Visiting the Renault plant where the ZOE is produced

It takes 22h to assemble a ZOE at Flins's plant.

I was lucking enough to discover how the Renault ZOE is fabricated by visiting the Flins plant. It gave me the chance to see what is going on behind the scenes and to understand the industrial system created by Renault.

On Automobile Propre, we have been talking electric cars for 5 years and these vehicles can now be seen on roads. However, we had never had the chance to visit a factory and understand how they are produced. Therefore when Renault offered me to visit Flins’ plant, I agreed right away, of course!

3 vehicles on the same production line

Bodyworks are carried automatically in the plant

One of Flins’ main characterisitcs is that it produces 3 vehicles : the new Clio 4, the Clio Collection (Clio 3) and the ZOE. Therefore, the production line has been optimized so that it can adjust to the three cars, one of which is electric. It is a real challenge for the company’s engineers, as the company produced 115 000 cars in 2012!

Setting up the ZOE’s production line took 2 years and a half and 25 persons were needed to work on it. Then, the production staff had to be trained, which took 50 000 hours of training! 150 new robots were also installed to produce the ZOE.

During my visit, I could witness 3 steps of the ZOE’s manufacturing: battery assembly, sheet metal assembly and assembly line.

Battery workshop

These Renault ZOE battery cells are ready to be assembled

It was certainly the most interesting stage for me during the visit! Batteries are key for electric cars. It is an element which you never see normally…

An assembly worker with a Renault ZOE's battery carter

In this part of the plant, battery modules coming from Korea are unpacked. The weight of each of them is 17 kg. Tension is being checked for each module, they are attached to the battery’s case, a joint is added to make it waterproof and finally, the battery’s tightness is checked by pouring water onto it. The battery’s tightness against air is also tested by « inflating » it.

Battery production in Flins

A « 60 volt » zone in the workshop is dedicated to this. There, workers work on modules but they are not connected to each other. The battery si then moved to a « 400 volt » zone where shunts are being added and the battery is closed with a seal. The battery then goes through a charging test and is recharged in 30 minutes in a specific workshop.

These robots are carrying batteries, which are ready to be assembled

It is then sent to the assembly line by little conveyor robots… All in all, about fifteen persons are working on the battery’s assembly line.

Sheet metal workshop

Side elements of ZOE's bodywork

This part of the plant is no different whether electric cars or normal cars are being assembled. It was really impressive to witness the 90% automated assembly line’s 600 robots all moving at the same time. Some car bodywork elements are being transported, welded, assembled everywhere. 4 300 welding points are needed to build a ZOE…

When one takes a close look at the assembly line, many Clio 4, some ZOE and some Clio Collection can be spotted. I would say that approximately 1 out of 20 cars I saw being produced that day were ZOEs…

Can you recognize the ZOE's silhouette?

At the end of the line, controls are being performed : some are done by robots which can measure several dimensions with extreme precision, while other controls are done by workers who « fumble » through the car, looking for defects. Robots could not perform this task, as it requires some highly qualified workers to touch the car…

There is a total of 415 people working in this part of the plant.

Here, several dimensions are being measured using a laser

Assembly line

The ZOE's front seats are manufactured in Flins

Now that the chassis and bodywork elements are ready, it’s time to send the car to the assembly line. There, everything is assembled to make it the finished article. It is the part of the plant where the most workers are needed.

This assembly line brings back some personal memories as I was a temporary worker at PSA Mulhouse about ten years ago and worked on the assembly line there…

Assembling the ZOE's electrical engine

In this part of the plant, engine elements, interior elements, windscreens, electronical elements, etc… are added to the car. As far as motorization is concerned, I was surprised to notice how similar an electrical engine and a fuel engine look when they are on the assembly line. To tell one from another, the best thing to do was to look for some orange elements on the engine block! I must say I was quite far away from where these elements were arriving, though.

A Renault ZOE on an assembly line in Flins's plant.

One part of the assembly line is dedicated specifically to the battery’s assembly. I would have loved to be able to describe it to you, but at the exact time when a ZOE arrived on that spot, the bell rang and it was time for the workers to take a break. Therefore, I could not witness the assembly. Too bad!

Renault provided a video which describes quite accurately all the manufacturing steps I just described:

All in all, it takes 22 hours for one ZOE to be built. The industrial process is really impressive, and visiting the plant enables one to understand how complex it is to build a vehicle!

What I will remember most vividly, because it surprised me the most, is that building an electric vehicle is not that different from building a traditional vehicle. At least that’s the impression I gathered.

One of Renault’s managers told me that the plant’s workers in Flins were very proud to be a part of the ZOE adventure, which I can totally understand: the electric car is certainly key to the car industry’s continued existence in France…

For those who would like to get further details, these are all the pictures I took during my visit, with my comments:

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One comment for this post
  1. Roberto67 wrote the 11/08/2013

    Congratulations for this article, quite interesting !!

    I am pretty surprised you have been allowed to take pictures. Usually OEMs don’t allow any pictures inside the production plant…

Reply to Roberto67