Driving to a greener future
Europe's carmakers want more money, in part to cope with a brand new EU law.
The day after the European Parliament voted for new rules to govern the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) cars can emit, the car manufacturers say they need a loan of 40bn euros (£38bn).
The boss of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), Ivan Hodac, says: "It will cost us an enormous amount of money, it is absolutely sure the cars will become more expensive, so the consumer will have to pay part of the bill and part of the bill will have to come from the companies.
"We have asked for a soft loan from the European Investment Bank because at this moment the industry is doing very badly and it will be very, very difficult to get the money to invest in the fuel-efficient technologies to meet the target."
As I reported a while ago, after intensive negotiation between ministers and MEPs a set of rules has been agreed, and the parliament formally voted on them on Wednesday. Campaigners like Jos Dings from Transport and Environment feel they've been watered down. He told me "carmakers in each European country have been lobbying very hard so their governments get loopholes that suited them best. The Germans wanted exemptions for big cars, the Italians wanted exemptions for Fiat, the Brits for Aston Martin and Jaguar and if you count all the loopholes together it's a Swiss cheese, with lots of air and no cheese."
As I have covered this story in some depth I have wondered why car manufacturers don't see a huge commercial advantage in being ahead of the game and producing the car of tomorrow today. The short answer appears to be that people don't want to buy them.
A couple of weeks ago I drove a special prototype Peugeot 408 round the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It's a hybrid diesel and electric and looks just like the ordinary model.
It's a strange drive at first, just because there's no noise. In fact I though I couldn't get the engine going at first, because I couldn't hear anything. The idea is that below a certain speed - and you are always below 30km/h (19mph) in central Paris - the electric engine kicks in and the diesel cuts out. The electric battery is constantly recharged when you brake. It produces about 90g of CO2 per kilometre driven, so it's well below the targets the EU is aiming for in seven years' time.
So why not now, and why not in all cars? The Scientific Director of PSA Peugeot Citroen, Jean-Pierre Goedgebuer, was frank with me. "It's still very costly, and so on the typical vehicle we are afraid there is no market. So first we aim at putting on the market premium or distinctive cars equipped with that technology."
He wouldn't tell me the exact extra cost, but when my guess went up from £1,000 to £4,000 he suggested I was around the right area. For smaller cars I think it would be much less, but the answer to my question "why not put this technology in an ordinary family car?" was obvious. "We're afraid, we're still afraid it's too expensive."
In the end I suspect it will be oil prices and scarcity, not new laws or guilty feelings about the environment, that will force us to adopt different technology.