Renault Group

Retrofit: Transform a combustion-motor car into a full-electric car

28 February 2023
2 min
In a shift towards more sustainable mobility, electric vehicles (EV) are gradually becoming essential, especially in urban environments. Since it is neither possible nor desirable for all internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to be replaced by new electric cars, retrofitting is a forward-looking solution that will accelerate the energy transition and reduce our carbon footprint. What is retrofitting? Is it legal? What does it cost? How can a car be retrofitted? Read on for answers.
by Nicolas LE-BOUCHER

In an effort to reduce air pollution in Europe, public authorities are speeding up projects to restrict the number of ICE vehicles in circulation and are indicating a desire to have only full-electric cars on roads in just a few years from now. Brand-new electric cars are not the only solution. Another cheaper alternative is to turn a petrol or diesel car into a 100% electric car. It is both possible and legal. Learn more about retrofitting.

What is retrofitting? Or rather, how can you go from ICE to EV?

Retrofitting is a mechanical operation where the petrol/diesel engine and fuel tank on an ICE vehicle are removed and replaced with an electric motor and battery, thereby turning into an electric vehicle. The electric motor used can just as well run directly off a battery or indirectly off a fuel cell (hydrogen).

Is EV retrofitting legal?

Since April 4, 2020, retrofitting a vehicle has been legal as long as it is done and billed by a certified professional. Be careful, the weight differential for a retrofitted vehicle must not exceed 20% once the post-alterations and the power of the electric motor must be equivalent to that of the original combustion motor.

The ‘fuel type / energy source’ section on the vehicle's registration is also changed. The vehicle does not have to be (re-)approved, because the kits used are already approved by the retrofitter. Vehicles must nevertheless undergo roadworthiness testing as per usual.

renault 4
Renault is the first car maker to partner with a manufacturer of retrofitting kits

What are the advantages of retrofitting?

Retrofitting transforms an ICE vehicle into a full-electric vehicle and comes with a number of advantages:

  • Smooth, jerk-free ride
  • A quiet, reliable, pollution-free engine that is easier and cheaper to maintain;
  • Free registration and parking;
  • Not subject to traffic restrictions in low emission zones and during pollution spikes (level ‘0’ Crit’Air).

Which vehicles can be retrofitted?

EV retrofitting applies to all vehicles over 5 years old. It is for petrol- and diesel-motor vehicles.

How do you retrofit your car?

The procedure is carried out by certified car maintenance and repair professionals. The retrofitting process involves prefab kits. Installation can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the model. The braking system, shock absorbers, and gearbox are kept on the car. The service is guaranteed. Once the car has been retrofitted, the vehicle's registration card then has to be modified so the car’s papers reflect the new engine’s energy source.

How much does retrofitting cost?

On average, retrofitting can cost between €15,000 and €20,000. In France, the government provides financial aid for retrofitted vehicles .

renault rétrofit
The retrofit transforms a petrol or diesel car into a 100% electric car eligible for public aid

Renault retrofitting commercial vehicles

Renault Group and Tolv (formerly Phoenix Mobility) have signed a strategic partnership to co-develop and market a retrofitting kit for Renault's commercial vehicle line-up. The partnership brings together Renault Group’s expertise in electric vehicles and industrial know-how from the Flins Refactory with the experience of Tolv, French pioneer in commercial-vehicle retrofitting. Assembled in Flins, the first kits for Renault Master will be available starting in 2023. They will have to first get the nod of approval from professional customers, before being rolled out for other models.

Renault and the retrofitting of iconic vintage cars

Renault is the first car maker to partner with a retrofitting kit manufacturer. Kit manufacturer ‘R-fit’ is set to begin sales of its EV retrofitting kits for Renault 4, Renault 5, and 1st generation Twingo. The official range is set to be approximately 90 km. The Renault 5 retrofitting kit will be available starting in September 2023. The 4L kit will be sold for €11,900.

Des kits rétrofit seront disponibles sur les Renault 5 et les Renault 4
Renault is the first car maker to partner with a manufacturer of retrofitting kits

Renault and bicycle retrofitting

Virvolt sells retrofitting kits that can be used to transform all sorts of vintage bicycles into electric bikes. Virvolt is part of the start-up industrialisation program launched by the Flins Refactory’s Open Innovation Hub. It therefore benefits from Renault Group infrastructure and experts to produce its kits on an industrial scale.

It extends the lifespan of bicycles and reduces their environmental impact.

In the first phase of development, Renault Group is assisting Virvolt with the industrialisation of manufacturing for its flagship Virvolt 900 pedal motor. They will become the first bicycle electrification kits made in France. If sales are high enough, the second-phase objective is to get the company to run production on its own.

Retrofitting helps preserve resources and limits the amount of resources used as part of the shift to electric mobility. Faced with the challenges of sustainable mobility, it will continue to become more of a solution in the future as the supply side of the equation will increase, making it economically acceptable for customers.


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