Petrol's comeback

Tougher EU emissions standards are going to change the balance of power between diesel and petrol cars.

Ironically, the business of cleaning up car exhaust emissions started in the Seventies in the US. It’s been a mixed blessing. The emphasis was on removing unburnt hydrocarbons (soot), carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides (NOx), not CO2.

US emissions standards in these areas are still much stiffer than the EU equivalents, but cutting other pollutants actually led to increased fuel consumption, and therefore CO2 emissions.

New European emissions regulations will get tougher on soot and NOx in 2011 with the introduction of Euro 5, and tougher still in 2015 with Euro 6. All of this will make life more challenging for engine manufacturers, as diesel emissions are inherently more difficult than petrol to control in these areas, though crucially they are better on CO2.

Cleaning up diesel emissions to meet the new standards will be expensive, especially for small and medium-sized cars.

Enter a new generation of clean, high-efficiency, turbo-charged, three-cylinder petrol engines from Peugeot, due to be launched in 2011, just in time for Euro 5. Power will range from 70-100 bhp, comparable with small diesels, and CO2 emissions will dip below 100g/km.

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