for electric cars is going to grow very quickly.

Werkstatt

Media

New Electric Vehicle Retrofit Price Guide

Brochure for e-classics, Renningen-Malmsheim (DE)
VW bug and bus conversion
with option to use your own or purchase the base vehicle.
(Click to enlarge the images)

Models offered by Retrofuture FR
(Click to enlarge the image).

Business Plan Development

If consumers can be made aware that retrofit is a price-competitive option, I believe many will want to keep their existing cars. It seems to be a race to communicate this option with people against the massive subsidies for junking old cars and buying a new e-car.

I think it would be good to have a clear focus to the business and brand to ease the engineering and marketing, such as:

We sell and retrofit
electro-BMWs from 1980 to 2010

There is an opportunity for both retail and retrofit-service.

 

Steps to launch the business

1. “Fake doors” market research ads in BMW owners clubs’ forums. This offers an electro retrofit “learn more”. We add branding to this and collect the email addresses of people who indicate interest. We also learn about willingness to pay. Build website.

2. Press articles on the possibility for retrofit. Need a DE freelance journalist on our team. 

3. Contract with Damien Maguire as advisor/consultant.

3. Start buying various models and retrofit a few to immediately get on the road for demonstrations. Build supply chain. Hire mechanics.

4. Prepare werkstatt.

5. Start retrofitting and selling.

6. Project management, increase supply chain. Offer available cars for retrofit so customers can choose and pay before the work is done.