The Renault factory in Flins-sur-Seine (Yvelines) opened in 1952 and will be seven years old this year. But 2022 also marks two years for the launch of its conversion into a factory focused on the circular economy, “the biggest in Europe” in his field, in the words of Jean-Dominique Senard, Chairman of the Renault Group.
The Flins website knows that it will owe its durability only to its ability to make new out of old: from the first quarter of 2024, no new vehicle will leave the factory, which has seen 20 flagships from the company pass the diamond, including the Dauphine, 4L, Renault 5 or Twingo. 30 years ago it produced 400,000 vehicles a year. Currently, its day-to-day activity is limited to the 360 Renault Zoe and Nissan Micra, as well as parts manufactured for other factories in the group.
For now, it is time to promote the second life of cars, their spare parts and other components. An even more relevant target since two years ago, global supply chains were turned upside down by Covid-19 and more recently by the war in Ukraine. On October 11, Stellantis (ex-PSA) also took a similar line, describing the “four R’s” of its global strategy: refurbishing cars, repairing and recycling parts, recycling production waste and end-of-life vehicles.
Where are the four poles at the Renault-Flins site, called the Refactory, on the Renault side? First there’s Re-trofit, the flagship that repairs damaged vehicles sent by dealers. To this end, the 200 employees of the Re-trofit team go through the vehicle with a fine-toothed comb with 80 inspection points, from deep scratches to stamped bumpers. Once the diagnosis is made, the repair stage takes only, Renault assures, 6 to 8 days, at the same location, against 21 in a conventional repair circuit – which requires transfers from one service provider to another.
Today, 130 cars come out “as new” every day. By the end of this year, 20,000 vehicles will have been refurbished in this way, with the ambition of reaching 45,000 vehicles per year in 2030. For this, the workers have all received training of up to thirty-five weeks in certain subjects.
The vehicles are then put back up for sale in the dealers. A good way to be present on the used market, which attracts more and more customers, as the lack of components slows down the production of new vehicles and drives up prices.
It is also at the Re-trofit pole that the Renault Group and newly started Phoenix Mobility, which has become Tolv, have since this summer developed a kit for converting thermal light commercial vehicles to electric ones. An activity that is still in the testing phase, like many projects launched within Refactory.
Batteries and hydrogen
As for Re-energy, the other pole of the Refactory, it works in particular to give new life to the batteries in electric vehicles. When their capacity becomes insufficient for automotive use, they are used to develop a generator that can act as a generator.
But not to limit itself to electricity, the Renault Group has also teamed up with Plug Power, a pioneer in hydrogen in the US. Based in Flins, their joint venture Hyvia is launching hydrogen for commercial vehicles offered to professionals. Since spring, the facility has assembled fuel cells with a capacity of 1,000 units per year. And before the end of the year, it will do the same for charging stations.
Lines at full speed
The third department of the Refactory, Re-cycle, includes activities transferred from the Choisy-le-Roi site (Val-de-Marne), which has been permanently closed. On the program: refurbishing mechanical and mechatronic parts, by collecting heat engines, mechanical gearboxes or embedded systems from the commercial network… These parts are then reintroduced into the network with the certificate “of the same level of quality and a cost reduced by 40%”.
Ultimately, 92% of the collected material is recycled to give life to a new mechanical part. “These renovation lines are now running at full speed in Flins”assures Jean-Philippe Bahuaud, Renault Group vice-president responsible for the circular economy and Refactory.
But 900 part references can also be reused or recycled. This is where GAIA, the Renault group’s recycling subsidiary, comes into the picture, recovering parts from cars that have already been disassembled or spare parts at the end of the series. Once they have been repaired in Flins, they are marketed for export.
Finally, the fourth pole, Re-start, is devoted to research and innovation in the circular economy. In particular, there are activities related to the retrofitting of the means of production, an innovation center, a 3D printing center and a prototype production center.
From the Refactory’s first stage, Renault’s General Manager, Luca de Meo, ensured that the Yvelin site was committed “in a profitable business” (The cross of 2 December 2021). Renault has set a target of 200 million euros in revenue by 2025 for all Refactory activities.
Today, 800 employees are associated with it in Flins, out of the 2,100 owners. In 2030, the goal is for the Refactory to employ 3,000 people. The factory has already set up a night shift that will work in three-shift shifts.
And Renault believes so much in its model that it is implementing it in Seville, Spain, and elsewhere is being studied internationally. Because it is a question of acting as closely as possible, so as not to impair the group’s CO2 footprint. Thus, only vehicles from dealers located within a maximum radius of 300 km are transported to Flins-sur-Seine – with fully loaded trucks.
To increase its volumes, the factory prefers to open its doors to other brands and already welcomes Toyota and Stellantis. By the end of 2023, it will expand to fleets and insurance companies, for which it will take responsibility for heavily damaged vehicles. This new center will repair 3,000 vehicles in the first year, then 25,000 by 2025.
To accelerate its trajectory, Renault has just announced the creation of a subsidiary. Objective: to support the development of the circular economy among all players in the automotive industry.
The poorly oriented car market in Europe
thatMotor showwhich starts this Monday 17 October in Paris, takes place in a gloomy context for the sector in Europe.
In June 2022, the number of new cars in the EU fell by 15% compared to June 2021 and by 14% in the first half of the year. The new car market has shrunk by almost 30% since the Covid crisis.
Almost all manufacturers fall : Stellantis (-21.09%), Volkswagen (-25.58%), Renault (-16.63%), Toyota (-19%) or Ford (-9.99%). Only two brands stand out: Dacia (+ 2.69%) and Hyundai-Kia (+ 3.72%).
The lack of raw materials, intermediate products and semiconductors massively slowing down the production of new cars. Over the next few months, the availability of new cars will therefore remain limited, their prices high and delivery times still long.
(Source: ACEA and EY)