How electric vehicle retrofitting can be a viable solution to limiting vehicular emissions in India
The Government of India has set an ambitious target for electric vehicles (EV) alongside plans to reduce carbon emissions via diesel and petrol engines significantly by 2030. With this in view, the country is taking steps towards switching to EVs. However, the pace of this transition cannot be dramatic and thus, to complement the addition of new EVs, retrofitting existing ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles is a given requirement. Retrofitting increases the useful life span of existing vehicles by 5-7 years and allows them to not fall in the trap of scrappage policy.
Retrofitting is the replacement of the combustion powertrain in a vehicle with an electric driveline. This method is being extensively used in Europe to convert diesel trucks and buses into zero-emission CVs.
The urgency of EV Retrofitting in India
The number of buses on Indian roads is expected to reach over 2 million by 2030. Similarly, the volume of other public transports is also expected to increase at a similar pace. If we just keep on adding more electric public vehicles to the existing fleet in the name of reducing carbon footprint, our city roads will get congested. Thus, the viable solution is to add a limited number of EVs while upgrading the existing ones to electric variants through retrofitting.
Economic benefits of retrofitting
While retrofitting an old ICE 2-wheeler may cost between INR 50,000 – 1 lakh, buying a new electric 2W with similar power may cost up to INR 1.5 lakh. Besides, retrofitting an ICE vehicle saves on fuel costs, which may be up to INR 50,000 – 60,000 per year for a petrol motor bike. When it comes to an E2W, the cost of charging the vehicle per year will not be more than INR 7,000-10,000.
The average cost[i] of a kit may go up to INR 5-8 lakh for 4Ws and light commercial vehicles. While an average electric four-wheeler costs about INR 15 lakh in India, retrofitting an existing old vehicle costs the owner of that vehicle only about INR 4-5 lakh.
Regulatory framework in India
Some state governments (example- Delhi and Andhra Pradesh) have come up with retro fitment guidelines. Such policy measures can help the start-ups engaged in offering retro fitment kits, gain momentum and focus on consumers willing to swap their vehicles to EVs rather than scrapping them.
In 2021, the Delhi Government allowed the old diesel vehicles (10+ years) to continue and bypass the National Green Tribunal’s ban, if fitted with an electric vehicle kit. With this announcement, there has been emergence of a parallel industry to convert old ICE vehicles to electric.
In June 2022, Delhi Government had come up with an order to allow petrol and diesel vehicle owners to convert their vehicles into EVs through retro fitment. It had already launched a new portal to bring in both customers and agencies who are involved in the process of retrofitting vehicles on a common platform.As a step to make EV kit retro fitment faceless, the module for retro fitment of EV kit in diesel vehicles has been made online on the Vahan Portal to enable the citizens of Delhi to get their old diesel vehicles retrofitted with EV kit by the Retro Fitment Centre.According to the new policy, citizens can avail of this service by visiting a Retro Fitment Centre (RFC), authorized by the Delhi government, for the installation of the EV kit in their diesel cars.
For now, majority of players in EV retro fitment market are start-ups with only a few leading auto component manufacturers.
|Provides conversion of ICE cars and LCVs into electric. It has specifically retrofitted several Tata Ace LCVs.
|Provides a compact electric powertrain with Lithium-ion batteries, battery management system (BMS), and other associated accessories as kits for different vehicles to retrofit any conventional cycle, car, or an LCV and convert it into an EV.
|Provides retrofitting kit, the RxEV300, for conversion of ICE 3Ws to electric. The company is named Reddy Automotive Pvt Ltd but trades as RACEnergy.
|Provides hybrid electric retro fitment kit for cars.
|Operates as an EV division of Hemank Auto Parts Pvt Ltd. The company provides retrofitting kits only for Ace EV.
|Provides electric retrofitting kits for conversion of ICE 2W, 3W, and cars to both hybrid and complete electric versions.
|Owned by the EV-maker Bounce, this company provides retrofitting petrol scooters with EV motors.
While there are immense opportunities for EV powertrain retro fitment players, there remain some challenges to the growth of the market in India, as well as globally. Some of these challenges are:
- the higher cost of retrofit electric powertrains,
- falling prices of electric batteries leading to a fall in the prices of new EVs. This leads to buying a new EV easier for the end customer vis-à-vis retrofitting an old ICE vehicle
- Range anxiety
- Lack of charging infrastructure
- Battery quality
The EV retro fitment market is in its nascent phase and faces some challenges. However, with increasing demand for EVs, and some policy initiatives by state governments, this can be overcome, and the market can grow significantly. With the huge scale of EVs needed to meet carbon emission goals, retro fitment surely needs to be considered as an alternative in addition to manufacturing new EVs.