Electric conversion or retrofit, was until then governed by a text dating back to 1954. A new ministerial order will be signed from 13 February 2020 could allow retrofit of nearly 360,000 vehicles over the next five years.
What did the retrofit legislation say?
The transformations, including electrical retrofit, were legal in France. But almost impossible to have them approved. And without authorization, no car registration corresponding to the new characteristics of the model. And of course no insurance…
Since 1954, in order to be homologated, converted vehicles had to be submitted to the French administration, pass technical tests via UTAC, and then the last step, obtain the manufacturers’ agreement, with a view to homologation on a stand-alone basis.
The decree of 19 July 1954 relating to the approval of motor vehicles provides for the Law. In practice, any vehicle that had not been type-approved at the DREAL (formerly the MINES) was not allowed to circulate in France, even if it had been authorized by an equivalent service within the European Community. This amounts to giving manufacturers exhaustive control of the specifications linked to the standards, allowing them to protect themselves against possible modifications that they would not have had validated…
AIRe, the electrical retrofit industry in France that changed the rules
The authorization of a modified vehicle in France seemed to be a real obstacle course… Until the creation of the AIRe association (Acteurs de l’Industrie du Rétrofit Electrique), which has been campaigning for nearly two years to simplify approval in France by no longer going through the manufacturers.
A ministerial order that changes the principle of retrofit authorization
Manufacturers’ agreement as a condition of approval will therefore no longer be compulsory, subject to compliance with a specification setting out the standards for conversion of the engine and its power supply.
To sum up, it will therefore no longer be necessary to take into account the entire vehicle, such as the structure or bodywork (which are subject to a crash test before being put on sale) in the context of an approval in “electric” version.
What is behind this historical change? A working group led by the Minister Mrs Borne and her team, composed of the DGEC (Directorate General for Energy and Climate) associated with the AIRe, the CNRV (National Vehicle Reception Centre) and the UTAC.
After two years of consultations and back and forth, the new text, which brings together a set of ad-hoc standards to be met for electrical retrofit, was notified on 12 November 2019 by the European Commission.
The European executive has until February 13, 2020 to respond to France on this decree, inspired by texts previously validated in other countries such as Italy. Publication in the Official Journal should take place in March.
The only exceptions are vehicles less than five years old and the collector’s vehicle
Exception to the rule with the collection vehicle, authentic and therefore not transformed, more than 30 years old, provided with a certificate from the French Federation of Vintage Vehicles (FFVE). These old vehicles can obtain a “collection” registration card and therefore legally drive everywhere, even in Paris on a weekday. The “collection” grey card therefore prohibits retrofit.
Vehicles less than 5 years old and still under manufacturer’s warranty are not concerned by retrofit either.
The mobility orientation law: “a profound transformation of the mobility policy”
The Mobility Orientation Law, supported by Elisabeth Borne, Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, was definitively adopted on 19 November 2019 in the National Assembly.
Presented as a necessary impetus for the emergence of new mobilities (car sharing, car pooling, autonomous vehicles, alternative vehicles …), the text also provides for the obligation of 25% emission-free vehicles in the fleets of companies and communities.
Retrofit players have of course a card to play, by proposing a solution adapted to these fleets of vehicles… 2020, the year of electric retrofit?