A new sort of 'fitting out'. At the Fuse garage in Dubai, fuel-powered vehicles are given an electric powertrain kitting out. Will this trend catch on? Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: Want to ‘switch’ to an electric vehicle?

These days, you can do so even with the fuel-powered vehicle that you own.

A handful of UAE based startup businesses are offering such a switchover option, as ‘driving green’ takes on more urgency and more vehicle owners are willing to make that transition. For now, it’s more about commercial fleet operators bringing in their models for the conversion kit-outs. (It will still be some time before individuals get to make such a transition on their mid-priced fuel vehicles and at fairly affordable rates.)

Opening up another road to going all-electric with your vehicle. A handful of UAE based startups are offering full-on fuel-to-electric conversions. Irish Eden R. Belleza/Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

It’s all about costing

“For fleets, we are targeting costs below $20,000, with our average systems costing around $15,000 for fleet customers targeting mass conversions,” said Salman Hussain, co-founder and CEO of Fuse, which specialises in electric powertrain solutions. (The re-fitout jobs the company has done extends to Toyota and VW fuel-powered models.)

“Another sector we focus on is classic cars, where the focus is on owners who want to drive something unique while also being respectful to nature. When it comes to classic cars, the vehicles are done as bespoke one-off cars, with hundreds of hours of engineering and craftsmanship going into making a single one.

“So costs can easily be $45,000 and above for an average build.”

Clearly, any vehicle owner planning on such a switch will need ample funds in hand.

The Fuse conversion kit that gets placed to make the vehicle go all-electric. Fleet owners are the typical clientele that the startup wants to plug into. But classic car owners are also lining up...

Fleets the priority

In December, another initiative was launched involving Sharjah-based alt-energy firm Beeah Group, Peec Mobility, and Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) to push the theme of electrifying major vehicle fleets in the emirate.

Under the project, vehicles will be repurposed using ‘ReMethod’, Peec’s customised engineering process, which will support the ‘transition to electric vehicles while minimising the environmental impact of the vehicle manufacturing process’.

Going 'ReSharjah'
Under the Beeah Group and Peec Mobility alliance, there will be a ‘ReSharjah’ project, where the aim to repurpose vehicles across fleets, including cars, buses, and waste collection trucks. There will also be recycling of essential automotive components, and launch of R&D projects focused on sustainable and autonomous vehicles

UAE's 50% EV target

“The UAE has actively fostered the adoption of EVs and aims to increase the share to 50 per cent of total vehicles on the country’s roads by 2050,” said Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Beeah Group, at the time of the project launch. “We are committed to supporting Sharjah and the UAE in the transition to green mobility, starting with our fleet.”

The Peec repurposing involves turning petrol-running vehicles into EVs at '30 per cent lower cost and 80 per cent less time than manufacturing new EVs'. 

Buy an EV? Or make the switch?

“While EV prices are always falling, they are still quite high for most people, with an average used Tesla costing around $40,000,” said Mihai Stumbea, co-founder and CTO at Fuse.

“While the UAE has been ranked seventh globally and first in the region in the EV readiness index, fleet customers for light commercial vehicles (LCVs) have little to no options in the market, with available EV models costing $40,000 and upwards.

“Converting your car to electric can be an easy way to keep your car and ensure you are contributing your share towards sustainability.”

Wealthy enthusiasts have shown interest in converting their classic cars to EVs, with engineers and supply chain players working on products that will ensure the cars stay lightweight. Prominent businessmen such as Akio Toyoda, Chairman of Toyota Motor Corp has also expressed his support towards electrification of cars - so there is definitely a lot of traction to the idea

- Salman Hussain of Fuse

How do the EV conversions work?

At Fuse, universal packs of 30kWh Lithium phosphate - with integrated liquid cooling in them - are usually split between the 'available' spaces in the fuel-powered vehicle. This way, ‘no interior or loading area is compromised in the vehicle’, said Stumbea.

“Our pre-built drop-in kits are built to easily install into existing (fuel) vehicles, engineered so that they require low skills and basic workshop tools to install, with a video or basic training required from our side to understand the process.

“Once trained, a technician team can install the kit in 5 hours from start to finish, with no permanent changes made to the vehicle requiring modification to the existing vehicle.”