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Paris show: Saab goes electric

Space age: Saab claims that its 9-3 ePower is the first all-electric car to offer the space and comfort of a wagon.

First EV for Saab as bjorn-again company switches on Swedish fleet trials

20 Sep 2010

COMEBACK kid Saab has signalled its intention to stick around for the long haul by revealing its first all-electric vehicle (EV), which will enter field trials with a fleet of 70 cars in Sweden early next year with an eye towards sales by 2015.

The Saab 9-3 ePower – based on a SportCombi wagon – will be wheeled out at this year’s Paris motor show, along with a revised internal combustion engine range that includes a 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel capable of emitting just 119 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

Saab said the 9-3 ePower has a target range of 200km, which would eclipse current mainstream EVs such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf and