Entrepreneur Automotive: the electric retrofit requires specific aids

Automotive: the electric retrofit requires specific aids

The retrofit is barely getting started. More than a year after the publication, in April 2020, of the decree authorizing this practice, consisting of converting a thermal car into an electric car, the approvals can still be counted on the fingers of the hand. Only one car, the 2 CV, and 2 two-wheelers, the Solex and the 103, have so far received the precious sesame from Utac, which issues these approvals in France.

Many young shoots were however in the starting blocks, awaiting the publication of the decree to launch their operations. But with the coronavirus, many have found themselves strapped for cash.

Cautious investors

“After a period of euphoria, the health crisis suddenly blocked the fundraising in progress. Because investors suddenly became more cautious with regard to a still emerging market ”, explains the director of the 2 CV Mehari Club Cassis, Stephane Wimez. In addition, co-president of AIRe (the Association of players in the electric retrofit industry), his club designed the 2 CV conversion kit.

In order to be able to offer the conversion of a model, it is indeed first necessary to develop a suitable conversion kit, then to have it approved. This process, simpler for the 2 CVs, cost “only” 200,000 euros to the Cassis club, which was able to finance them from its own funds. Corn in most cases, it is about finding around 500,000 euros, ie “350,000 euros for the engineering and development of the kit, then 150,000 euros for the tests themselves”, details the founder of Retrofuture, Arnaud Pigounides.

This young company wants to transform old cars (Fiat 500, Combi Volkswagen, Austin Mini, etc.) and utility vehicles, such as Master or Kangoo.

The players in the sector, who now expect the market to start in early 2022, hope to finish convincing investors in the coming weeks. Retrofuture is thus completing a fundraising of 7 million euros.. “We are finally seeing the end of the tunnel,” says Arnaud Pigounides. “Considering the approximately six-month timeframe required for testing, this would allow us toget our first approvals in February or March 2022 », He believes.

Beneficial for the climate

Same speech at Transition-One which, at first, seeks to approve the conversion of Twingo and Fiat 500. ” We hope to raise 2 million euros in the coming weeks, out of the 8 million we need », Explains its founder, Aymeric Libeau, also co-president of AIRe.

A study by Ademe, published last May, underlined that the cost of developing retrofitting was undoubtedly a little high for young players in the sector. And this, especially since it is also necessary to buy the batteries, an expensive component, before being able to generate any turnover.

But within the AIRe association, we prefer to retain the conclusions of Ademe on the climate. “The study showed that it was better to convert a ten-year-old vehicle rather than buying a new electric one,” argues Arnaud Pigounides. By taking into account the manufacturing cycle, 66% of CO2 emissions are avoided by retrofitting a diesel, compared to only 47% by purchasing a new electric vehicle, calculated the Ademe.

The actors in the sector now hope to convince the government toinclude the retrofit in the automotive support plan planned for the start of the September school year. Beyond the purchase bonuses and conversion bonuses already approved, they would like to see the release of an envelope dedicated to the development of the sector.

“We would need 30 to 40 million euros,” said Stéphane Wimez. “It would also be necessary to lighten the eligibility criteria for aid, particularly in terms of equity: many retrofit start-ups are simply too young to meet them. What, he believes, give them the means to finally hit the road.

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