Under the leadership of Minister Lydia Peeters of Mobility and Public Works, the decision was made in the Flemish Government for additional promotion of sustainable mobility in Flanders. This initiative allows licensed manufacturers to convert internal combustion engine vehicles, such as cars, trucks and motorcycles, into electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This step, which will come into effect at the end of 2023, follows the introduction of a legal framework by the federal government in June 2023.
The focus on improving air quality and greening the vehicle fleet in Flanders is underlined by the government's efforts. This is further substantiated by the introduction of the retrofit option, a process that had previously been introduced in countries such as France, but was still lacking in Belgium. With the new regulations, recognized manufacturers can submit their applications via the online system FASTLANE of the Department of Mobility and Public Works.
Importantly, the conversion of vehicles to electric propulsion must follow strict safety regulations. For example, it is essential that the maximum mass of the original vehicle is not exceeded to ensure the safety of occupants, other road users and emergency services. Exceeding this mass can lead to problems with stability, steering behavior and braking capacity.
The approval procedure of a retrofit vehicle is managed by the Regions, after the verification of the technical and administrative requirements by the Department of Mobility and Public Works. With the final approval of these regulations by the Flemish Government, and the expected publication in the Belgian Official Gazette by the end of this year, a new era of sustainable mobility in Flanders is being ushered in.
The importance of safety in this process cannot be overstated. The technical requirements that vehicles must meet are determined by the FPS Mobility and Transport, based on European regulations. These requirements ensure that retrofit vehicles are safe for both the driver and other road users. The homologation by the regions ensures that these vehicles comply with both national and regional standards and regulations.
Minister Peeters emphasizes the relevance of the retrofit program by pointing to the growing demand for electric vehicles. This move is seen as a crucial development to meet both industry needs and environmental obligations. By enabling retrofit, it offers a practical and innovative solution to the challenges associated with the transition to electric vehicles. This shows a clear understanding of the complex balance between economic development and environmental protection.
She also emphasizes the need to adhere to strict safety regulations when converting vehicles. This focus on safety is a crucial aspect of its policy, as it addresses public concerns around the stability, steering and braking capabilities of converted vehicles. The fact that Peeters specifically addresses this shows that she understands the complexity and possible risks of the retrofit process.
The concept of retrofit, converting existing combustion engine vehicles to electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, represents an important evolution in the automotive industry and sustainable mobility. This approach offers an alternative to purchasing completely new electric vehicles and plays a crucial role in the transition to a more sustainable future.
Retrofit is about replacing traditional petrol or diesel engines with electric motors or hydrogen fuel cells. This process also includes the installation of associated components such as batteries, electrical wiring, and sometimes even redesigning certain parts of the vehicle to make room for these new components. In addition to the technical adjustments, the vehicle's software and operating systems are also adjusted to support the new electric drive.
This conversion offers several advantages. Firstly, it helps extend the life of existing vehicles, which can be economically beneficial to owners and helps reduce waste and the need for new raw materials. In addition, retrofit can contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions and air pollution, as electric vehicles do not produce emissions while driving.
However, an important aspect of the retrofit process is compliance with safety standards. Converting a vehicle poses technical challenges, including maintaining the structural integrity of the vehicle and ensuring the safety of its occupants and other road users. For example, the maximum mass of the vehicle may not be exceeded, as this can affect stability and braking capacity.