Groupe Renault creating first European factory dedicated to the circular economy of mobility in Flins
26 November 2020
Groupe Renault is creating the REFACTORY in Flins, the first European circular economy site dedicated to mobility. By 2030, it will employ more than 3,000 people in dedicated professions. The implementation of this industrial and commercial ecosystem will take place gradually between 2021 and 2024, replacing the production of new vehicles.
It will be based on a wide network of partners from all sectors and will revolve around 4 poles of activity, putting into practice the principles of the circular economy at each stage of the vehicle life cycle and mobility.
The circular economy model implemented in Flins will be based on a set of complementary and convergent loops, aimed at encouraging the use of a vehicle instead of its ownership; extending its life through maintenance; and reusing it or reusing its components for other uses, when other solutions are no longer possible.
To support this approach, the ReFactory will also include an incubator, open to start-ups, academic partners, large groups, local authorities and intrapreneurship, as well as a training center, backed by a university center, to promote know-how and accelerate research in the circular economy.
The ReFactory aims to achieve a negative carbon balance by 2030—an objective in line with the Group’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050.
Between 2021 and 2024, the REFACTORY will be gradually rolled out around four divisions of activity—Re-Trofit, Re-Energy, Re-Cycle and Re-Start—this will make it possible to support the entire life of the vehicle by acting on the main components of the circular economy (supply, eco-design, economy of functionality, maintenance, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling).
To ensure its competitiveness, this integrated circular economy ecosystem will rely on several assets at the Flins plant, which was originally built in 1952. The stamping, injection and sheet metal activities, but also the available surface area (237 hectares, 67 of which are currently built), the network of suppliers, accessibility via road connections, and above all the excellence of the industrial operational system (standardisation, manufacturing 4.0, ISO 14 001 and ISO 9 001 certifications, logistics hub, etc.) are all strategic levers for the implementation of the reconversion project.
The performance of the ReFactory will also relate to the ability to generate closed-loop supply flows with controlled costs (reuse, recycling for repair), and to develop new value-added skills (retrofitting, dismantling, fleet maintenance, preparation of batteries for the second life, etc.) based on the integration of the company’s areas of technical expertise (reconditioning of second-hand vehicles, remanufacturing, recycling, batteries).
The transformation plan will be deployed gradually in stages between 2021 and 2024, starting in 2021 with the establishment of the Factory VO, (Used Car Factory) the transfer of Choisy-Le Roi’s remanufacturing activities, and the integration of an incubator dedicated to start-ups, partners and intrapreneurship.
RE-TROFIT: To extend significantly the life of vehicles. In a growing second-hand market, driven by the emergence of new modes of consumption that favor use rather than possession, Groupe Renault wants to bring together the expertise needed to extend the lifespan of vehicles and their uses, while preserving resources through efficient management of the flow of used parts and materials within the same site.
Groupe Renault plans to set up an 8,500 m2 Factory VO (Used Car Factory) in Flins, with the capacity to refurbish more than 45,000 second-hand vehicles per year, from September 2021. This entity will offer a simple, fast and cost-optimized logistics scheme thanks to industrial management in the factory, for the Île-de-France commercial network (RRG, dealerships, Renault Occasions/RVO). From 2022 onwards, an extension will be envisaged over a wider geographical area within the Group and externally.
The creation of this Factory VO also aims to improve the quality of services and significantly reduce the turnaround time for second-hand vehicles (from 21 days on average to 6 days), between entry into stock and resale. The objective is to preserve the value of the product as much as possible and reduce the time the car is out of service.
The entity will thus offer a turnkey service for the sales network: optimized transport of vehicles, supply of spare parts (Re-Cycle Center), renovation, storage, production of photos and videos and their online availability. The service will include real-time monitoring of the renovation stages for the sales managers of the sales network.
Against a backdrop of tighter environmental regulations in cities (low emission zones, ban on diesel vehicles in 2024, then on gasoline vehicles in 2030 in Paris, for example), the Re-Trofit division wishes to capitalize on Groupe Renault’s industrial structure and expertise in electric and gas technologies to develop an attractive retrofit offer (conversion of combustion engine vehicles to other less carbon-based energies).
Through the sales network, these conversions will primarily target professional customers (commercial vehicles) dependent on access to the urban centre for the continuity of their activities. The parts and materials resulting from this activity will also enrich the activities of Factory VO, as well as Re-Energy and Re-Cycle.
In the operation of mobility services, the ability to constantly maintain a fleet of vehicles in good condition is a determining factor in meeting customer expectations and avoiding an accelerated deterioration of the fleet. To meet this demand the division will work on developing new services (renewal, heavy repairs, etc.) to vehicle fleets and shared mobility players, such as the ZITY electric car-sharing service.
