Renault's annual plant retooling marks the beginning of the manufacturer's venture into electric cars.

Renault's Flins, France, assembly plant just started production again after spending most of August being retooled. While summer factory shutdowns are the norm in France, this year's retooling is the most important in a long time as most of it revolved around the company's upcoming Zoé EV.

Technicians from Renault's Technocenter in Guyancourt, France, installed about 150 new robots. Some of them are already running and producing the only car that is currently built in Flins, the third generation of the Clio. Others are idle, patiently waiting for Zoé production to begin.

Installing the new robots involved the titanic task of modifying part of the factory's floor plans. To give an idea of how big the factory is and how much work went into getting it ready for the Zoé, 170 different work zones were set up under its roof.

When the Zoé hits showroom floors, it will be the first Renault developed specifically as an electric car. It will be roughly the same size as the Clio, hence why a hybrid version of the Clio is not currently planned; it would cannibalize its electric sibling.

Only about 90 percent of the of Zoé's exterior design has been revealed to the public, which means that there are still some surprises in store. Renault has yet to announce when the production version of it will bow but it will either be at the Geneva Motor Show next March or at the Paris Motor Show in September of 2012. Rumor has it that it will be pretty close to the Zoé Preview concept that Renault showed in Paris in 2010.

The Zoé-specific robots are in for a sabbatical year as production is not expected to start until the end of 2012. For buyers who are too eager to wait, the French manufacturer is going to launch the Kangoo Z.E. and the Fluence Z.E. later this fall. They aren't as novel as the Zoé since both are based on existing internal-combustion models, but under the skin they share the same electric technology.


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