PSA/Peugeot-Citroen expects fuel-cell cars to be mass marketed in about 2015. By then PSA says the innovative propulsion system should be no more costly to produce than a standard combustion engine.
At present, building a fuel-cell vehicle costs about 100 times more than one with a combustion engine, said Robert Peugeot, PSAs head for innovation and quality.
Were those prototypes produced for the mass market, there would be economies of scale. But they would still cost 10 times as much as normal cars, he added.
Hopefully the price will be down to a one-to-one ratio by 2015, Peugeot said.
In the short term, PSA says the use of hybrid vehicles combining diesel and electric engines will significantly cut pollution.
PSA Chairman Jean-Martin Folz said at the annual shareholders meeting on May 28 that the company would launch hybrid vehicles by 2004. That same year, PSA is expected to also launch vehicles with stop-start engine ignition devices, which also red-uce pollution.
According to Robert Peugeot, the main technical challenges to overcome before fuel cells become widespread in cars are:
The pace of research on fuel cells is accelerating worldwide because of environmental concerns.
Another factor is that western countries want to reduce their dependency on oil. The worlds main oil reserves are located in politically sensitive regions.
Robert Peugeot spoke at a press conference PSA held jointly with Centre de lEnergie Atomique, or CEA, a French state-funded res-earch organization on nuclear power that cooperates with private sector companies such as PSA on specific projects.
Alain Bugat, general manager for the CEA, said: On hydrogen power, weve reached the point of no return. It will happen.