France’s recent ordinance liberalizing improvements to old ICE vehicles supercharges Phoenix Mobility’s ambitions for mass electric vehicle conversions



Published on July 12, 2020 |
by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

July 12, 2020 by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai

We just love hearing about EV conversions. It is an industry that promises to play a major role in accelerating the transition to electromobility. At the right scale and when applied to the right segments that best suit target markets, what was once a niche product for collectibles like restored classic cars and a badge of honor for a happy band could change the game. VE conversions will allow a wider consumer base to afford decent electric vehicles.

The transition to electromotility is happening much faster than we thought. Affordable mass EV conversions will put this transition in Ludicrous mode. A French electric vehicle conversion company, Phoenix Mobility, seeks to develop its B2B fleet conversion activity. Focusing on fleets on the B2B side makes a lot of sense for several reasons:

  1. It gives the best ROI (professionals use their vehicles more than individuals) and TCO looks even better for higher mileage fleet operators.
  2. It gives the best environmental impact (they can convert entire fleets).
  3. It responds to a legal problem where professionals face restrictions and regulations in order to reduce emissions and need this type of solution to adapt quickly to eMobility.

Phoenix Mobility is the first company to deliver a converted car to the government since the law on the approval has been passed. He delivered a Renault Kangoo converted to the city of Grenoble.

Eric Piolle (mayor of Grenoble) receiving the Kangoo converted by Phoenix Mobility. Image courtesy of Phoenix Mobility.

The city of Grenoble is also the first city to have a modernized vehicle in its fleet since the new regulations.

“We are a mission-driven company,” said Antoine Desferet, co-founder and COO of Phoenix Mobility. “Our mission is to make mobility cleaner and more accessible. This is what we do with our renovation technology. We are reducing CO2 emissions from the production of a new EV by half and the cost of access to an equivalent EV by more than 30%. It is important to consider that the cost of EVs is its first obstacle to adoption. We aim to make it more accessible and accelerate the transition because we do not have much time if we want to mitigate climate change. “

Regarding savings (excluding public subsidy), Phoenix Mobility states that it has developed case studies showing how financially attractive EV conversions can be for their customers. The objective was to highlight a payback period, which is the period necessary to have a positive return on investment on your investment in an electric vehicle. Typical examples of recovery based on Phoenix Mobility studies are:

  1. Renault Kangoo: the payback period is around 6 years compared to 10 years if you buy a new electric vehicle
  2. Renault Master: return on investment is ~ 4 years vs ~ 8.4 years if you buy a new EV
  3. Renault Traffic: the payback period is around 2.8 years

“These calculations are based on the actual actual cost. Over time, research and volume, we will divide our costs by ~ 2, so that reimbursement times will be even shorter in the future. “

The French government has granted a subsidy for the conversion of fuel vehicles into electricity by retrofit (€ 5,000 / vehicle). Local governments are taking more and more measures to reduce CO2 emissions inside cities.

Paris is the best known example, Grenoble is also very interesting on this point. The grant can range from € 4,000 to € 6,000 in the metropolitan area of ​​Grenoble to renovate your car. This type of public policy spreads throughout France. At the end of the day, you can have a grant of ~ € 10,000 to convert your car into a renovation.

A converted Renault Clio. Image courtesy of Phoenix Mobility.

The new regulations are a game-changer. France was a country with many constraints for renovation. “We had to have the OEM agreement to modernize a car. That changed in April 2020. We can now homologate our own vehicles in series. It completely liberalized the French market and made it the best place in Europe to start a renovation business. ”

It currently takes 3 to 5 days to complete a conversion. Phoenix is ​​currently working on the industrialization of the solution. By early 2021, it will only take a day for the entire conversion. The company is increasing their conversion capabilities, and what’s really interesting here is that they’re working on making their kits installable by someone else. At the same time, it is building a network of garages that can become installers. Currently, the company has more than a hundred garages in its database and is launching campaigns to register them all over France and then spread across Europe.

Image courtesy of Renault

The standard conversion kits for the Clio and the Kangoo are equipped with 24 kWh batteries because they meet the precise needs of their customers, who mainly drive in urban areas during the day. And it also keeps the price of conversions at a decent price, since the battery is the main driver of total cost. The company also offers different kWh options for the other kits: 18 and 24 kW for the Kangoo, 31 and 42 kWh for the Traffic, 31 and 63 kWh for the Renault Master. They can also customize kWh to meet customer needs.

“French law prohibits us from having more than 20% deviation from the original weight of the vehicles we convert, so we must target customers who use their vehicles compatible with our possibilities. For autonomy we can do 150 to 300 km depending on the pack chosen by the customer. For power and torque, this varies depending on the kit we install. Just one thing about power: the homologation law forbids us to exceed the previous power of the vehicle. So we make an exact match of the previous power. ”

The company uses the chemistry of LiFePO4 batteries for its packs. This LiFePO4 chemistry is a favorite of many conversion companies. Some of them obtain prismatic cells from Chinese manufacturers such as CALB.

LiFePO4 chemistry is experiencing a renaissance with large OEMs now using improved flavors of this chemistry with much higher energy densities for some of their flagship vehicles. The BYD Han will soon be on sale and it has the revolutionary blade battery in Cell-To-Pack configuration. Tesla also uses CATL LiFePO4 in its model made in China 3.

“ECruiser” from e-Car Namibia. Image courtesy of e-Car Namibia.

EV conversions really seem to be generalizing. Another company in Kenya, Opibus, increases conversions of electric vehicles in Nairobi. En Namibie, e-Car Namibia do the same. In Kenya, Opibus is also focusing on utility fleet operators such as motorcycle taxis and minibuses that have high vehicle usage rates, which presents a solid business case for converting their fleet to electric vehicles. If we can see such progressive policies and even subsidies similar to those offered in France here in Africa, conversions will certainly become common.

Featured image and first 2 images courtesy of Phoenix Mobility.

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Keywords: clio, Drive electric Kenya, Electric Vehicles Africa, Electric vehicles in Kenya. Africa, EV conversions, EVs in Kenya., Grenoble, Kenya, Kenya Grid, Kenya. Africa, LiFePO4, Phoenix Mobility, Renault Kangoo, modernized vehicle

About the Author

Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated by batteries since he was in elementary school. As part of his high school physics class, he had to choose an elective class. He chose the course on renewable energy and has been addicted since. At university, he continued to explore materials with applications in energy space and eventually did a doctorate on the study of radiation damage in high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors. He has since evolved to work in the solar and storage industry and his love for batteries led him to become obsessed with electric vehicles.


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