France

La Laveuse, when water is becoming a luxury

"Why pay for three minutes when you only need one?" La Leveuse

Five years ago his colleagues were mocking him for dreaming about a car wash using recycled water. Now Frédéric Demoulin runs a successful business in the south of France, called La Laveuse. Soon, the brand will be coming to a French town near you, he promises in an interesting article in L’Independant. 

Catalan company La Laveuse has invested heavily to create a network of five car wash centers in the Pyrénées-Orientales region, after they started in 2022. The concept aims to encourage eco-responsibility among motorists, by offering stations that optimize the use of water and energy.

Laveuse’s logo says something about their ambitions

When Frédéric Demoulin wandered the aisles of the EquipAuto show in Paris in 2019 looking for partners to help him develop his idea, he was taken for a fool by carwash professionals.

Back then, the concept of cleaning your car in a car wash by reusing wastewater seemed pretty far-fetched. At least in France. But the founder and manager of “La Laveuse”, the new Catalan eco-responsible carwash brand, believed in his dream and pursued it.

“It’s just common sense,” Frédéric Demoulin says in an interview with L’Independant. He describes the business model he created from A to Z. He adapted the gantry washes, the payment terminals and many other technologies used in the stations to optimize water use. “It’s true that people looked at us like aliens at trade shows. They’d ask me, ‘Why do you want to recycle water? I had more than one reason,” says Demoulin.

Five car washes

Three years later, in 2022, at the start of a historic drought in the Pyrénées-Orientales region, the first eco-responsible “La laveuse” car wash started in Saint-Estève. Despite the water restrictions imposed by the prefectoral decree prohibiting private car washes outside professional car washes equipped with water recycling systems. Those strict rules are still in force today, so Demoulin made the right decision.

Demoulin is originally from northern France, where rain is much more abundant. After Saint-Estève, he opened four more stations in Millas, Perpignan and Rivesaltes in 2023. At the beginning of this year, the fifth location followed in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque. Two more openings are expected in autumn, south of Perpignan.

This development has prompted the entrepreneur to look further afield. “With Stéphane Del Castillo, my partner in this adventure, we knew that the concept would work, but not as fast and not as strong. We really need more staff.”

Frédéric Demoulin gladly shows us the system he has invented to the local journalist. “Every drop of water used in a wash is recycled and re-injected into another wash. The recovered water passes through separation and decantation tanks before being treated and filtered. It is then stored and reused for each high pressure wash. At the Rivesaltes plant, for example, we have 2,000 liters of recycled water available for use at all times. We have a recycling capacity of 10 m3 per hour”. The concept costs “around 250,000 euros per station”.

La Laveuse now runs 5 car washes around Perpignan

But eco-responsibility isn’t limited to reusing water. Here, the token era is over. “It’s also common sense. If you only need one minute of water to rinse your car, why pay for a three-minute token? And that’s why it was essential for every service we offer to be linked to a CB payment system, just like when you fill up your car. You only pay for what you use. And that’s how we fight against the waste of water or electricity.” Clean electricity generated by photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of La Laveuse’s stations. Of course.

Franchise plans

After a successful kick start, Frédéric Demoulin is already thinking about what’s next. “We are in fact being contacted more and more by entrepreneurs from outside the department who want to know more, who want to reproduce this type of station. So we’re going to continue our development in the département, but also open up outside it by opening franchised stations.The first of these should be up and running by 2025”, says Demoulin.

La Laveuse is also dressing up a Research & Development section. In the future this should result in a technological evolution with stations that are not only more intelligent but also more virtuous.

“We also want to be technically autonomous by reconditioning gantries and adapting them to our models.The aim is to internalize our activity as much as possible, creating a factory and jobs in Perpignan. Reusing equipment also means being eco-responsible”, concludes Frédéric Demoulin.

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Author: Rene Passet

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