Trucks

This is how Renault Trucks manufactures its E-Tech electric trucks: we visit its factory in Normandy

On the occasion of the celebration of the Renault Trucks Emob Days, Hybrids and Electrics recently had the opportunity to visit the factory that makes the brand, owned by Volvo Group, has in the Normandy region. More specifically, the factory is located on the outskirts of the city of Cabain and it is in this location where the firm already mass-produces its electric trucks.

At Renault Trucks they proudly announce that they are the first company in Europe to have an electric truck in production. In fact, the first unit left the Cabain factory in March 2019, and since then the electric trucks of the diamond firm have already rolled more than a million kilometers in the hands of customers.

In total, Renault Trucks says that they have already delivered more than 100 electric trucks to customers, and if the 50 trucks that the company itself has for tests and demonstrations are added to this figure, and all the reservations made firm by part of customers, in a short space of time they will exceed the level of 500 units produced. A figure that has undoubtedly been affected by the shortage of semiconductors, and which Renault Trucks has tried to avoid by partially building the trucks until the arrival of the necessary semiconductors.

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Renault Truck D-Wide outside its factory in Cabain, France.

In addition, Renault has taken advantage of the Emob Days to give the news that its range of ZE electric trucks will be renamed E-Techthus maintaining a corporate image close to the Renault passenger car division, with which it maintains a relationship solely in terms of brand image, since when it separated from the Renault Group, Renault Trucks kept the image rights with it.

It is even to be hoped that in not too long a time Renault Trucks will inherit the new Renault logo, with a more classic and retro style, and that with it a new stage will begin in terms of design within Renault Trucks. Who knows…

Visit to the Renault Trucks factory in Normandy

Located on the west coast of France, about three hours from Paris by road, the Renault Trucks factory in Cabain has become one of the economic lungs of the Normandy region, and from there, in addition to the Renault headquarters Trucks in Lyon, the company’s entire electric strategy is commanded, which aims to achieve half of its sales by 2030 being 100 electric.

Electric engine and transmission of a Renault Trucks truck.
Electric engine and transmission of a Renault Trucks truck.

In its entirety, the factory supports no less than 2,200 workers, and both Renault Trucks and Volvo trucks come out of it in their final product form. Renault’s electric truck production line has 34 different workshops and annually manufactures 2,000 trucks. More specifically, and although it is true that a new truck comes off the line every 5 minutes of activity, currently the production of electric trucks is reduced to 9 trucks a day.

Renault trusts a 600V electrical system of nominal voltage that, according to what has been announced, is a direct inheritance of the technology of Volvo’s electric buses. Depending on the customer’s needs, a different number of battery modules will be equipped, each of 66 kWh in order to have more or less autonomy. Given the great availability of space between both axles, Renault’s electric trucks are equipped with two battery packs in the available space.

The battery packs are located between the front and rear wheel arches given the long wheelbase and the free space left by the frame rails.
The battery packs are located between the front and rear wheel arches given the long wheelbase and the free space left by the frame rails.

Since heRenault Trucks electric trucks share a structure with diesel trucks of the company, most of its manufacturing takes place on the same line. However, the Renault E-Tech range does not finish its production 100% on this line, but rather requires one more step, since once its assembly is complete, it is separated from the rest of the diesel trucks for the installation of its battery pack. and the electrical system.

Although the engine and transmission are installed at the same point in the production line Unlike the diesel engines of the rest of the trucks, it is not until the last step that it is equipped with the different battery modules, and it also takes place in a different facility within the factory itself. with which, through a final test, the manufacture of Renault’s electric trucks is concluded.

The batteries and the final part of the electrical system are installed separately from the rest of the trucks.
The batteries and the final part of the electrical system are installed separately from the rest of the trucks.

One of the peculiarities of this factory (and presumably of any truck factory) is that 100% of clients are companies or professionals, and given the particular needs of each one of them, all trucks are designed based on their preferences and needs, and the design can vary by up to 60% to adapt to the purpose for which it is being manufactured. In fact, while we were contemplating the pace of production in the Renault Trucks chain, we were told that all the trucks in it were firm orders from companies and freelancers.

The brand knows that for its clients, mostly companies, making the leap to electric mobility means entering a sea of ​​doubts and uncertainties. For this reason, through four phases, they are in charge of seeing not only that their client’s activity is suitable for making the leap to the use of electric trucks, but also that Renault Trucks is in charge of accompanying and monitoring the performance of all its electric trucks during their entire useful life with the customer.

The feeling of traveling aboard an electric truck

In addition to finding out how the French firm proceeds in relation to the production of electric trucks, we also had the opportunity to find out how its battery-powered trucks behave in the city thanks to a co-pilot in the vicinity of the factory.

The model in which we had the opportunity to ride was, more specifically, a Renault Trucks D-16T, which is the model that can currently have the most battery capacity within the range of the French manufacturer.

Depending on the total number of modules that are equipped, the total capacity of the batteries will vary between 200 and 400 kWhwhich will grant a maximum autonomy of 400 kilometers in WLTP cycle. An autonomy that at the moment adapts to the needs of this type of trucks, mostly dedicated to urban delivery.

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Renault Trucks D-16 T electric.

It is true that, since we lacked the necessary license to drive heavy vehicles, we cannot give our impression about the driving experience, but we can verify several aspects.

On the one hand, the inherent thrust capacity that the electric drive has when transporting heavy loads. According to the brand, the Renault Trucks D-16 T in which we were able to ride it was loaded with 80% of the total weight that it is capable of carryingand even so it continued to show a thrust capacity in which a total cleanliness in power delivery stands out and the feeling of not being transporting such a heavy load given the absence of noise related to the revolutions of a diesel engine.

Beyond the operational and cost advantages, and the obvious environmental benefit, Renault Trucks strives to emphasize that its electric trucks are more comfortable and pleasant to use for their drivers, given an infinitely greater refinement of use than that of a diesel. traditional.

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Renault Trucks D-16 T electric.

As a curiosity, the transmission of the Renaultt Trucks D-16 T makes use of two different speeds, one to start from a standstill and circulate at low speed and another that engages when establishing a higher cruising speed. The change from one gear to another is hardly noticeable in the cabin due to the linearity in the power delivery of the electric motor and the absence of engine noise.

Renault Trucks’ decarbonisation strategy

Together with Daimler Trucks, and operating under the business umbrella of the Volvo Group, Renault Trucks is among the leading truck manufacturers in Europe, and they want to continue to maintain this position with the arrival of electric trucks.

Currently, given the current battery technology, it is difficult to apply them over long distances, so they know that for this application they will have to continue to rely on diesel engines. However, the firm works on different types of low emission technologies, and while They do not rule out working with fuel cell trucks, but they do see green hydrogen as a great asset in the future.

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Renault Trucks forecast regarding the decarbonisation of its range.

By 2030 they hope that 50% of their sales will correspond to electric trucks, while gradually by 2040 they hope to have stopped using fossil fuels and biofuels, with green hydrogen through internal combustion taking over from diesel over long distances.

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