With US regulators looking to revise fuel economy standards amid concerns for energy security and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, research by UBS and Ricardo points to combined annual Diesel and hybrid petrol vehicle sales in the US of 2.7m by 2012.

The research report “Is diesel set to boom in the US?” sets out the legislative and consumer drivers of engine technology for the North American automotive market over the coming decade, as well as the many candidate technologies available for future vehicle products.

At present, hybrid petrol technology appears to be the preferred route in the US, not least due to its attraction as a visible badge of green awareness amongst higher income purchasers. Many OEMs plan to launch hybrid products in the next few years, but the report highlights that this technology faces substantial manufacturing cost penalties which are unlikely to be eroded even in mass production.

Diesel has a clear cost advantage over hybrid, even when fitted with the type of complex exhaust after-treatment technologies necessary to meet future, more stringent emissions regulations.

Diesel already dominates in Europe. The conditions may now be right for a big acceleration in diesel sales in the North American market. Ricardo forecasts that combined diesel and hybrid petrol will represent 15% of the US light vehicle market by 2012, with sales of diesels outstripping petrol hybrids by 1.5m units versus 1.2m. UBS highlights that European automakers and a number of global suppliers look set to benefit from the diesel trend.