In December 2021, the Delhi government announced that it will allow diesel vehicles older than 10 years to ply on its roads if they are retrofitted with electric drivetrains. Nine months since, while the idea is marketed as a big relief to owners, the absence of widespread knowledge of these retrofit kits or what getting one entails is still a grey area for most. Here are the key factors that one should consider before getting their old diesel car converted into an electric but more importantly is it feasible? Let’s find out…
What is retrofitting?
In the case of an old diesel vehicle that needs to be converted into an electric one. The vehicle first needs to shed off its internal combustion engine and other related systems before an electric drivetrain can be retrofitted within the existing structural parameters of the old vehicle.
Founder & CEO of EV technology firm Altigreen, Dr Amitabh Saran says, “Here starts the issue, As you will first have to remove everything that is remotely connected to the fossil fuel power plant. This includes the engine, fuel lines, fuel tank, filters, AC unit and a lot more. What you get at the end of removing all this is the vehicle’s chassis and the cabin, wheels, brakes and anything that has to do with the driving of the vehicle.
Once you have removed all of that, you can start retrofitting an electric conversion kit which includes a motor, a controller to run that motor, a very strong wire harness and a battery pack, a battery management system and more. So you have to tailor this process for every model of old cars that need conversion, make sure it is safe and then the vehicle has to go for the type approval and receive endorsement by the RTO as an EV.”
Founder & CEO, Altigreen, Dr Amitabh Saran
Doing a ‘legal’ retrofit:
Based on these facts, it is clear that retrofitting your old diesel into an EV is not a simple plug-and-play job. For customers to have a safe experience, government-approved retrofitting facilities have been identified to perform these conversions. These authorised retrofitters also need to develop a standardised homologation process that the retrofit kits need to pass.
Homologation is the process of certifying that a vehicle is road worthy and passes the criteria specified by the authorities to legally ply on roads. The tricky part is that a standard homologation process will be different for every model of car and the EV kit which is compatible with it. Then there is also the matter of who bears the cost of the homologation. In one line, it is usually the authorised retrofitters who bear that cost.
Does it make financial sense?
As per Dr Amitabh Saran, “On an average, a 1kW lithium-ion battery costs around Rs 14,000 (approximately). For someone looking to convert their old SUV and get at least 250km of range from their retrofitted EV, they need a battery pack of around 25kW to 30 kW. Hence, the battery pack alone will cost at least Rs 3,50,000. Over this one would likely go in for an AC unit that will cost up to Rs 1 lakh. Moreover, the electric motor and other peripherals necessary to complete the conversion can go up to Rs 2.5-3 lakh. Now that is a significant investment on a 10-year-old vehicle.”
Kalyan C Korimerla, MD and co-promoter of ETrio, India’s first ARAI-certified retrofitter, responded to TOI Auto saying, “The important considerations before going for retrofitment (ICE to EV conversion) are the age of the vehicle, the useful remaining life of the vehicle and the ability to get finance for the retrofitment. The cost varies depending on the type of kit, range etc. For a typical small car, the cost would be approximately INR 3-4 lakhs for the kit.” Korimerla further noted, “Buying a new EV car is always better from the customers’ perspective, especially in terms of warranties, reliability and the ability to get financing. On the other hand, retrofitment makes more economic sense for the commercial vehicle segment, as it plays a pivotal role in adding a new lease of life and performance to cargo vehicles used for logistics particularly.
Kalyan C Korimerla, MD and co-promoter of ETrio
Reports suggest that the Delhi government is on its final leg of launching an online portal to streamline the process of retrofitting old vehicles. The portal will provide a one-stop solution for vehicle owners to get in touch with ARAI-authorised retrofitters across the country. The portal will also have provisions for vetting, registration and endorsement of these retrofitted EVs.
What do you think about retrofitting an old car to an EV? Would you consider such an option and Why? Tell us in the comments section below.