PSA/Peugeot-Citroën will make so-called “micro-hybrids” standard equipment in its small and medium cars in Europe. This March 5 news item in Automotive News Europe was overshadowed by other sexier green car stories from the Geneva Motor Show. But the French company’s move toward applying a basic form of hybrid technology to the majority of its vehicles could be a much bigger deal than more dramatic but less feasible eco-friendly concept cars on display in Geneva.

Micro-hybrids—also known as “stop-start” for the ability to stop engine idle when a vehicle slows down and comes to a stop—can reduce fuel consumption by 5 percent to 15 percent depending on the driving conditions.

“We are investing extremely massively in micro-hybridization,” said PSA CEO Christian Streiff in Geneva. Pascal Henault, the automaker’s head of research and innovation, added, “By 2011, we want to produce and sell 1 million Peugeots and Citroëns in the EU with that system, and 1.6 million in 2012. That includes both diesel as well as gasoline models.”

PSA Peugeot Citroën introduced its stop-start system in 2004. The Citroën C3 was the first mass-produced car equipped with this system.

At last year’s Geneva Motor Show, BMW said that it will introduce start-stop systems in a broad model range, including four- and six-cylinder 1-, 3- and 5-Series models—and in the Mini Cooper. Klaus Borgmann, senior vice president of powertrain development for BMW, said start-stop is being evaluated for use in North America.

It’s unlikely that PSA/Peugeot-Citroën or BMW will emphasize, or even mention, the word “hybrid” in the marketing of vehicles with stop-start systems, which produce relatively minor improvements in fuel economy compared to bigger and more complex hybrids—but at a much lower cost. Those more robust hybrids from Toyota, Ford, General Motors and others have stop-start features, and also allow the vehicle to launch forward without using gasoline to produce fuel economy gains as high as 40 percent. Regardless of terminology, stop-start systems utilize the fundamental hybrid strategy of using stored energy to reduce unnecessary fuel consumption, and thereby reduce carbon emissions.