January 5, 2006

Peugeot to launch diesel-based hybrid cars

By Marcel Michelson

PARIS (Reuters) - PSA Peugeot Citroen will unveil two
demonstrator models for diesel-based hybrid cars, which seek to
cut emissions and reduce fuel consumption, that the carmaker
expects to be on the market from 2010.

France's second-biggest carmaker said on Thursday it would
show off a Peugeot 307 and a Citroen C4 demonstration car with
a hybrid diesel system on January 31.

The announcement coincides with a call by French President
Jacques Chirac to develop such cars within 10 years.

Hybrids burn less fuel by adding one or more electric
motors to a standard petrol or diesel engine. The batteries
help power the vehicle and recharge by capturing energy during

Most hybrids, which were pioneered in the volume car
industry by Japanese manufacturers, are currently based on
petrol, while in France most new cars use diesel.

Chirac called on Thursday for the development of
diesel-based hybrids at an affordable price for consumers.

This would be a way for the country to cut its dependence
on hydrocarbons in a time of rising oil prices, and to move
toward its goals to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

PSA Chairman Jean-Marie Folz and Education Minister Gilles
de Robien will open a research center for the development of
fuel cells at Carrieres-sous-Poissy, northwest of Paris on

Advocates support fuel cells as a way to develop clean
engines that do use petrol or diesel, but generate energy by
combining hydrogen and oxygen and emitting only water as

Folz has been dismissive about the current generation of
petrol-based hybrid cars, saying as recently as the Frankfurt
Motor Show in September that current diesel engines where more
fuel efficient and emission-friendly than petrol hybrid cars.

Toyota's Prius hybrid model has been a runaway hit and it
aims to sell 1 million annually by 2010.

Honda offers Civic Hybrid and Ford markets an Escape
Hybrid. Costs, storage space and engine performance issues have
limited the take-up of this technology among carmakers.

French parts maker Valeo is pushing starter-alternators and
a smart valve technology to boost fuel efficiency as an

U.S. group General Motors has unveiled an Opel/Astra Diesel
concept vehicle with a hybrid system. Diesel hybrids have been
used mainly for city buses or submarines, due to the size of
the engines and their relatively high cost.