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Renault Trucks’ disassembly plant boosts circular economy initiatives

© Shutterstock / Jevanto ProductionsRenault Trucks.

The Volvo Group’s Renault Truck subsidiary is building a new ‘disassembly’ plant to drive circular economy initiatives.

The Used Parts Factory from Renault Trucks follows its Used Trucks Factory, and reconditioning centre, part of its three-pronged circular economy approach of regenerating, repurposing and recycling used trucks.

These initiatives make sense from a variety of perspectives, including sustainability, brand strengthening, supply chain management, and compliance with potential new legislation.

The EU’s End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) has several shortcomings which will be addressed in forthcoming changes and potential legislation. Trucks above 3.5 tones were excluded from the original directive, citing different decontamination and dismantling requirements to cars as a reason. 

Renault Trucks is expanding on its circular economy approach via a new used parts factory in Vénissieux. Dismantling trucks to reuse their parts and raw materials may also help satisfy requirements of potential new ELV legislation in the EU, expected sometime in 2022.

Prior to this announcement Renault Trucks had begun selling certified used trucks, similar to that done by high-end car makers. A Used Trucks plant in Limoges remanufactures the trucks, while its reconditioning centre in Lyon updates them with the latest technologies.

The Used Parts factory is the culmination of a feasibility study conducted by Renault Trucks in 2020, in conjunction with the French environmental and Energy Management Agency ADEME, and French automotive recycling specialist Indra.

Renault Truck’s three-pronged circular economy strategy

Renault Truck has based its circular economy strategy on three pillars – regenerate, repurpose, recycle.

Used vehicles that are up to four years old are reconditioned and updated, which can then be reused for a further three years, or resold, and can be operated beyond the one million kilometre mark, the company claims. Parent Volvo Group estimates the average economic life of its products to be about ten years.

Repurposing also helps extend the life of a truck, and involves transforming long-haul tractors into a rigid truck (tractor and trailer fixed or fused together) or site approach trucks (like a dump truck). Some trucks are also retrofitted to become compatible with biofuel.

Recycling further adds to both the regeneration and repurposing of trucks, by recovering parts that can be reconditioned and introduced once more into the after-market.  

Sustainability targets reflect parent Volvo’s ambitions

Beyond its circular economy strategy, Renault Trucks has also set electric vehicle targets for its fleet. By 2025 it expects 10% of its vehicle sales to be EVs, rising to 35% by 2030. By 2040, the manufacturer aims for 100% of its vehicles to be operated without fossil fuels.

Renault’s parent Volvo Group (ST:VOLV-B) has set a net zero target for its entire rolling fleet by 2050, with an interim goal of all trucks delivered across its brands to operate fossil fuel free by 2040. It has the same 35% EV sales by 2030 target as Renault, and expects a gradual shift into battery electric and fuel cell-electric vehicles. Volvo expects to continue to make internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles running on sustainable biofuels or other fossil-free fuels beyond 2030.

The long awaited change in the EU’s ELV almost here?

The EU’s ELV directive has been in place since 2000, and is due for an overhaul, which is expected sometime this year. Besides being criticised for a disconnect between policy and implementation, the directive left out 45 million vehicles, including trucks and motorcycles, from its purview.

Trucks above 3.5 tonnes were exempt from the initial directive, which may be remedied by a review and proposed legislation this year, following a consultation with industry stakeholders in 2021. Besides leaving out trucks (and motorcycles), among the most glaring shortcomings of the ELV appears to be a lack of fully extended producer responsibility.

The World Economic Forum and the World Business Council’s ‘Circular Cars Initiative’ launched at Davos in 2020 is attempting to accelerate circular economy business models in the automotive and mobility industry as well. 

Namesake Renault Group (PA:RNO), which is a completely unrelated company, has been hailed as an automotive circular economy pioneer by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation. It embarked on an ambitious circular economy plan as well in 2020, which goes beyond extending the life of cars, to also refurbishing robots.

Renault Trucks’ circular economy strategy may be a clever move to anticipate an inclusion of trucks in further ELV rulemaking. But it also makes sense from a sustainability perspective as it creates an aftermarket for parts that are certified by the original equipment manufacturer. This one just might be an instance of getting circular economy more right than wrong.

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