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ELECTRIFICATION OF ICE VEHICLES From pumps to plug: What retrofitting ICE vehicle entails

Jan 5, 2022

The Delhi Transport Department has been putting efforts to improve electrification of ICE vehicles in the Delhi-NCR region. The government, which was previously considering outlawing all diesel vehicles older than 10 years, refrained from it seeing an unethusiatic response from the masses. As a result of the present diktat, diesel cars older than 10 years will be able to operate in the Delhi-NCR zone if they are modified/retrofitted with an EV kit. The Viewpoint aims to understand what an EV kit comprises, its pros and cons, the cost-effectiveness for Indian customers and the feasibility to implement EV kits countrywide.

Conversion of ICE vehicles to electric provides a low cost, low-risk option to try out EVs - Nakul Kukar, Founder & CEO, Cell Propulsion

An EV conversion kit comprises a Li-ion battery pack, BMS, traction motor, motor controller, inverter, on-board computer (vehicle control unit) and the operating software, which combines all the discrete components as an integrated system to deliver required vehicle performance and range. The kits can be used for both diesel and petrol vehicles. Conversion of existing ICE vehicles to electric provides customers with a low cost, low-risk option to try out an EV and understand their intricacies before investing in a much costlier new EV. This approach is especially lucrative for the CV segment, as converting a fraction of their existing CVs to electric makes a lot more sense as they can reuse their existing assets while also gaining the operational savings of an eCV. The announcement by the Delhi government is an encouraging step and creates an opportunity for offering new life to ageing diesel vehicles. Conversion of existing vehicles to electric has the two-fold benefit of extending the useful life of these vehicles before scrapping and eliminating fuel costs.

Offering local subsidies along with financing will boost the nation's retrofitment space - Deepak MV, Founder & CEO, Etrio

To install an EV kit, a diesel vehicle is stripped of its ICE components, leaving only its body frame. An electric motor, EV battery and a battery power controller are integrated to regulate the energy flow. The kits can be used to convert both petrol and diesel cars alike. On average, in the Indian landscape, conversion to EV can lead to significant cost savings in terms of fuel, maintenance and servicing costs, battery replacement costs, etc. The cost-effectiveness in favour of retrofitment is usually on the higher side for a cargo or logistics vehicle (especially 3W or 4W delivery vehicle), compared to passenger cars. While converting your ICE vehicle to an EV has pros of cost-saving, extends vehicle life, gives a new lease of performance and improves energy efficiency and safety, there are also cons like limited charging facility or having longer charging times. However, with the ongoing EV boom in India, these aspects will soon be taken care of. With few state governments taking positive steps, offering local subsidies on retrofitment along with ensuring availability of financing will boost the nation's retrofitment space.

If the cons are taken care of, EV kits can be implemented country-wide - Vikas Gupta, CEO, eAshwa

The engine gets power by injecting diesel inside it, giving appropriate torque at the gear end and rotating the propeller shaft generally with the front wheels. But in the case of a 4x4 vehicle, it is connected to all four wheels. The battery plays the role of diesel, and the motor and controller play the engine in case of the retrofit kit fitted vehicle. Thus, the EV kit comprises a battery, motor, controller and converter for other electrical and electronic operations, which can be used for both diesel and petrol vehicles. In terms of effective cost savings, it is just a body and the common components saved in a retrofit vehicle. If we convert it into value, it may range from ₹1-2 lakhs. The pros include waste management and cost savings on the body & common components. In contrast, cons include hassle on the approval of retrofit vehicles at the model level, absence of anybody certifying such kits and the time taken in approvals, if available. If these cons are taken care of, this can be implemented all over the country.

Retrofitting is easily replicable beyond Delhi and across India - Dr Akshay Singhal, Founder & CEO, Log 9 Materials

An EV retrofit kit helps convert an ICE vehicle to an electric vehicle. The EV kit typically consists of a motor, controller, battery and wiring harness. The EV kit for a 4W cargo vehicle would cost around ₹4.2-5 lakhs (for 15 kWh to 20 kWh) options for a range of 70-85 km. In comparison, a new 4W cargo EV would cost around ₹10-12 lakhs, compared to ₹6-8 lakhs for a diesel variant. Typically, a retrofit battery would last for three to four years. But, for the EV retrofit market to succeed, it would require long-lasting batteries which can run at least five to eight years without performance loss. There are more than 10 lakh 3W cargo vehicles, 20+ lakh 4W cargo vehicles, 20+ lakh 4W passenger taxis running on Indian roads today within the city limits. Retrofitting these is a major opportunity for the EV industry. New EV sales will only solve the emission issues with new vehicles without addressing the millions polluting on Indian roads. Retrofitting is easily replicable beyond Delhi and across India, given the huge operational savings and immense pollution reduction, especially in the urban areas. It might be a viable alternative once the vehicle is out of the financing period (2-4 years).

GoI should include retrofits under FAME-II - Dr Amitabh Saran, Founder & CEO, Altigreen

To convert an ICE vehicle into a fully functioning EV, the EV kit would always include a traction motor, motor control unit, power converters, electronic displays, power & control wire harness, battery pack & BMS to convert and custom-built brackets and fixtures to mount components. Once retrofitted and driveable, the vehicle must receive a road-worthy Type Approval Certification (TAC) from ARAI or a similar body to retrofit the vehicle model+EV kit combination in any vehicle around the country. Depending on the vehicle being converted, the cost of fitting an EV kit (minus the battery pack) can vary, from ₹20,000 for two-wheelers to ₹2,00,000 for small four-wheelers and ₹4,00,000 for SUV or larger ones. The Li-ion battery pack can be roughly estimated at ₹13,000 per kWh. It will be unlikely for customers to convert ICE to EVs with the above costs, especially four-wheelers and bigger. The GoI should include retrofits under FAME-II, to avoid high battery costs. In addition, the Scrappage Policy should allow an automatic 10-year extension if ICE is converted into EV. Lastly, TAC processes, which are expensive and require EV kits to be certified for each vehicle model, should be made easier.

