NAGOYA--Pop the hood on a sporty-looking car at a factory near the Nagoya Railroad Co.’s Tsushima Station in Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, and prepare to be shocked.
What looks like a gasoline-powered car on the outside has been transformed into an eco-friendly electric vehicle (EV) on the inside.
An electric motor and rechargeable battery are mounted on a platform in the rear of the car. A plug to charge the battery from a home outlet has been installed on the driver’s side.
“The demand for conversions is coming from people who want to curb carbon dioxide emissions while continuing to own their cars,” said Katsunori Ito, president of EV-Aichi, operator of the conversion factory.
Companies such as EV-Aichi are plugging into a growing demand for the conversion of gasoline-engine cars to EVs by removing the engines and fuel tanks and installing electric motors and battery packs.
The sales pitch for the conversion is that it's cheaper than buying a new EV.
Responding to the growing demand for EVs, the newly established firms see converting vehicles as a lucrative new business opportunity.
EV-Aichi was established in August 2011 by about 20 small and midsize companies, including car sales and repair firms and construction companies.
EV-Aichi will begin accepting orders for converting used cars this summer. The lowest rate for conversion is expected to range from between 1 million yen (about $12,500) to 1.5 million yen. The company has already received more than 50 orders, with many coming from individuals.
One has also come from a company that owns numerous vehicles. Ito quoted an official of the firm as saying, “We want to convert one of our cars to an EV on an experimental basis.”
Meanwhile, a different conversion company was established in March 2011 by retired Toyota Motor Corp. employees and others. The firm, “Town EV,” located in Nagoya’s Naka Ward, plans to mainly accept orders from companies.
It has already received inquiries from trucking companies, gas firms and electric power companies. One company is now considering converting about 1,000 of its gasoline-powered cars to EVs.
“In the case of a corporate customer, we can accept an order for converting (a multiple number of) cars of one model at one time. So it requires less time and labor,” said Town EV president Yoshiro Sugimoto.
Another firm, EV Toyohashi, set up in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, in April 2011, is also converting gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs.
In areas outside Aichi Prefecture, a group of organizations, including an electronics manufacturer and a university in Akita Prefecture, launched a study group in July 2011 to examine the possibility of mass-producing parts for converting EVs.
The Niigata prefectural government has also started a system to give a subsidy of about 300,000 yen per vehicle conversion.
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