The Next Big Thing In The Electric Vehicle World: Retrofits Of Gas Guzzlers

There are 1.5 million extra hybrids on the road already, we just haven’t converted them yet.


It doesn’t make sense to tear down our city infrastructures to make way for new LEED-certified buildings; instead, property owners often opt to retrofit, making a building as efficient as possible within its existing shape. The same may soon be true for vehicle owners. Instead of buying a new Prius, they instead could opt for a hybrid retrofit.

Protean Electric, a company that manufactures an in-wheel electric drive system for hybrid and battery electric vehicles, recently estimated that the market for retrofits in the U.S. is over 1.5 million vehicles–the majority of which will be light duty commercial and government fleets. The reason, according to Protean, is that tiny budgets and growing operating costs are making fleet owners reconsider whether they should buy new vehicles instead of retrofitting old ones.

EV conversions are nothing new. A number of websites exist to help DIYers with conversions, and companies like Ampmobile Conversions stand at the ready to help drivers make the switch. Protean’s wheel motors can be installed in a range of gasoline-powered vehicles, turning them into hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or EVs, depending on owner preference. “It’s
the closest thing to a ‘bolt-on’ hybrid system,” explained Ken Stewart, Protean’s vice president of sales and marketing, in a statement. Protean claims that its system can increase fuel economy by over 30%.

For many vehicle owners, it still might be reasonable to wait until their aging cars have run their course before purchasing a brand-new EV. But there are far more vehicles currently on the road than there are cars purchased each year. If even just a small portion of the 256,000,000 passenger vehicles currently registered in the U.S. made the switch, it could make a big difference in oil consumption and air pollution.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.