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PSA Cues Up Mild-Hybrids

50,000 Peugeots and Citro?ns will be on the road by 2006.

Valeo’s says that Peugeot and Citro?n drivers using their starter-alternator system will see a 10 percent fuel savings.
The European motorist’s love affair with frugal cars will take another big step forward next year with the launch of the first mass production vehicles with stop-start technology, sometimes called mild-hybrids.

At the same time, the gasoline engine will launch another fight back against diesel — now accounting for more than 40 percent of all European car sales — with the arrival of new direct injection systems, claiming 20 percent greater fuel economy than existing systems.

The stop-start technology is the headline grabber. Jean-Martin Folz, chairman of PSA Peugeot Citro?n, describes it as “the first stage in accessible hybrid vehicles. “Our strategy is very pragmatic. It is based on the observation that, because of the unacceptable cost/benefit ratio, a true hybrid vehicle with two engines capable of operating in zero emissions mode cannot be made widely accessible in the short term.

“With stop-and-start, the first stage in hybridization, our objective is to provide a rapidly available solution that offers the best possible cost/benefit ratio.”

Stop-and-start powertrains integrate a lowpower electrical device that allows the engine to shut down automatically when the vehicle is standing still or in neutral — at a red light, for example, or in a traffic jam — and to start up again instantly and noiselessly when reactivated by the driver, either engaging a gear or releasing the brake.

Depending on the type of engine, the system results in a 5 to 8 percent reduction in fuel consumption and, consequently, in CO2 emissions. The technology is especially efficient when used with downsized engines because it further increases fuel savings. Another important environmental benefit is a very substantial reduction in noise pollution, says Folz.

Tests conducted in and around Paris showed that cars on the road are at a standstill 35 percent of the time, a figure that supports the deployment of stop-and-start technology.

“Beginning in 2004, vehicles equipped with stop-and-start systems will be gradually introduced in our product lines, a first in Europe for this emerging technology. We forecast that more than 50,000 Peugeot and Citro?n vehicles will be equipped by the end of 2006.,” he says.

PSA expects “substantial growth, particularly after 2008,” as the system becomes more widely accepted.

PSA is using a ‘bolt-on’ system developed by Valeo, the French supplier. Unlike integrated starter-alternators which are located between the engine and the transmission and require extensive redesigns, the Valeo system does not intrude on the powertrain design.

Valeo is claiming a fuel saving of up to 10 percent on its system.

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. Volkswagen tried it on the Golf more than a decade ago. The Golf Ecomatic was described by VW as being “the first production car in the world with an engine that switches off automatically when not needed, for example when waiting at traffic lights.”

But it never caught on with the buying public and production ceased.

Today, the VW Lupo 3L is also available with a stop-start mechanism for even greater economy but it sells in very small numbers which makes PSA’s ambitions seem particularly optimistic.

Siemens VDO, however, is approaching the whole issue of economy and efficiency from a different angle.

Its Piezo injectors, originally developed for diesel engines, will now be used on gasoline engines, with Siemens VDO claiming a 20 percent improvement in economy over engines with intake manifold injection. Until now, wall-directed or air-wall directed combustion process have been used for gasoline direct injection (GDI) where the fuel is directed towards the spark plug via cylinder wall and piston base.

With the Piezo injectors, working at a pressure of up to 200 bar, the fuel is injected in the direct vicinity of the spark plug and is far more accurately controlled.

But there’s another boost for gasoline engine fans. The Euro IV clean air standards, in force from 2005, might make it necessary to fit all diesel engines with costly particulate filters, making gasoline engines an even more attractive proposition cost-wise.

By 2008, if CO2 emissions levels go beyond 140g/km, gasoline engines will have to go to direct injection, adding to their cost and narrowing the price differential with diesel engines. And then there’s the whole issue of fuel tax differentials across Europe to throw into the pot. Watch this space.

This article was provided exclusively to Automotive Industries by Interchange, a U.K.-based automotive business agency and consultancy servicing media and corporate clients. Anthony Lewis is a partner in Interchange and can be contacted via e-mail at

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