Following on from the manufacture of protective visors initiated as part of the health crisis, the division will also offer an additive manufacturing service using 3D printers already present on the site, for example, for parts that have become unavailable, for garages, private individuals or collectors of vintage cars.
To support the development of new solutions aimed at increasing the useful life of vehicles and to draw useful lessons from them, the Group will set up a test and prototyping centre for the durability and repairability of vehicles and materials, to enrich the design of future products and facilitate the improvement of vehicles during their life cycle.
RE-ENERGY: To offer solutions for the production, storage and management of green energies. Electric vehicles batteries are at the heart of the transformation of the automotive industry because of their potential applications. Optimizing the battery’s life cycle is a crucial issue for the development of the sector and limiting its impact on the environment.
Between 2021 and 2030 alone, the second-life batteries sold by Groupe Renault will represent a capacity of more than 200 MWh per year, the equivalent of 4,000 full charges of a Renault ZOE. The ambition of the Re-Energy division is to bring the ecosystem of applications resulting from the electric battery and new energies to an industrial scale, and to strengthen Groupe Renault’s position as a key player in the energy transition.
Groupe Renault has developed expertise in the repair of first-life batteries at a very early stage. At the heart of this expertise is the Flins plant, where a set of techniques and industrial processes for the repair of Renault electric vehicle batteries has been developed since 2011, before being distributed to some 20 battery repair centers in 17 countries.
While battery repairs will continue to be handled as close as possible to the customer, the Flins center aims to reach a capacity of 20,000 repairs by 2030, thanks to the development of an industrial structure, keeping this expertise on the site for the long term.
At the end of its first life in the vehicle and well before recycling, the battery provides an indispensable solution for the development of renewable and intermittent energies: electricity storage. New operating opportunities such as stationary storage make it possible to perpetuate the service that the battery offers. In this case, the battery makes it possible to integrate electricity from solar or wind power, on the scale of an individual house, a building, a recharging station or an industrial site, for example.
Groupe Renault has already set up several experiments that concretely illustrate the benefits of this approach:
In Porto Santo, thanks to second-life Renault ZOE batteries stationary storage reduces the island’s dependence on fossil fuels, while encouraging the use of renewable energies.
As part of the European ELSA (Energy Local Storage Advanced system) project, the Group offers storage solutions for industrial and tertiary buildings in collaboration with other players.
Two very large-scale energy storage projects—Advanced Battery Storage in France and Germany and Smart Hubs in the United Kingdom—have also been initiated with the aim of reducing the gap between electricity consumption and production and increasing the share of renewable energies in the energy mix.
The Group is also developing mobile energy storage applications. Reconditioned batteries have begun a second life on board cruise ships on the Seine in Paris (electrification of the Paris Yacht Marina fleet) and soon on board sailing cargo ships for transoceanic journeys (Neoline project). Second-life batteries are also used to operate refrigeration units on converted versions of Kangoo Z.E. and ZOE.
The second life market is booming today with the demand now greater than the supply as they are more affordable than new batteries. In this buoyant market, the Re-Energy division aims to:
strengthen the battery collection system within Groupe Renault and the sector;
capitalize on skills to prepare batteries for a second life;
develop and manufacture portable or mobile storage systems from second life batteries, in conjunction with partners.
Finally, from 2021, Groupe Renault will install a stationary energy storage device in Flins from electric vehicle batteries with a capacity of 15.5 MWh.
When they are at the end of their life, the batteries are systematically recycled. With the support of its subsidiary Indra for the collection and disposal of the battery, the Group has been relying since 2013 on a historic partnership with Veolia for the recycling of batteries. After their dismantling, mechanical and hydrometallurgical processes are combined to extract and recover the metals contained in the battery.
To accelerate the development of this sector, Groupe Renault has encouraged the collaboration of Veolia with the chemicals group Solvay. The two companies thus announced on 9 September the creation of a circular economy consortium aiming to mobilize the best technologies and mechanical and chemical skills, to transform metals into high purity raw materials directly usable in the production of new batteries.
Putting the lithium-ion battery into a circular economy scheme also helps make the electric vehicle more competitive. The battery gains additional value, thereby lowering the cost passed on to the buyer of an electric car. Within this division, Groupe Renault will also work on the development of maintenance and recharging services, the development of technical and supply solutions, dedicated to new energies (NGV, hydrogen), intended for individuals or local partners.
RE-CYCLE: To optimize the management of resources to support the ecosystem. The Re-Cycle pole will bring together activities allowing efficient management of the resource and its flows. Compared to other sectors, the automotive industry in Europe has high recycling and recovery rates for End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs), as well as a high proportion of recycled materials in its new products.
Thanks to this new entity, the Group—which already incorporates an average of 30% recycled materials in its vehicles produced in Europe—wishes to go further by continuing to increase the proportion of recycled materials incorporated in the production of new vehicles, while reducing procurement costs and the impact on resources.
