retrofitting, a complementary response to “driving every day without polluting the air in cities”

This article is part of our “Les focus de franceinfo” operation, which highlights key themes that have been little addressed in the presidential campaign: the cost of housing, the crisis in public hospitals, the mental health taboo and the carbon footprint of transport.


“You will be disappointed in the sound!”, says Arnaud Pigounidès, founding president of REV Mobilities, all smiles as he settles into his 1971 Peugeot 504 coupé. Inside, we take a step back in time. Except under the hood, no heat engine. Instead, electric batteries. And we hear only one thing: silence. “You are in a car that is 51 years old and will live another 50 years thanks to the electric, with the electric fishingget excited. And the fact that it’s emission-free, so you can drive every day without running the risk of polluting the air in cities.”

The Peugeot may have a few years under the hood, it starts punctually, with a range of 180 to 200 km. But the vehicle is currently just a prototype. He is not authorized to drive: currently, only four models (the 2CV, the 2CV van, the 103 and the solex) are homologated. “Initiatives are now being taken with a view to homologation within a few months and it is undoubtedly at the end of the year or at the beginning of next year that we will see a greater volume of vehicles appear, undoubtedly commercial vehicles from the start.explains Olivier Marchegay, CEO of the REV Mobilities group. So you will see ‘retrofit’ vehicles on city streets in 2023, with the surprise to see vehicles that traditionally make diesel noise no longer make noise thanks to electric motors.”

Batteries replaced the internal combustion engine of this Peugeot 504 coupé from Retro Future.  (PAULINO PENNANEC'H / RADIO FRANÇA)

The practice has been authorized in France since April 4, 2020 and reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. To “retrofit” your vehicle, you have to count between 15 and 20,000 euros, which is half the price of a new Renault Zoé. This can be complemented by state aid. Since June 1, 2020, the electric retrofit is eligible for a bonus paid by the State, which can go up to 5,000 euros.

The REV Mobilities company is targeting three markets: vintage cars, commercial vehicle fleets – that is, 6 million commercial vehicles transformed by new and retrofit in the coming years – and a truck and bus division. Its ambition: “refurbish” 20,000 vehicles over the next three years, which would save more than 120,000 tonnes of CO2, according to the company. “For the passenger car today, the problem that exists, to be honest, is that retrofit is still expensive, just like electric is still expensive.believes Arnaud Pigounidès. You take the difference between a diesel Clio at 18,000 euros and a Zoé at 32,000 euros, it’s 14,000 euros, which is equivalent to the weight and volume of the batteries to have enough autonomy.

“Today, for passenger vehicles, we still don’t feel the market turn around. ”.

Arnaud Pigounidès, Founding President of REV Mobilities

in franceinfo

But for the head of REV Mobilities, these are future savings. “The price of an electric kilometer is three times cheaper than gasoline, and maybe even four times cheaper in the next few months because gasoline is only going up.he points. So you save money over the life of the electric vehicle, with pre-paid batteries that save money. You see the pattern, it’s quite virtuous.”

But retrofit isn’t just for classic car enthusiasts. “Technically, we can ‘renovate’ all vehiclesguarantees Aymeric Libeau, founder of Transition-One, a start-up that transforms vehicles, from the fiat 500 to the Twingo 2, including the Clio 3. What matters is how you want to use it. The retrofit does not allow 500 km of autonomy because we will reuse the volumes that were released. Car manufacturers are showing us today that there is a race for autonomy. But are we really going to use that autonomy as often as we think?

“Today we have more than 10,000 vehicle retrofit orders from France, but also from other European countries and other countries around the world. We will place our orders at the end of the year and now we can see that there is real interest in this type of solution. “

Aymeric Libeau, founder of Transition-One

in franceinfo

The retrofit sector wants to face the bus fleets of communities, but also the vehicles of artisans, directly impacted by the Low Emission Zones (ZFE) that will be implemented on December 31, 2024 in all agglomerations with more than 150,000 inhabitants. Vehicles with Crit’Air 5 and 4 stickers, ie older diesels, will be prohibited. “There are 43% of the fleet of concessionaires that will no longer be able to circulate”is alarmed Arnaud Pigounidès who recognizes that the demand “is extremely strong” about utilities. “It’s going to be horrible for the craftsmen and they’re very interested in being able to change the engine of their vehicles that they use every day, which they’ve pampered and equipped. It’s superb savings for them, so we have an app that is mind boggling. in utility.”

At REV Mobilities, the order backlog is growing: more than 2,000 orders. “We have a partnership with a mutual association of artisans and food professionals, MAPA, which shows that there is real success, a real desire to transform and, above all, to save money.”

Amaury La Fonta, Olivier Marchegay and Arnaud Pigounidès from REV Mobilities, Paris, March 30, 2022. (PAULINE PENNANEC'H / RADIO FRANCE)

The retrofit corresponds to a 66% reduction in greenhouse gases, up to 87% in buses. This solution seems to make more sense because Europe will ban the sale of thermal vehicles from 2035, before the total ban in 2050. “We can’t throw away 260 million vehiclesreleases Sébastien Rolo, head of Lormauto in Lisieux (Calvados), We can’t achieve our neutrality goals by going exclusively through fleet renewal, it’s not socially acceptable to throw it all away.” His startup recovers old Twingos to “reform” them. Your approval should arrive in the next few months.

“260 million cars, if you stack them on top of each other, that’s exactly the Earth-Moon distance.”

Sébastien Rolo, owner of Lormauto

in franceinfo

“One thing is for sure, importing electric vehicles made in Asia, only feeds the economy of these countrieshe continues. When we imported a Chinese car rebranded with a French brand, we certainly did things for the French brand, but above all we paid workers who work very, very far from home.

“You can imagine that garage owners, all those automotive professionals who are close to customers, will lose 30-50% of their business from the electric car.retrieves Aymeric Libeau. The retrofit produces locally and allows these automotive professionals to find a new activity.”

Retrofit is on the program for several presidential candidates. While environmentalist candidate Yannick Jadot proposes the transformation of one million vehicles, Valérie Pécresse made this her hobbyhorse in September 2020 as president of the Île-de-France region and wants today, as a candidate for Les Républicains, to develop the sector. . On the side of the Socialist Party, in her program, Anne Hidalgo wants to strengthen “help for electric vehicle acquisition and retrofit by creating a zero-interest loan for sustainable mobility.” An incentive to retrofit that also appears in the program of Jean-Luc Mélenchon who also wants “enhance the conversion bonus.”

“Right now, not a day goes by without the retrofit being mentioned in the national media.welcomes Amaury Lafonta, commercial director of REV Mobilities. And if it is not a retrofit, they are ways of helping households to access electricity, which, by the way, for which the retrofit is an excellent solution.”

The AIRe association, which brings together 15 companies specializing in retrofitting in France, even offers a retrofit plan a week before the first round. There are ten proposals, from the establishment of support equivalent to the 6,000 euros paid for new vehicles, to support for the sector in its communication with the general public, to support the sector in its industrialization actions, to support in approvals.

The goal for the industry: produce more than two million conversions before 2032. “We have more than 40 million cars in the fleet, even if we had 100% of vehicles sold in electric, it would take more than 20 years to decarbonize the existing fleet.believes Stéphane Wimez, co-president of the AIRe association. And so, we are a complementary approach.” Arnaud Pigounidès concludes:Let’s participate to make it happen, maybe between 15 and 20 years old. It’s great news for our lungs, for our ears, for driving comfort too, and also for our wallets.”

Retrofitting, an additional answer to “driving every day without polluting the air in cities” – Reporting by Pauline Pennanec’h

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