Backed by automatic stop-start equipment, bio-fuels and particulate filters, the compression-ignition engine provides a compelling answer to environmental concerns over pollution, PSA Peugeot Citroen executive Gilles Michel told Government officials in London.
Speaking to ministers, MPs and civil servants from the Treasury, Department for Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry at a specially-convened technology and environment conference, the French group's vice-president of platforms and engineering said the effectiveness of latest-generation diesel engine technology was now fully proved.
He said: 'The biggest problem that we see on the emissions issue is CO2 and modern diesel engines offer a very powerful way to reduce this. These engines require about 20% less fuel than gasoline engines, so they are going to emit 20% less CO2. In the modern diesel, we have a solution that works and it is a very strong one – and we don't see any fundamental technical change in the medium term that will alter that situation.'
PSA UK chairman Tod Evans invited the 40-strong Whitehall group to the conference on technology and the environment in a bid to underline his company's strategy on what he described as the CO2 challenge.
He said: 'Our guests are responsible for this country's fiscal and legislative framework. I see it as very important that we work with the legislators so we know what we are developing will not be penalised in the future.
'We are expressing our views on our diesel strategy because we feel it has a long way to go in the next 10 years – and we also feel this strategy should not be disadvantaged in any way.'
Michel told the conference that the common rail technology launched by the PSA HDi power unit in 1998 had proved to be an affordable solution by achieving a 20% cut in both CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, reducing the emission of other pollutants by half and being compatible with latest de-pollution equipment.
He said: 'We will continue to develop what we believe is the most effective powertrain for controlling the greenhouse effect and plan to have sold 8.5 million HDi-powered vehicles by 2006.'
He revealed that more than 600,000 vehicles had been equipped with the PSA particulate filter system launched in 2000 and forecast that 1.7 million units would be in use by the end of 2006 after they become standard on all HDi engines developing more than 100bhp.
Michel claimed the joint collaboration with Ford would allow PSA to focus on achieving further improvements in diesel technology, and that a joint programme to develop a new family of petrol engines with BMW would also result in lower emissions and improved operating economy.
He added: 'We believe diesel will become widely recognised as the only viable short to medium-term solution in the quest to control the man-made greenhouse effect and our next-generation units will also offer new levels of driveability with improved fuel consumption.'
Asked about PSA's progress towards achieving the European industry's voluntary target of 140g/km average CO2 emissions by 2008, Michel said: 'This is a tough challenge that needs profound changes and massive investment in research and development.
'We will not be requesting fiscal incentives to reach this goal. Likewise, we believe it would be unwise for Governments to raise the current level of taxation on an industry that already bears heavy taxes. Last year's total of E340 billion amounted to 15% of the total European tax burden.
'Progress becomes more difficult the closer you get to the 2008 limit. We measure the amount of investment that is needed to gain every single g/km benefit, and against that yardstick, the technology we're discussing here is giving us the best return on expenditure.'
Michel said bio-fuels represented a perfect solution by having a direct impact on emissions for relatively small expenditure.
'These provide a 20% reduction in CO2 at source. That is why we recommend a blend of up to 5% FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) is suitable for all diesel engines and will warranty our HDi engines for a blend of up to 30% FAME for fleets controlling their own fuel supply.'