CSR | 18 April 2017

#Greenstories – Renault support for TOWT on zero-emission land-sea logistics

On 12 April, Renault handed TOWT (Transoceanic Wind Transport) the keys to its second electric vehicle, a new Renault ZOE Z.E. 40. This Brittany-based company, founded in 2011, specializes in zero-emission sail-powered transport. We spoke with co-founder Guillaume Le Grand on a partnership that combines wind power with electrical energy.
by Julie Motreff

TOWT revisits time-honoured maritime routes to bring a modern slant to what is an eminently ecological transport mode, with a fleet of sailboats carrying goods (organic, natural or fairtrade) that also express an inherently environment-friendly outlook.

Four questions for TOWT co-founder Guillaume Le Grand

What was behind your decision to found TOWT?

TOWT was born from the increasingly important realization that goods transport is a major ecological issue on which consumers hold very little sway. Where do the products we consume come from? How are they transported? At what cost? And with what social and environmental implications? TOWT offers an environmentally virtuous alternative to conventional transport modes, with sail power appearing an obvious response to these challenges. Wind power is already used for generating electricity, so why not use it for transporting goods? Technologies exist for competitive sailboat goods transport, and we want to show that there is a market and demand for this service.

How do goods get from point A to point B?

There’s no standard product route as such: each product is unique in this respect. Take coffee for example. It all starts with product selection. For coffee I went over to visit plantations in the Dominican Republic myself. I tasted different products, met growers and inspected production methods. I ended up deciding on a small plantation in Jarabacoa, at an altitude of 800 metres. I placed the order, and Lun II, one of the boats we charter regularly, brought in over to Brittany from across the Atlantic, a 40-day haul. It was unloaded at Douarnenez, then carried by electric Kangoo to Pont-Croix for roasting. We deliver it throughout the Finistère region, again using an electric Kangoo provided courtesy of Renault. The new ZOE will enable us to considerably extend our delivery capabilities.

2017 - Groupe Renault - electric cars Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 TOWT
2017 - Groupe Renault - electric cars Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 TOWT 2017 - Groupe Renault - electric cars Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 TOWT

Departure of the Grayhound, one of the boats used by TOWT / Guillaume Le Grand discovers coffee-sorting methods at Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic / Coffee being unloaded from the vessel Lun II on return from its Atlantic crossing

How does the electric vehicle fit in with your operations?

The electric land vehicle ensures good overall consistency for our transportation approach, the idea being a carbon-free logistics chain from end to end. The bulk of the work is done by sailboat, but we also need environmentally irreproachable last-mile transport, especially since this is necessarily the interface with our end customers. So I’d say the electric vehicle really is a logistics pillar for TOWT, handling the final link in the chain, from port of arrival through to customer location.


What are the next stages in your development?

We’ll be pushing ahead with business development, carrying more goods and continuing with operations to raise public awareness and thereby hoist demand for goods carried by environmentally sound methods. The existing sailboat fleet will continue to operate, at higher fill rates and to new destinations. Then a crucial milestone for TOWT will be construction of a modern cargo sailboat, 60 metres long with a payload of around 800 tonnes, enabling us to bring down freight costs and handle contracts at larger tonnages.

#GREENSTORIES – Groupe Renault backs initiatives run by people with a strong environmental commitment. Check out their stories, projects and initiatives on groupe.renault.com

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