PARIS -- PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA plans to launch what may be the industry's first diesel-electric hybrid cars by 2010.
At the Michelin Challenge Bibendum here, a rally for green cars, the automaker let journalists test drive two early versions of its hybrids, a Peugeot 307 and a Citroen C4. Both cars are about the size of a Volkswagen Golf.
A diesel-electric hybrid is impractical for North America because it carries the double price hit. This comes from a more expensive diesel engine and its emissions system, along with the cost of the electric motor, controller and battery pack.
But it is a different story in Europe, where diesel penetration is higher than 50 percent in most countries.
Consumers already are used to paying more for diesel cars, so adding a powertrain only boosts the price about a few thousand more euros.
"We must have an affordable cost. Today we can't," says Jean Francois Huere, PSA's spokesman for technology. He said engineers are looking at taking out cost in the expensive nickel-metal hydride battery pack and in the electric motor.
"Why put money in a petrol (gasoline) hybrid? It's too expensive compared to a diesel," Huere said. "There's no economic model in Europe that favors a petrol hybrid."