Suez and Groupe Renault co-own Indra, whose activity of recycling end-of-life vehicles (ELV) makes it possible to extract materials from them for recycling and reintegrate them into the production of new vehicles as well as parts for reuse by the continued in the after-sales network. A key player in the recycling of ELVs in France, Indra relies on a network of 400 demolition workers. In 2019, nearly 400,000 ELVs were treated in this way.
In addition to this activity, the conversion plan for the Flins site provides for the installation of a dismantling line from 2024, to capture additional volumes and increase the Group’s capacity to source parts and materials in short loops. With an objective of 10,000 vehicles per year on average, this pole aims to be one of the main deconstruction sites in France and to develop expertise in the deconstruction of electric vehicles.
95% of the mass of vehicles and their batteries can be recycled or recovered: this European regulatory requirement was anticipated in 2007 and is applied by Groupe Renault to all vehicles sold worldwide. To achieve this Groupe Renault relies on an ecosystem of subsidiaries and partners in the field of recycling and recovery, which it intends to strengthen.
Thus, the parts and materials that compose end-of-life vehicles once dismantled can go through the stage of reuse, remanufacturing or recycling, to be reintroduced into vehicle mainte- nance and production (closed loop) or in other industries (open loop).
A pioneer in reuse, since 2012 Groupe Renault has offered a range of used parts (hood, fenders, optics, etc.) in its sales network in France, collected and selected from the Indra network.
Developed for more than 70 years by the (France) plant, remanufacturing sup- plies the after-sales circuit with components and more recently with electronic elements such as R-LINK tablets. This activity follows a strict industrial process: collection of used parts and components within the sales network, dis- mantling, cleaning, sorting, renovation and replacement of defective and wearing parts, reassembly and finally control.
Marketed under the name ‘Renault Standard Exchange’, these refurbished spare parts are offered at an average price 40% lower than that of a new part, while maintaining the same quality requirements. Far from being marginal, the standard exchange offer covers almost 70% of powertrain part numbers, up to 50% for ground link parts and is regularly extended to new families of parts. This is the only offer available on the market when serial production of the part has been discontinued.
Already established in Flins, Gaia, a Renault subsidiary, is responsible for qualifying and upgrading vehicles, parts and materials through recycling, repair and reuse channels. The material loops put in place by this subsidiary now allow the recycling of several closed- loop resources such as copper from electrical wiring, platinoid metals from catalytic converters or polypropylene from shields.
Groupe Renault has also more recently developed with partners the recycling of textile fibers from automotive fabric and seat belt production scraps in order to produce a textile intended for the interior trim of Renault ZOEs. The short loop organization (manufacturing and supply) reduces CO2 emissions by more than 60% compared to the fabric of the old ZOE from a standard manufacturing process.
Traditionally reserved for crankcases and other protective elements of the car, recycled synthetic materials were incorporated for the first time in the composition of interior components and exposed injection plastic parts. Renault ZOE is thus made up of 22.5 kg of recycled synthetic materials, an increase compared to the previous generation.
The strengthened coordination of these activities and their extension to other areas (ELVs, test or reformed vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, shared vehicle fleets, micro-mobility, etc.), will make it possible to capitalize on greater flows to supply the other divisions of the ReFactory (Factory VO, battery repair, etc.), and continue to increase the proportion of recycled or reused materials in new or used vehicles. This development will be supported by a logistics (physical and virtual) and commercial (digital marketplace) platform for efficient flow management.
RE-START: Promote innovation and knowledge sharing. The Re-Start division aims to promote and develop industrial know-how, but also to accelerate research and innovation in the circular economy.
It will host an incubator, as well as a training center and a university hub to strengthen the specialization of the ReFactory teams.
The Flins ReFactory will integrate an incubator open to external partners (start-ups, academic partners, large groups, local authorities, etc.) to develop or co-develop innovative projects around the circular economy. As a member of the Greentech National Incubator Network, this incubator has entered into discussions with the University Paris Sciences Lettres (PSL), which includes Mines Paris - PSL, Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL, Chimie Paris - PSL, and Dauphine – PSL.
To that end, it will include an ‘in vivo’ experimentation area on industrial facilities (sheet metal islands, plastic injection, etc.), in collaboration with experts from different fields (vehicle architecture, materials, electric vehicle, energy, recycling, lean manufacturing ...).
It will also host the Center of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing, for the prototyping of vehicles and the conduct of experiments around Industry 4.0 subjects such as 3D printing, predictive maintenance, retrofitting of production resources, or even automatic guided vehicles (AGV), and 5G.
This is a very interesting and explicit piece of writing about Renault which other automotive manufacturers should take into account. I found it very informative. Such clarity is also rather rare these days. Thank you for this enlightenment!
Posted by: Jennifer Pierotti | 30 November 2020 at 10:22 AM