Renault is strengthening its electric powertrain expertise through the design and manufacture of the motor that powers its all-electric ZOE compact hatch, a car we've seen in use through a car-sharing programme in the Klang Valley, at its Cléon plant in France.
The new motor, the R 240, was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, and from now on will be fabricated in a factory that has made a name for itself at Groupe Renault to churn out the Energy dCi (130, 140, 160) internal-combustion engine: Cléon.
The 100% electric and 100% Renault motor to be fitted on ZOE, with its motor-battery set, allows the car’s range to be extended by 30km up to 240km. This is the culmination of a 300 million Euro investment in 2011 and is an integral part of Renault’s electric motor and battery technology development strategy.
“We aim to become the leading powertrain plant for the (Renault-Nissan) Alliance,” says Mendi Ammad, Director of the Cléon plant.
The Cléon plant was chosen for the project for two main reasons: its production base as well as its engineering and operational teams already on site. Renault was able to reuse existing production resources and reconfigure it for new applications – over 50 percent of inspection systems and industrial development machines were already in place for the R 240 motor's production, thereby helping to limit nearly 40 percent of investments with no discernible compromise in quality.
In addition, the engineering and operational teams housed at Cléon are of the size and skill needed to absorb such a project smoothly. Renault says all the function experts are already on-site. A 6,000-hour training program was launched in 2012 in preparation for the R 240’s industrial development, including general classroom training on electric motors, technical machine training, and to educate cohesion between suppliers, operators, and maintenance staff.
The Cléon plant has been gathering expertise over the past two years to produce ZOE’s junction box. The electronic module’s assembly and production experience for the power electronic control (PEC) of the R 240 was harnessed by the team there. Given the highly manual PEC assembly process, its diminutive size, and the 180 components, the more adept the manufacturing staff is, the better.
For rotor and stator winding, common component know-how were taken from Nissan who themselves have produced its own electric motor for the Leaf. There are also local companies based within 30km of Cléon that produces electric motors for other uses, and the plant benefits from their process expertise as well.
Renault also factored industrial diversity into the purchase of machinery for the plant, resulting in the assembly lines being able to produce engines with different dimensions for other Group vehicles and partners.
The company says that the initial production capacity for the R 240 motor stands at 50,000 units annually. In the longer term, however, the plant is configured to produce twice that volume.