Retrofit industry needs protection from EV cowboys

The era of retrofitted electric vehicles is here – but regulation needs to happen before widespread adoption, says Osman Boyner, founder and CEO of BEDEO Group

Retrofitting vehicles for electrification presents a crucial step in our journey towards a circular economy and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). However, research shows the current landscape lacks regulation, with minimal testing and validation requirements allowing for unchecked modifications and potential safety risks, which is why we need greater support from policymakers.

Retrofitting – what is it?

Simply put, retrofitting involves removing the fossil fuel-powered engine and drivetrain and then replacing them with an electric powertrain. Electric retrofitting can be applied to classic cars right up to larger commercial vehicles such as vans and heavy goods vehicles. Most retrofitting involves using an existing electric powertrain – from the likes of a Tesla or Nissan Leaf for example – and installing it in a ‘donor’ vehicle. As one of few UK-based retrofitters, at BEDEO Group, we take it to a new level through our retrofit Reborn Electric programme for large vans and iconic vehicles for a few reasons. We incorporate our turn-key proprietary battery electrification system from BEDEO – including the battery back, inverters, chargers and the like – along with our owned in-wheel motors from Protean Electric, part of our group company structure. Why do we do that? Mostly due to weight and packaging considerations. One of the challenges with retrofitting is the additional weight and the corresponding safety burdens. While removing the engine and drivetrain reduces weight, using used Tesla or Nissan units can make it a lot heavier due to the additional systems required to run an EV. Weight impacts not only EV efficiencies but also from a safety standpoint, the more weight on an older chassis, the more unsafe it could be in an accident. Packaging is another issue. Adding batteries and motors to a classic or iconic car often means there isn’t much ‘spare’ space, leading to the use of space in the cabin and, in some cases, potentially making retrofitted cars smaller inside. Our kits are designed to maintain or reduce the vehicle’s weight during retrofitting. This is achieved primarily through the use of in-wheel motors, an innovative technology developed by Protean Electric, a leading company in this field. These motors are housed inside the wheels, minimising alterations to the original vehicle structure and avoiding the need for additional space beneath the vehicle.

Electric conversion specialist Bedeo has launched the world’s first classic car with in-wheel motors.
Bedeo’s retrofits range from vans to classic Land Rovers

Ensuring safety and quality standards

As we’ve found in a recent whitepaper, there is a severe lack of stringent testing and validation requirements in the retrofit market, raising concerns about safety and reliability. Without proper oversight, currently anyone can convert a used EV platform into a vehicle for sale, which has created a bit of a ‘wild west’ retrofit market – potentially compromising the integrity of the entire retrofit process. This unregulated environment underscores the need for standardised procedures and certification protocols to ensure that retrofitting is conducted professionally and safely. In our paper we ask: why is the government not stepping in to impose these necessary standards? And we urge you to consider the requirements carefully before looking at retrofitting yourself, or with someone else. 

Should I just buy a new EV, then?

No, retrofitting has got some major benefits, and is a viable route for lots of people. Retrofitting has a crucial role in our industry for so many reasons, namely in supporting the circular economy. The more we can reuse, the better our eco status, and the better our planet is – thus retrofitting increases the options for switching to electric power.However, to achieve this, there should be incentives, guidance and a rulebook for retrofitters to adhere to before putting a converted vehicle back on the road. 

The retrofitters rulebook – a call to action for our policymakers

For electric retrofitting to be a widespread success, we urgently need government intervention to support and regulate the retrofitting industry. This includes introducing financial incentives, establishing clear guidelines, conducting rigorous testing, and implementing certification requirements for retrofitting operations. With the right incentives and regulations in place, retrofitting truly has the potential to revolutionise the UK’s transportation sector and drive the transition towards a more sustainable future. The government must recognise and act on this untapped potential – our industry and drivers depend on it. Osman and the BEDEO team have launched a whitepaper, titled ‘Accelerating the Transition, Supporting our Businesses: Enabling Low-Emission Fleets with Retrofit Electrification’ on the importance of leveraging, supporting, and facilitating electric retrofits in the UK market. It’s available to view here:  bedeo.tech/whitepaper-accelerating-the-transition-supporting-our-businesses


Want the latest Electric vehicle news in your inbox? Sign up to the free EV Powered email newsletter...