Diesel engines are critical to the success of Renault SA and PSA Peugeot-Citroen, and thus they are critical to the French supply base, research laboratories and government.

More than a year ago, France created Mov'eo, a regional organization or “competitive cluster” that encourages cooperative automotive research among small and large industries, government labs and universities in Ile-de-France (the Paris region) and Normandy to the west. About 70% of French research and development occurs in the Mov'eo area.

In the energy and environment category, Mov'eo has “many, many research projects aimed at continually improving the diesel,” says Executive Director Marc Charlet in an interview with Wards. Other Mov'eo research categories are road safety, transportation networks and mechatronics.

Among the most important of the diesel projects, says Chalet, are those aimed at reducing oxides of nitrogen (NOx), producing biodiesel fuel and adapting injection systems to the diversity of fuels future diesel engines may encounter.

Mov'eo projects are collaborative, involving a minimum of two industrial partners and a research lab. France considers this kind of research and development a strategic resource, and it reimburses up to 30% of the costs for large companies, 45% for small and mid-sized companies, and 100% for research laboratories.

Besides trying to research its way to the future, the French diesel industry is attacking costs through marketing by trying to interest the U.S. and China in adopting more diesels.

Passenger-car diesels are essentially a European phenomenon now, and added volume would reduce costs. Mov'eo and France's Economic and Commercial Counselor in Chicago-Detroit are bringing a French delegation of a dozen companies to the SAE World Congress in Detroit April 13-17.

Among the participants is the IFP, or French Petroleum Institute. The IFP is heavily involved in research that could lead to diesel fuel made 100% from biomass. Europe has demanded its member nations require that biofuels account for 5.75% of transportation fuel in 2010 and 8% in 2015.

Many French diesel drivers already use some biofuel without knowing it. The IFP developed a process in 1992 that transforms colza and methanol into a biocarburant that is mixed with diesel fuel today in proportions from 2%-5%. It is sold in France without particular identification at service station pumps.

However, classic biodiesel esters and ethanol for spark ignition engines compete for acreage with food production, and critics say they require nearly as much energy to produce the fuel as the fuel provides.

With the promise of second-generation ethanol already well documented, IFP Powertrain Engineering has launched a program called E4D (Ethanol for Diesel), to study the feasibility of using ethanol as a basis for diesel fuels, and it will report on progress at the French automotive engineering society's annual international conference on diesel engines in Rouen, France, May 28-29.

The conference will include some three dozen presentations on new combustion processes, emission control, the implications of biodiesel, turbo and injection systems, basic combustion and powertrain control.

The IFP also is working with two other French research centers, the INRA and CNRS, to study converting corn stalks, wood chips and other agricultural residue into low-cost ethanol.

“By diversifying the types of biofuels that can be used in diesel engines, this solution will lead to a reduction in both CO2 emissions and reliance on fossil resources,” says the IFP.

Other members of the French delegation visiting Detroit include:

Ceramiques Techniques et Industrielles, which has supplied busses and trucks with silicon-carbon particulate filters for years. CTI has patented a new manufacturing process for a passenger-car version that it developed with the IFP. CTI says the filter captures three to four times more particles than required by the Euro V standard going into effect in 2009 (5mg/km), and it has shown good results for fine particulate filtration on IFP and auto maker test benches.

Hutchinson Fluid Transfer Systems, developer of hoses for diesel particulate-filter sensor assemblies, common rail return hoses and fuel systems. Hutchinson has developed hose systems for sensor assemblies that permit the engine control unit to monitor the state of aftertreatment.

Customers include PSA, Renault SA, Audi AG, Fiat Automobiles SpA, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and General Motors Corp. Hutchinson also is a leader for supply and return hoses for diesel applications in metallic, rubber, and plastic materials and the company has developed material compatible with alternative fuel from vegetable oil esters (biofuel).

LMS Imagine.Lab, which develops simulation software for hydraulic, pneumatic, electric and mechanical behavior. The software is able to handle various diesel issues such as fuel injection systems, advanced valvetrains, lubrication circuits, engine cooling systems and engine controls.

Moving Magnet Technologies, an applied-research and development company, specializes in the development of magnetic circuits for Hall effect position sensors, electric motors and direct drive actuators. Typical applications for diesel engines include actuators for variable geometry turbochargers and throttle and by-pass valves, sensors for cam and crankshaft position and motors for electrically driven water and fuel pumps.

MTT Moteurtest, which performs bench tests on engines for light and heavy vehicles and light aircraft and performs a 5-gas exhaust analysis and smoke-meter analysis.

SOGEFI Filter Division, which recently was awarded the development of the complete diesel fuel filtration system for the next-generation Ford F-Series diesel pickup for the U.S. The company developed the first all-plastic rechargeable diesel fuel-filter module in the 1990s. It makes other filters for air intake, oil and cabin air.

Total Lubricants, a division of Total SA, which has developed motor oils marketed under the name Rubia designed to meet requirements of low-sulfur low-emission diesel engines, as well as less technical engines, so it is suitable for entire fleets.

Electricfil Automotive, the European leader in speed and position sensors for diesel-engine control systems with about half the market.

Valeo and Faurecia, major Tier 1 suppliers with extensive support for diesel powertrains. Faurecia developed the first particulate filters with PSA and continues to develop filters and NOx treatment systems to permit diesels to operate under severe limitations on exhaust gases of Euro V and VI and U.S. Tier 2 Bin 5.

Valeo's charge-air cooling expertise is essential for turbocharging modern diesels. Its micro-hybrid stop-start system is being developed to handle diesel engines. The two suppliers and the IFP will deliver a paper on their joint design project for a low NOx emissions diesel HCCI prototype vehicle at the Rouen conference.