PARIS -- Ford Motor Co. might have a strategy for diesel passenger cars for North America: its Volvo unit.
Ford so far has been confining diesels in North America to heavy-duty pickups. But last week, Hans Folkesson, Volvo's senior vice president for r&d, said Volvo wants to launch a diesel car in the United States around the end of the decade.
But there are challenges. Volvo does not have an emission system that can meet European and U.S. standards. Folkesson said Volvo does not want to build two diesel emission systems.
Euro 5, the next set of emission standards for vehicles in Europe, is more sensitive to carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases, suspected of causing global warming. U.S. standards more strictly regulate oxides of nitrogen, or NOx, the black soot that is a precursor to smog.
Only selective catalytic reduction -- the system that injects the chemical urea into the exhaust system -- can meet both European and U.S. regulations. Except for DaimlerChrysler AG, no automakers have committed to using urea. Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler group vehicles are expected to have urea injection by 2010.
"I think urea is a good system," Folkesson told Automotive News here at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum. "There are basically two ways (to meet emissions): (Nox) traps and urea. Today, it looks favorable for urea."
DaimlerChrysler is developing a warning system that tells drivers to refill the urea tank when it runs low. If they don't, the vehicle won't meet EPA standards. This worries the EPA because other emission systems don't require driver maintenance.
DaimlerChrysler has said its urea-equipped vehicles will hold enough of the ammonia-based chemical to last 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Service departments would fill the urea tank when the car is brought in for oil changes.
Folkesson said Volvo plans to meet Euro 5 regulations with a diesel particulate trap in the exhaust system.
As for bringing diesels to the United States, Folkesson said: "We are looking at the technology for it. We have not made a decision to go or not to go. But if we do, it would be around 2010."
At the Bibendum, Volvo showed a high-performance sport wagon concept that can run on any of five fuels and meet every known emissions standard. The 200-hp Volvo Multi-Fuel can run on gasoline, natural gas, E85, biomethane or hythane, a mixture of hydrogen and methane.
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]