Renault Defies Union To Turn Flins Factory Into Recycling And Research Center

Illustration for article titled Renault Defies Union To Turn Flins Factory Into Recycling And Research Center
Photo: Martin Bureau / AFP (Getty Images)

While both the French government and factory workers have been putting the pressure on Renault to maintain internal combustion engined machines at its Flins production plant, Renault has decided to implement its RE-FACTORY program to transform the facility into a recycling, retrofitting, and research center.

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The Flins plant currently crafts the Nissan Micra and the Renault Zoe, the latter of which is Europe’s best-selling electric vehicle. While the factory isn’t entirely shutting down, it will be repurposed into a more modern facility in 2024, focusing on that ever-elusive word: mobility. EV production will then move to the plant in Douai.

“We’re facing up to reality,” Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said, as per Bloomberg. “We all know that the status quo is no longer possible. We need to reinvent Flins.”

Here’s a little bit of background from Bloomberg:

Renault executives are treading carefully in the company’s home country due to pressure from President Emmanuel Macron to keep production and research in France in exchange for financial backing from the state to get through the pandemic. Macron delayed a 5 billion-euro loan guarantee to the carmaker earlier this year until it had agreed with unions about two northern factories.

[...]

The CFDT union is urging Renault to reconsider cutting jobs at the site and shifting production to Douai. As many as three quarters of the EVs the carmaker sells in its home country will be built elsewhere five years from now, according to the union.

The Flins factory is just one part of Renault’s multi-faceted overhaul plan that’s likely going to see around 14,600 jobs eliminated, with many of the French jobs moving elsewhere. It makes sense why both the workers and the government aren’t happy.

The RE-FACTORY will be composed of four different “activity centers”:

  • RE-TROFIT: Reconditioning used vehicles and converting ICE-powered vehicles to electric or other carbon-friendly power
  • RE-ENERGY: Developing the potential of electric power units
  • RE-CYCLE: Recycling and reusing materials, either leftover during the manufacturing process or returned in the form of used cars 
  • RE-START: Innovating and researching everything to do with cars

Basically, the Flins factory will be used to discover what’s called the “second life” for EV engines. One of the big concerns about EVs is what we’re supposed to do with the batteries afterward, and Renault is looking to find an answer.

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It's a brilliant idea in many respects; the Flins location is likely going to be the hub of some really exciting EV development in the future. But at the downside, it confirms many of the fears auto workers have about the electric future: They're going to lose their jobs.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

It is important to note that engine retrofitting ICE engines was never allowed in France (and in most of the world) like it’s possible with crates engines in the US, you would have to homologate every modified cars which would cost more than the price of the car in most cases ; only replacing an engine for another of the same model is accepted.

In France (similar laws have also been voted in other European countries), it’s now legally possible (since april 2020) to retrofit an electric engine on a car, the main requirements are :

  • The modification must be done by a company authorized to do such modifications
  • The new engine must be electrical and might be using an hydrogen power source
  • The modified car must not exceed 20%of additional weight
  • The engine power output must be similar to the one of the original engine

There are already several companies on the market that are proposing conversion for a multitude of models, some of those are members of the AIRe (Acteurs de l’Industrie du Rétrofit électrique) association.