Autos | The future

Paris Auto Show energized by alternatives to gas engines

PARIS — European carmakers are looking to a bevy of fuel-efficient, lower-emissions models going on display at the Paris Auto Show this week to weather a depressed market and tough new European Union pollution standards.

It has been a miserable two years for the industry since the last Paris show, in 2008, as the industry faced the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

But while the worst of the global recession is over, carmakers are aware that their market has changed. Consumers remain cautious and environmental rules are more stringent — and the auto industry hopes hybrids and electrics will be a big part of the way forward.

The spotlight will center on hometown favorites Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen, both of which will unveil road-ready hybrid and electric cars or light trucks to the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend the show through Oct. 17.

Among the most anticipated unveilings will be Peugeot's 3008 Hybrid4, the world's first full diesel hybrid vehicle, and Renault's Fluence Z.E. (for "zero emissions"), an all-electric midsize sedan.

European carmakers especially are under fierce pressure to sell smaller and less-polluting cars and light trucks to meet tightening European regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

Carmakers have been flaunting technologies aimed at cutting or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from their vehicles at every major car show since the last Paris gathering in 2008. But this time more and more will be models headed for showrooms, not concept or idea cars.

"Maybe access to market-ready electric vehicles is going to be the big news in Paris," said Carlos Da Silva, a senior market analyst at industry forecasters IHS Global Insight in Paris. "It will be a very 'green' show," Da Silva said in an interview.

Other ready-to-roll green machines on display include Peugeot's iOn, Mitsubishi's i-Miev and the Nissan Leaf.

Besides the 3008, PSA Peugeot Citroen plans to launch the Citroen DS5 Hybrid as part of its goal to have 1 million cars in its fleet below 120 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2012. That is in line with similar targets set by other carmakers as they seek to meet an EU deadline for reducing their carbon emissions, Da Silva said.

Paris Auto Show energized by alternatives to gas engines 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 5:30am]

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