How do you make an EV last 100 years?

Alexis Marcadet (CEO and co-Founder of Revolte e-garage) and Ross Douglas (Founder of Autonomy) discuss the EV repair business.

Ross Douglas: Can you tell us a bit more about Revolte? 

Alexis Marcadet: We are pioneers of EV repair. We started by repairing electrical cars ourselves. The car industry must evolve to tackle climate challenges. Electric cars are the first step. The second step is to stretch out their lifespan. That’s why our motto is “Electric cars should last 100 years”.  To make this dream a reality, we’re creating tools, workshops & the Revolte academy to train e-mechanics.

With our community, we’re on a mission to show that there is a big need for a new way of repairing cars and that the circular industry should be the norm, not the exception. 

A month ago we started a SaaS service (plus hardware as a service) for garages that want to switch to electric. We provide them with the software, hardware, training, and documentation tools. So for a monthly fee they enjoy the service and capabilities that we’ve been working on for the past three years. This greatly improves their maintenance and repair capabilities for EVs. 

Ross Douglas: Who is a typical client for you? Individual owners, fleet managers, or the OEMs themselves? 

Alexis Marcadet: All of them; although we began with the individual owner who wanted to get more life out of their EV. This person is an engaged customer; because you must remember that it was a risk to buy an electric car around 10 years ago. But we also have city fleets, regional fleets, and private fleets approaching us. Most of the fleets are under warranty, and the vehicles are leased. But some of them also bought their own portion of their fleet to own them. 

As we grow, we will shift more to working with the garages and professional mechanics and that’s where our SaaS (and hardware) subscription model comes in. 

Ross Douglas: Typically, what sort of problems do these electric vehicles have that are seven years old? 

Alexis Marcadet: When a car comes to us it has usually already been to two or three garages who could not fix it. So— if the fault is easy to fix, then usually it doesn’t come to us. 

We’ve noticed that there are three main parts that are likely the cause of the problem: internal charger (onboard charger), engine, and of course the battery pack. The typical quotation to fix the internal charger is between 5,000 – 8,000 Euro, 5,000 – 12,000 Euro for the engine, and 10,000 – 40,000 Euro for the battery pack. 

We avoid unnecessarily replacing parts that don’t need to be replaced. We look for the actual smallest part that needs repairing then fix that, and only replace it if needs be. This is the Revolte magic; we are always trying to repair the smallest subparts possible. 

Ross Douglas: Let’s say that you have an eight-year- old Tesla and you want to replace the battery pack. It’s up to 40,000 Euros, as you earlier said— how would you typically fix a battery pack? 

Alexis Marcadet: Tesla is actually cheaper than all the car manufacturers. They are trying to shift from the policy of only replacing by brand new to replacing by refurbishing. And Tesla is probably the biggest actor in this field. So when you have a failure on your battery pack due to age, you receive a notification on your onboard screen that informs you to replace the pack. You simply click to sign the quote, which is around 14,000 – 20,000 Euros, depending on the quality of the pack. And if you click yes, then they conveniently replace it for you. 

So for the Tesla battery pack, we open it before we connect to the data platform of Tesla. We receive pretty interesting information, perhaps some different codes that are not seen on the screen by the customer. Only with the customer’s permission will we open up the battery pack and review the various repairs we could do— like repairing the electronic card BMS (battery management system), replacing the cells, or repairing the different connectors that you have in the battery pack. 

Ross Douglas: What about if it was one of the early model Renaults. What would that cost be to fix the battery pack? 

Alexis Marcadet: These early EVs had 22 kilowatt batteries, with a range of only 100 km. It can cost between 15,000 – 20,000 Euros to replace, which is twice the value of the vehicle. 

In France we have the term « Véhicule économiquement irréparable ». It’s like an official document from an expert that says that the car costs too much to fix. For the sake of circular economy principles, we want to get the message across to the industry that there are other solutions— we can fix the car for much cheaper and get more use out of it.  

Ross Douglas: These cars need to last longer for the environment. And this is why I think your marketing position is very smart, because there’s a huge amount of anxiety with second hand EVs. Many consumers don’t want to buy second hand, and now you can see their price is dropping rapidly. With the experience that you’ve gained now, do you believe that EVs can last longer than people think, and therefore have a higher second hand value? 

Alexis Marcadet: The big fear people have is this:” If I buy a second hand vehicle, I don’t know how long the battery will last “. If I have to replace a battery, I can potentially spend 30,000 – 40,000 Euros when  the car only costs a portion of this price to buy. So it’s not worth it. 

We have three ways to answer these concerns. First of all, even before speaking about the three ways, it’s getting harder and harder to sell second hand EVs because the fake news about them is getting stronger and stronger. 

