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It's Electric! Irish Eyes EV Conversions

With the impending ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars coming into effect in Ireland in 2030, many people are now starting to look at buying an electric car for the first time and converting to EV's make sense!

Common and out-dated myths around range anxiety and battery longevity are slowly being overcome, but the initial cost of purchasing a brand-new electric car is still prohibitive for many.

The tractor has had the diesel engine, gearbox and transmission removed and is now 100% electric. Battery packs replace the area the diesel engine was housed in, and with 2 motors joined together by one gearbox, they have created double the power, up to 150 KW maximum. The tractor was designed to tow huge trailers full of building material around building sites in central Amsterdam where all combustion engines are soon to be banned.

Today we look at the process of converting your existing petrol, diesel or hybrid car to run as a fully electric vehicle – covering how this can be significantly cheaper than buying a new car, the processes involved, and why this is so much more environmentally-friendly than scrappage schemes. Electric conversion While this is only really starting to become part of the public consciousness, this is a well-established industry that has been growing for over a decade, and which can make a huge impact on the Climate Crisis and on your finances.

For example, the New Electric group was started in the Netherlands in 2008, and has since converted over 200 bespoke vehicles, covering everything from cars and trucks, to ambulances and boats. In 2018, New Electric Ireland was established in County Wicklow, and over the last two years they been training mechanics and motorists to convert their cars to run as zero-emissions EVs. We spoke with Kevin Sharpe of New Electric Ireland to help you understand what is involved, how much it costs, and why this could be the shape of things to come. How does it work? Quite simply, the process of converting your petrol, diesel or hybrid car to run solely as an electric vehicle requires you to remove the engine, the gearbox and the fuel tank – as well as a few other bits and pieces – and replace them with a motor and a set of batteries. Vehicles of any kind can be converted to run as electric - it doesn’t just have to be high-end or classic cars. In fact, converting your family car to run as an EV is significantly cheaper than buying a new car, while also helping you to cut your carbon footprint and reduce waste. Credit: New Electric Ireland

And the good news is that any car is a candidate for conversion, according to Sharpe: “The beauty is that you create a lot of space by removing the internal combustion engine, which creates room for the batteries.” “You can do tiny cars, but the larger the car, the easier it is to convert because you have more space to work with – and it’s even easier with vans and tractors”.

Kits are designed to fit specific models and are then replicated to reduce cost and make the conversion process quicker and easier. Credit: New Electric Over recent years, the New Electric group has taken all its experience and has worked to develop kits for different models of cars so that the process can be simplified to reduce the time and the cost of the conversion. “The two cost drivers today without a doubt are range and labour,” explains Sharpe. “The key to overcoming labour is making this modular, mass-market, and we think it’s very practical to be able to get down the conversion time down to half a day. Most mechanics we work with can get an engine out of a car in about half an hour, and the rest of the process is just bolting in the kit, and you can do that in a couple of hours”. Of course, not all cars have kits available yet, but New Electric Ireland is working hard to train both professional and aspiring mechanics so that both new kits, and those who are qualified to fit them, are available in short order.

How much does it cost? While you could expect a brand new electric car to cost you in the region of €30,000, converting your current car is significantly cheaper and could cost you as little as €2,000-€5,000, depending on the range that you want your car to have. Aside from the labour, the biggest cost factor at present is the batteries – and that is because they are in short supply, and manufacturers don’t yet sell them to car convertors at an affordable price. However, all technology is subject to Moore’s Law – a golden rule in electronics that the capacity of any electrical device will double every two years while also halving in cost.

“My expectation is that we’re going to get about 241-321km range for around €5,000 including parts and labour”

Combined with the increased availability of kits, Sharpe sees that this will be a major factor in driving people towards EV conversions in just the next couple of years: “My expectation is that we’re going to get about 150-200 mile (241-321km) range for around €5,000 including parts and labour. It’s not quite possible today, because we can’t get the batteries, but I think that’s where we’re going”.

“Some people are very dismissive of EV conversation and say it cannot work, but what you’ve got to remember is you’ve already got the car, and that’s a huge part of the cost.” The influx of more and more new electric cars will also see a greater number of donor parts coming onto the market for EV conversion, driving the costs down further.

In the meantime, New Electric Ireland are also innovating in another key area – fast charging: “We’re about to start working on a €2,000 conversion, which we expect to be at least 50 mile (80km) range, but it will also have rapid charging – and that’s a critical part of this.” “Very few people would bother with a 500-mile battery if we’ve got good rapid charging facilities everywhere, as a battery that big just isn’t affordable and you don’t need that level of range – particularly in Ireland.”

Of course, you can always upgrade your range as well, as technology progresses – something that you can’t do with a petrol or diesel car today: “Range extenders are progressing quickly, which you can best see in the Nissan Leaf community,” says Sharpe. “With range extender batteries, we can see range nearly double, and that can be done in half a day.”

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