Renault wants to become the European leader in low emission vehicles before 2015 and will get there with a mixture of zero-emission electric vehicles and a new generation of petrol and diesel engines.

“We’re in the top three in Europe at the moment,” Philippe Oursaire, director of powertrain development, said on the sidelines of the Geneva show.

A new generation of small petrol engines, from a three cyliner 0.9-litre to a 1.2-litre I4 would be launched by 2012.

These would emit on average 40g/km less of CO2 than the current family of petrol engines and will account for about four out of every five engines in Renault’s line-up.

The engines will all be turbocharged with stop-start, and use new low friction materials to improve efficiency.

Diesel engines will also be smaller with a new 1.6-litre unit replacing the popular 1.9 dCi option from 2011. This will emit 25g/km less CO2 than the outgoing motor but power can be boosted to as much as 140bhp.

The current 1.5 dCi engine, launched in 2000, will continue with maximum power output of 110bhp and be used in low to mid-range models, Oursaire said.

For its electric vehicles, Renault is targeting city commuters. The company (like Opel with its new Ampera)estimates that 80% of people drive less than 60km a day so the 160 km range it is offering will not be a problem.

“We will need to make usage transparent for buyers – they will buy the car but not the battery pack which will be leased,” he said.

The company is working on three levels of recharging : a standard household charge will take between six and eight hours; a quick charge using a 30kW outlet will take 30 minutes and there will be ‘five minute’ charging stations which would put enough electricity into the batteries to get most people home.