Oct. 23 - A Lithuanian business is looking to kickstart the country's electric car economy by manufacturing its own modified version of a ten-year-old petrol-fuelled Renault Twingo. In a country where fewer than five percent of car-owners buy their vehicles first hand, PB Group say they hope to sell their modified 'Electron Twingo' by the end of the year. Jim Drury has the story.
Donatas Skulskis hopes this souped-up Renault Twingo will put his company in the driving seat of Lithuania's electric car industry. Skulskis's company PB has purchased a fleet of the ten-year-old petrol-fuelled models, which they're modifying to become electric, renaming them Electron Twingos. In Lithuania, one of Europe's smallest and poorest countries, ninety five percent of cars are bought second hand, so automakers pay Lithuania little attention. Skulskis thinks this opens a gap in the market. SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) GENERAL MANAGER OF PB GROUP, DONATAS SKULSKIS, SAYING: "Modern electric cars are still very expensive; they're almost non purchasable for Lithuanians. So we decided to put an electric engine into a Renault Twingo and sell it to Lithuanian consumers at an attractive price." Original fuel tanks are ripped out and replaced with a battery system and charger. An electric engine, controller, and automatic transmission are added while the car's original body, chassis, clutch, and gearbox remain. With a 20 kilowatt engine, the Electron can hit 100 kilometres per hour and travel a similar distance before needing recharging. A full journey costs less than two dollars. The batteries can be recharged 1200 times and Skulskis believes the vehicle is competitively priced. SOUNDBITE (Lithuanian) GENERAL MANAGER OF PB GROUP, DONATAS SKULSKIS, SAYING: "We plan to manufacture about 20 cars per month. In Lithuania they will sell for 7000 euros (before tax). At the time being we plan to sell them only in this country." PB have spent almost 100,000 dollars on the project and hope to begin commercial production shortly. Among ambitious plans to make Lithuainia carbon-neutral, the national government plan a country-wide charging station network by 2015. PB is confident that by then it will have taken full charge of the country's electric car market.