EV kits are the fastest route to electrify mobility in the country - Arun Sreyas, CEO & Co-founder, RACEnergy

In a traditional ICE vehicle, when one fully dismantles the noisy, vibrating engine -the source of power that makes the vehicle run and installs it with a new ‘EV kit’ in its place, they are essentially retrofitting the vehicle to make it electric. Typically, one would find a motor, motor controller, fixed/removable battery pack and transmission in an EV kit.

This can be done on any ICE vehicle (petrol, diesel, CNG, LPG), given the EV kit is well-designed for the application. This is one of the fastest routes to electrify mobility in the country, as it costs the vehicle owners a fraction of what it would cost to buy a new EV. It is also relatively faster for OEMs to go to the market. The quality of the R&D behind this technology directly translates to the performance and life of the vehicle, and thereby customer satisfaction. It can help customers save about 50% on lifetime ownership costs. With the right kind of incentives from the government and sharp focus on technology by the OEMs, we can scale up rapidly and expand to other parts of the country as well.

EV kits can be beneficial with adequate regulations and government control - Ashwini Kumar, Green Hydrogen Expert

An EV kit converts an existing diesel/petrol vehicle by completely replacing the existing engine and related components of a gasoline vehicle or the kit is added as an additional power source complementing an existing engine to run on both electricity and petrol/diesel provided, they have the basic electronic systems to sustain the operations of an electric motor. Compared to the price of EVs today, EV kit isn’t an affordable option either. Its cost varies from ₹4-8 lakhs depending on manufacturers, range requirements and safety & warranty terms. For people with vehicle for daily commute use an EV kit will be counterproductive and will find the relatively lower costs of an EV kit to be more burdensome in the long run. However, for fleet operators, an EV kit can provide significant benefits to extend the life of diesel/petrol vehicles and substantially reduce operating costs. An EV kit can be beneficial for users across the country and with adequate regulations and government control, it can give a big competition to EV manufacturers.

EV kits are feasible only for big private players and government agencies - Sushant Kumar, Founder & Managing Director, AMO Mobility Solutions

An EV kit is designed to convert fossil-fuel-powered vehicles into EVs, in which the motor of the EV kit is installed in place of the diesel engine while the other parts of the kit are connected to the wheels and controller electronics that will measure the acceleration, speed, energy, range, etc. It takes around ₹5-6 lakh for an efficient EV kit to help one save more money when compared to diesel or petrol four-wheelers. Due to retrofitting, the overall performance of the vehicle can get compromised, and hence, less power, less efficiency will force one to go for regular maintenance. This maintenance can be expensive if there are serious issues with the vehicle’s retrofitting, components and performance. EV kit and retrofitting pros include zero emissions, carbon neutrality, lightweight vehicles, no sound pollution and a better riding experience. The cons are high starting operation cost, reduced overall performance and lack of charging infrastructure. The bottom line is that the idea of an EV kit is only feasible for big private players and government agencies but it may come at a huge cost for common Indian people and EV manufacturers.

Retrofitting can increase the life span of existing vehicles by five to seven years - Abhijeet Wassan, Founder, Mac Auto India

An EV kit enables the vehicle owner to convert their ICE vehicle into an EV, whether diesel or petrol. It can be retrofitted in old diesel cars after removing its ICE components such as engine, fuel tank, exhaust, drivetrain, etc. A high voltage wiring circuit, battery pack and other control units for the EV system are fitted to equip the car with an electric motor.

The cost of buying and installing EV kits vary based on the battery range, efficiency and quality. If a car owner plans to convert into a hybrid version, the cost will depend on installing of a dual-engine machine, generator, wire harness, power & control electronics and batteries. According to the Government’s announcement, diesel vehicles that are 10 years or older should be converted into EVs to be on Delhi roads. Retrofitting is expected to increase the life span of existing vehicles by five to seven years so that cars do not fall into scrappage policy.

Since EV kits do not have an exhaust system, they result in zero emissions making it easier on the environment. Plus, it involves less maintenance frequency and is not noisy. While EVs have considerable benefits, they have a few downsides. Converting a conventional diesel vehicle requires a large initial investment that might be a bit expensive. Even after considering the pros and cons, EVs are revolutionising the automobile industry. From 2020 to 2021, the share of EVs in new vehicle sales has tripled. This clearly shows that EVs are widely becoming common among the Indian population. Given the efficiency of EVs, it can be implemented country-wide depending on the availability of charging stations and depots.

Image Gallery

  • Nakul Kukar

    Founder & CEO

    Cell Propulsion

  • Deepak MV

    Founder & CEO

    Etrio

  • Vikas Gupta

    CEO

    eAshwa

  • Dr Akshay Singhal

    Founder & CEO

    Log 9 Materials

  • Dr Amitabh Saran

    Founder & CEO

    Altigreen

  • Arun Sreyas

    CEO & Co-founder

    RACEnergy

  • Ashwini Kumar

    Green Hydrogen Expert

  • Sushant Kumar

    Founder & Managing Director

    AMO Mobility Solutions

  • Abhijeet Wassan

    Founder

    Mac Auto India

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