London Electric Cars is a company founded in 2017 by Matthew Quitter. A man on a mission to help save old fuel guzzlers from the scrapheap by converting them to battery power. Typically, the conversions are completed by using parts from crashed EVs, such as Teslas and Nissan Leafs, that have been written off by insurance firms but have motors and batteries that are not damaged. “We’re the ultimate recycling,” expresses Mr Quitter.
The firm currently charges around £20,000 per conversion, the cars may be kind to the planet, but could be considered to burn a hole in your back pocket. The company says it aims to drive the cost down to £5,000 to make it affordable for more people, which should encourage more to make positive changes to their vehicles.
While the UK government currently offers a grant of £2,500 towards the cost of buying a new EV, Mr Quitter says they should also consider introducing grants for conversions. “It’s a disaster to waste the millions of old [petrol and diesel] cars on our roads, and the governments’ EV rebates are encouraging scrappage,” he says.
“The government needs to offer affordable conversions on cheap old cars, to make use of the scrapped EV batteries – which have raw materials that are still sky-rocketing in price,” he added.
Steve Drummond, who runs another firm that converts old cars to run on electric power – Oxford-based Electrogenic – agrees. “The incentives are to buy new EVs, but that’s throwing away a whole car when you could just change the engine,” Drummond says.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport says it is looking at the issue: “Retrofitting vehicles with batteries is an emerging market, and we’re working with green travel researchers.”
In the meantime, classic cars converted to electric do come with some financial incentives. Like all classic cars (currently classified in the UK as those built before 8 January 1981), they are exempt from vehicle tax if not used for commercial purposes. Classic car insurance is typically cheap, at least if the vehicle does not do much mileage. However, if you convert your vehicle to electric power you are going to have to inform your insurance provider, and your premium may rise as a result.
Converting old cars to run on electricity means they are producing less carbon dioxide (CO2) , in comparison to making a brand new electric car.
The UK’s government-funded Zemo Partnership (previously called the UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership) says that a new all-electric car typically creates 18 tonnes of CO2 during its lifetime, 46% of which comes while it is being manufactured. This compares with 24 tonnes for a standard petrol vehicle.
Mr Quitter says it takes between three to six months to carry out a conversion, based on whether he has had the experience of converting that particular car and model before, and the complexity of a customer’s wants and specifications.
It seems surreal that the cars we once looked at as scrap, or even classic cars that are on a collectors driveway, can be converted into environmentally-friendly, electric vehicles. This changes the game. London Electric Cars are moving in the right direction and are paving the way for electric car companies that don’t already offer this service.