Pre-assembled or to build your own?
Battery-powered electric vehicles are now commonplace around the world. While some are being produced from scratch, it is also possible to convert your fossil-fuel guzzler into something more electrifying …
Electric vehicles (EVs) are really gaining momentum, despite their challenges with regard to range and charging time. The world’s first mass-produced zero-emission vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, reached its 100 000 global sales mark at the beginning of last year.
For R485 900 you can even drive one on South Africa’s roads … for 195 km at a time (on one charge).
You could, however, convert your fossil-fuel guzzler into something more electrifying, thanks to Freedom Won – a South African company that was founded in 2011 after the completion of its first EV conversion prototype.
I spoke to the company’s co-founder, Lizette Kriel, who highlighted the benefits of building your own electric vehicle.
“People have different reward factor priorities for driving EVs,” she explains. “Many people find that driving an EV provides great pleasure in knowing that they are contributing to the reduction of city pollution and giving momentum to the much-needed global drive to use cleaner energy.”
Kriel continues: “The smooth, effortless, yet responsive feel of driving an EV gets many people hooked. Personally, one of our favourite reasons is that we never have to go to the service station to fill up our tank … For Freedom Won the attraction of EV’s must be underpinned by a case for good economics – and it is!”
She adds that, over the long term, an EV should cost less to operate than its fossil-fuel burning brethren. “Freedom Won’s conversion concept allows an owner to convert a car, which has already given a few years of service, to electric at a much lower cost than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) EV equivalent.
“One should expect a payback on your investment, by virtue of energy and maintenance savings, in four to five years. For the OEM options the purchase price makes this payback time substantially longer.”
The company can convert almost any car to an electric one. This gives people more choice to get a car that suits them. “Our entry-level small car conversion costs R150 000, and the premium small car conversion costs R250 000. At the other end of the spectrum a large SUV will cost R350 000. Prices exclude VAT and the donor car.”
The company’s conversions can match or even exceed the range available from OEMs. “The biggest driver of cost is the proven and long-lasting lithium iron phosphate battery. The more range required by the customer, the larger the battery pack and the more the conversion costs,” Kriel points out.
“OEM vehicles are great products that fulfil a certain market segment. Freedom Won offers a different option that provides greater choice and individualism, at a lower cost, but with equal or better performance and longevity,” she adds.
“There will come a time when EVs become so popular that the market will support a much wider array of model options and the costs will gradually come down. By this time, Freedom Won may offer its own OEM vehicles.
“That is our vision, but until then it is our mission to provide a more affordable and wider choice to the African market, so as to give as many people as possible a real opportunity to break away from high fuel costs and unsustainable energy usage practices.”