from 100% fuel to 100% electric, the second life of Renault Douai

from 100% fuel to 100% electric, the second life of Renault Douai

“Renault Douai is the first plant in Europe to switch 100% to electricity”proudly points out Luciano Biondo, Managing Director of Renault ElectriCity. From Tuesday, May 9, the diamond company’s flagship plant in northern France will produce only the electric Megane and, in a few months, the new Scenic Vision, also electric. Transition according to the objectives of the European Union, which wants to stop the sale of hot cars in 2035 to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and therefore global warming.

Since its establishment in 1970, more than 10 million cars have been manufactured at Renault Douai. The first car to be assembled, in 1974, was the Renault 5, followed by the Renault 14, 21 and 19 …

In 1996, a factory in the heart of France’s leading automotive region was chosen to focus on the production of the Scenic minivan. An unprecedented commercial success with 469,510 cars produced in Douai in 2004. Since 1996, more than 5 million Scenics have left the factory. “It’s a factory baby”, confirms David Dubois, general secretary of the CGT Renault Douai, who has worked there since 2002.

The gradual transition to electric power began in 2018, when Renault chose the Douai site to manufacture its new electric sedan, the 100% electric Megane E-Tech. In seven weeks, at the end of 2020-beginning of 2021, the plant was transformed to set up a new assembly line, a multi-model line that benefited from the advanced technology of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. More compact than the old one, this line has provided 20,000 m² of surface area, allowing for a workshop area for battery assembly.

Battery factory on site

“This emblematic factory, which is starting a second life in the middle of a unique ecosystem in Europe with an on-site battery factory, will be the leader of the electric car”pleads the general manager of Renault’s electronics division, who recalls visiting the Douai factory for the first time in 1988 when he was still a high school student.

To produce batteries, Renault ElectriCity has in particular entered into a partnership with the Sino-Japanese group AESC-Envision (20% owned by Nissan) whose gigafactory, located 100 meters from the Douai plant, will be put into operation at the end of 2024.

Renault ElectriCity, which since January 2022 has brought together the factories of Douai, Maubeuge and Ruitz (Pas-de-Calais), has 5,000 employees, including 2,800 in Douai. But if the electric pole aims to produce 480,000 electric cars per year by 2025, we are still far from it. “Three quarters of the factory workers are out of work for three weeks because no cars are being produced, recalls David Dubois, general secretary of CGT Renault Douai. The production of the electric Megane is not enough to give us work and even for the Scenic, it will always be insufficient. » At this plant, which can currently produce 200,000 cars a year, 55,400 cars will be produced in 2022, including 46,722 Megane E-Tech.

Awaiting R5 in summer 2024

The factory is fully preparing the production of the electric R5, scheduled for the spring of 2024. “R5 is the one that should give us volume to make the plant live well”continues the union representative, also considering the promises made by the group to create 700 permanent jobs by the end of 2024.

“We’re all looking at that number to have entry-level cars like the R5 and then the R4. (which will be released in Maubeuge, less than 80 km, from 2025, Ed) »warns Stéphane Rigaud, the new chief delegate of the Regional Association of the Automotive Industry (Aria) Hauts-de-France, who knows the factory well.. By moving to the third team, Renault Douai can collect 300,000 cars from 2024.

However, as Stéphane Rigaud points out, “The ball is not only in the carmakers’ court: faced with Chinese competition, which is more competitive but produced under more polluting conditions, will consumers prefer electric models made in France? »


Macron could announce a fourth battery factory in France

Emmanuel Macron is expected in Dunkirk on May 11 or 12 to announce the opening in France of a fourth electric battery factory, according to AFP. A project of the Taiwan ProLogium group, it is estimated “5.2 billion euros”aims to increase production capacity in the long term “to prepare 500,000 to 750,000 electric vehicles per year”. Solid-state batteries are supposed to overcome several limitations of current lithium-ion batteries: more freedom, more safety, less fire, and faster charging times.