P.E.I. company taking orders for used cars transformed into small electric pickup trucks

·3 min read
Upcycle takes a specific model of Toyota Corollas manufactured between 2009 and 2013, and transforms them into pickup trucks. The engine is also removed, and replaced by electric batteries.  (Shane Hennessey/CBC  - image credit)
Upcycle takes a specific model of Toyota Corollas manufactured between 2009 and 2013, and transforms them into pickup trucks. The engine is also removed, and replaced by electric batteries. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

A company based in Stratford, P.E.I., is now taking orders for its first round of production of small electric pickup trucks.

Upcycle Green Technology takes a specific model of Toyota Corollas manufactured between 2009 and 2013, and transforms them into pickup trucks.

The engine is also removed, and replaced by electric batteries.

The company completed the first two prototype pickups this summer, two years in the making.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"It's amazing for us because it's hard to explain to people, what is a small pickup truck here," said Natal Antonini, a mechanical engineer who moved to P.E.I. through the provincial nominee program in 2019.

"We have a lot of these small pickup trucks in Brazil, but here in North America, it's hard to find one. So we think there is a good niche market for this kind of vehicle."

Fleet vehicles

The target market for the new pickup is companies with fleets, looking for a smaller, more economical vehicle to travel short distances.

Antonini said the average light pickup truck on P.E.I. would use 15 litres of gas every 100 kilometres, about $30 worth.

The electric pickup, he said, will cost $2.50 per 100 kilometres.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

"It makes sense, if you have a fleet, to have small pickup trucks to mix with the other pickup trucks, and just save money," Antonini said.

"Other people we think could really appreciate our product are professionals like plumbers and carpenters."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Antonini said there have been challenges, because Upcycle was established just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was very hard for us and we have a lot of problems with our supply chain, because they are completely broken," Antonini said.

"All the car companies are feeling these problems."

'Double the lifespan'

Antonini said Upcycle has had support from the federal and provincial governments, as well as UPEI's school of sustainable design engineering.

Two graduates now work with the company, including Russell Peden who joined the company in June.

"This means a lot to me because we're taking cars that otherwise may go to a scrapyard, and giving them a brand new life. We're thinking it's going to almost double the lifespan of these cars," Peden said.

"I'm happy to work here at a company that's so focused on an environmental issue."

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Company partner and manager, Magali Freiberger, said they hope to create 12 jobs when the assembly line is up and running.

She said Upcycle started taking pre-orders two weeks ago, and already has a deposit on more than 20 trucks.

"It's amazing. It's a long time that we started to work on that, and this phase is so important for our business, and now we are ready for the next step," Freiberger said.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

Antonini said the vehicles will sell for $35,000, with a range of 150 kilometres, and there will also be a more expensive version that can travel farther.

He said the initial production will be 100 vehicles per year, scaling up to 200 in a few years.

"When do you think a big car company is coming to P.E.I.?  Never, but we can have a small car company here," Antonini said.

"We have a small island, and a small car company. So I think it's pretty nice."