If $32,780, the sticker price for a Nissan Leaf, sounds high for an electric vehicle, how about $54,500?
It may be the outer reaches of what most consumers would be willing to pay to drive green. But a Cincinnati venture called AMP Electric Vehicles thinks customers for that price segment are out there: in fleets, in high-income demographics or just in areas where General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors Inc. aren't planning to offer their electric vehicles for a while.
AMP's plan is to retrofit existing vehicles -- new or used -- with electric drivetrains. They would do it for automakers, similar to convertible-top suppliers that alter vehicles off-line inside an auto plant. Or they would do it for fleet customers, franchised dealers or individual consumers.
Last week AMP began converting a line of vehicles for a fleet customer, which it would not identify, at a production site near Cincinnati.
It doesn't come cheap. Start with the sales price of a new Chevrolet Equinox, which AMP has favored so far for these conversions. Add the expense of removing its engine, transmission and other remnants of its combustion engine. Then add the cost of a Chinese-made, 37 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery module and two electric motors from Remy International. Total: $54,500.
"Some customers want to drive an EV," says J.D. Staley, AMP's vice president of sales and marketing. "But they don't want to drive a small car like a Volt or a Leaf. Maybe they want their comfortable Ford Crown Victoria -- but with an electric drivetrain.
"There is 100 years of car design and engineering know-how already out there that doesn't need to be improved on," Staley says. "All we're doing is making them electric."