New Zealand’s Motor Industry Association (MIA) has said that the recent development by PSA Peugeot Citroën of diesel engine particulate filters highlights just how far the country is behind the rest of the developed world in the quality of its diesel fuel.

The MIA noted that PSA has sold over half a million cars equipped with particulate-filter turbo diesel engines since the new technology was introduced in May 2000. Emissions from these engines are almost zero, as the microscopic carbon particles emitted by the diesel engine combustion process are effectively trapped.

“Regrettably, the engines are unable to be sold in New Zealand, as the third-world quality of our high-sulphur diesel fuel would compromise the service life of the filter system,” the MIA said in a statement.

The MIA said that, although improvements are under way to improve diesel quality, the action has been late in coming, and at this stage a requirement for sulphur-free fuels is not part of the initial plan. Ministry for Economic Development officials have indicated to the MIA that they would review the regulations commencing mid 2005 to set in place requirements for sulphur-free fuels (less than 10 parts per million) to be supplied by 2008 or 2009.

The MIA has asked New Zealand’s five oil companies to support bringing the review forward to this year in order to make sulphur-free fuels available from 2006. In its statement, the association claimed that the country’s sole oil refinery could achieve this but that some oil companies were reluctant to support the initiative, preferring instead to source “dirty fuels from outdated overseas refineries”.

“When we have new car manufacturers eager to bring the benefits of environmentally-friendly diesel engines to New Zealand, it’s exceedingly frustrating that we are having to wait so long for the quality of local fuel to catch up, “ said MIA chief executive Perry Kerr. “Irrespective of the supply sources, our officials should be demanding the best quality fuels in order that we can benefit from modern engine technology. We cannot allow our fuel regulations to continue falling behind international standards.”