Ross Douglas: Who is pushing this fake news? 

Alexis Marcadet: The first investigation has shown that a significant part of the money driving fake news is from the hydrocarbons industry who want to delay the electromobility revolution as much as possible— especially in Europe— where ICE vehicles are being banned by 2035. We are pioneers in France in terms of changing the narrative about second hand EVs; and we are getting interviews on a regular basis on this topic. But there are not enough voices to counter the fake news. 

Now to come back to the three ways Revolte answers these false claims. First, is that we have the data. We have built the database of what we call the « cost observatory »: it tells us what the maintenance issues are and what faults the car has experienced. We can see from the data the condition of the battery pack and other key parts. 

The second thing that we can do is tell customers that all organs can be repaired. It is fake news that previous generations of battery packs cannot be repaired; or that in a few years time your battery will be redundant. Some OEMS have tried to simplify as much as possible the production, and sometimes they put some some glue in the wrong part. But that won’t last, because they know that people like us will speak about it.

Our third point, in terms of giving second hand car purchasers some assurance, is what we call «upgrade ». It’s quite simple : your vehicle is upgraded with a new battery pack, and that battery pack can come from the OEM, or not. As I speak— this is illegal in France and you can lose your insurance; although technically it is easy to do. In some countries it is legal. Ultimately it’s a grey area but we have begun a campaign to make this legal. 

We believe that supplying generic battery packs, whether leased or purchased, can be a growing industry. And it would especially challenge the fears around second hand EVs. 

I believe it will become a reality in France in a few years, which would be good for consumers. Then, you could make EVs last 20 years or more— giving a boost to the second hand market. 

Ross Douglas: Another bit of fake news is that you must recycle batteries straight away, and that they are difficult to recycle. What are you doing with your old batteries? Are you putting them into battery storage, or are you sending them to recycling? 

Alexis Marcadet: I have received inquiries from startups that want to create a tool to help the huge industry of recycling battery packs. We are well-placed to be part of such an initiative, given that we are working with old cars. 

You can use second-hand batteries, for example at homes, or in light industry; there are second life applications. This will become a big industry in a few years. 

The US has some big actors working on this; and the figure we get is that 95% of the materials in a battery can be recycled. So, once the circular economy is applied to batteries, there will be all sorts of opportunities. Also, the new materials are easier to use in a circular manner than the first one. The future is bright here.

Ross Douglas: Alexis, let’s talk about fleets. One of our clients, La Poste, is the biggest EV fleet owner in Europe. They have 31,000 electric vehicles, and their Head of Sustainability told me that their total cost of ownership for their EV fleet is less than they thought it would be. It’s obviously less than combustion, but it’s even less than they predicted. So do you think we’re going to see fleets transitioning to electric vehicles quite quickly; notwithstanding all the fake news against EVs? 

Alexis Marcadet: It’s hard to say, because there are many variables. 

We are talking to fleets; we are helping them, getting the arguments to convince their boards to purchase. So I think the next two years will be very important— if our campaign works well we can show that the first generation of cars is lasting longer than expected, and that the new generation has better chances to last even longer. But what I hear is that La Poste is a very specific case, and that it is harder for smaller firms to switch to electric. 

Hopefully we will see better leasing and insurance options for all fleet owners so they can make the switch faster. Insurance products are expensive because they don’t have the data yet— everyone wants the data. The insurers want to know the data from the OEM, but they’ve struggled with that. It’ll be a bit confusing for the next couple years, but then after that it’s going to be a no-brainer, as people like us start to prove the case for EVs as a more reliable, cheaper, and eco-friendly solution. 

Ross Douglas: Finally, we’re seeing CATL and BYD being incredibly innovative by quickly introducing new technology with better-performing batteries. Do you imagine a future where an OEM will make the vehicle and the battery will come from a separate company? 

Alexis Marcadet: Yes, I do. Revolte began as a car manufacturer with the intention to create vehicles that are easy to repair and upgrade. We discovered that no one was able to make such a car last hassle-free for over twenty years. Thus, we switched to repairs. 

Just as we did ourselves, somes companies will be part “OEM” part service provider.  So, I think that there is an opportunity for companies to produce only the car (minus the battery) and that the next generation of EV OEMs won’t produce batteries. They will only produce the other parts and instead they will rely on dedicated actors for the specific technologies, like batteries. 

Share the Post:

Learn more about exhibiting at the Global Decarbonization Expo

Opportunity awaits you at the Global Decarbonization Expo, where industry leaders and innovators converge to shape the future of tomorrow’s clean energy management system. Download our brochure for more information about what you can expect by exhibiting your solutions in front of a global audience!

Related Posts

Interview Application

We are looking for innovators, policy makers and thought leaders who are working on solutions to decarbonize our economy.