MADRID – Alfredo Vila, CEO of Automoviles Citroen Espana S.A., and head of the Citroen brand for the South European markets, says inconsistent regulations adopted by Spain are causing headaches for the auto industry.

“Many of the efforts and investments the auto makers make are blighted by legislators,” Vila tells attendees at the recent Spain Innovates Forum held at the Ritz Hotel here.

While vehicle manufacturers are increasing the use of lightweight materials to reduce fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions, regulations regarding safety and recycling are forcing them to return to conventional steel and other metals.

“What is the use of researching new composite materials if the end-of-life regulation imposes an 85% recycling in weight and 80% in materials, two goals impossible to reach with the new-generation materials,” Vila asks rhetorically.

He also disputes Spain’s “Integral Plan for the Development of the EV” recently launched by Miguel Sebastian, of the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.

Vila says the electric vehicle is an option, but not the sole answer to meeting emissions goals.

Electrical propulsion still needs to overcome “many difficulties and technical, regulative and socioeconomic challenges,” he says, predicting the conventional internal-combustion engine will continue to dominate Spain’s market at least for the medium term.

“Today, more than 50% of the cars sold in Europe have 140 g/km or fewer emissions of CO2,” he says. “We are prepared at Citroen for the EV. We (soon will) offer our C-Zero model, a 100% EV with (a range) of 130 km (81 miles) that will be marketed at the end of the current year.”

Citroen also plans to launch its DS5 Hybrid sedan in 2011, powered by its 1.6L 110-hp Hdi diesel engine and electric motor.

But Vila considers the Spanish Ministry’s 250,000-unit EV fleet target, which already has been reduced from the original goal of 1 million units, “an impossible dream. I would take away the last zero of that figure,” he says.

Auto makers not only are struggling with the expense of research and development for EVs but also with meeting upcoming strict Euro 6 emissions regulations, Vila says. By 2019, the law calls for a penalty of €95 ($221) for every 1 g/km of CO2 exceeding the limit for each car.

“If we multiply that penalty by the number of cars registered in Europe for each penalized brand, we can reach an unapproachable amount of money,” he says.