Renault is creating France's first 'smart island'

EVs, renewable energy and a microgrid will help power Belle-Île-En-Mer.

Back in February, Renault helped electrify the Portuguese islands of Madeira and Porto Santo -- a move not dissimilar to Tesla's efforts in Hawaii. Now it's at work again bringing power to the French island of Belle-Île-en-Mer, in a bid to create the first "smart island" in its home country.

Over the next two years, Groupe Renault will develop a smart electric ecosystem for the island, designed to reduce its carbon footprint and increase its energy independence -- island residents usually have to rely on undersea cables or generators for power, and as a result pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world.

The program will involve a fleet of Renault Zoe hatchback sedans and Ranault Kangoo ZE vans, to help islanders get around via a ride-sharing service. They'll be juiced by EV chargers powered by solar panels placed on roofs of local buildings, which will also send electricity to school classrooms for light and heat. Batteries no longer suitable for use in vehicles can still be used to store electricity to power the grid, so Renault will also install a number of these "second life" batteries to collect and store renewable power for use later.

It's by no means a complete smart solution straight away, but it's an important first step in understanding what's possible in small communities facing existing energy challenges. The lessons learned on Belle-Île-en-Mer will help researchers understand how EVs, storage batteries and renewable energy can work together in the most efficient ways, providing learning that could eventually be scaled up to address mainland issues, too.