Expert Interview – "When converting to an electric motor, there are much fewer pollutant materials"

Expert Interview – August 09, 2022

Used cars with combustion engines can be converted to an electric drive. Heiko Fleck from Lower Bavaria has specialized in this with his company. This can help the energy transition.

How exactly does a conversion work and how much effort is involved?

The easiest way to convert is to flange the electric motor to the transmission. This keeps us in a voltage system that is much less dangerous than the 400-volt system or now already 800-volt system that car manufacturers use. We are at 48 to 144 volts, so we don't reach these high speeds. As a result, we are quite free in the way we start up. For example, a VW Golf or Ford Focus can be driven in third gear without any problems, and only on the highway do you shift into fourth or fifth gear.

So the transmission stays in?

Yes, the transmission stays in, but with electric production vehicles you also have a transmission. A 1-speed transmission further reduces the engine speed. A differential is built in, so the high speeds between 12,000 and, in the case of Tesla, even 18,000 revolutions can be achieved.

Apart from the engine, what other components are removed during the conversion?

The tank, the exhaust and the catalytic converter. In principle, an electric motor is relatively simple in design, yet complex enough to achieve this level of efficiency. But of course there are electric motors with higher and lower efficiency. Depending on the manufacturer.

What does a conversion cost?

In the case of a Fiat 500 Classic, we are at 11,000 euros for the material, including tax. This includes the engine, the controller, the wiring harness, a DC-DC converter that acts as an alternator, the heater, the charger, the battery management system and a Type 2 charging socket to charge the vehicle plus an adapter to attach the engine to the transmission. On top of that, of course, there is the labor time and TÜV (MOT) approval at about 7,000 euros including VAT.
At The smarter E Europe in Munich, for example, we exhibited a converted VW T1. There, the price for the material with a battery capacity of 20 kilowatt hours was 17,500 euros. The battery capacity can be expanded up to 60 kilowatt hours. Consumption is around 15 to 20 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers. So you can calculate right away how far the car will go.

Does converting to electric make economic sense, or is it more something for classic car enthusiasts?

Economy is not the most important thing for customers. It's more about the emotion of driving an electric car. If you can combine these emotions with the vehicle of your choice, it is a highlight for the customer and he is willing to invest a lot of money. If cost-effectiveness is then another factor - for example, because you don't have to scrap your old car but can give it a new lease of life - it's all the better, of course.

How sensible is the conversion in terms of sustainability?

Most engines can be sold; the engine of an old VW bus, for example, is highly sought after. When the engine is converted to an electric motor, there are naturally far fewer materials that are contaminated with pollutants. Later, there is no need to change the oil, and there is no more brake dust abrasion because the brakes are applied via the electric motor. You drive with a better conscience than with a combustion engine.

How large is the market of suppliers for converting combustion vehicles to electric?

At the beginning, when I started converting, I was one of very few. In the meantime, there are quite a few who have jumped on the bandwagon. We are experiencing a high influx in this area. We need that too, because the inquiries are constantly increasing. This is definitely a growth market. If vehicles such as classic cars were to be banned from cities, they would just sit in garages without being converted and would not be usable in everyday life.

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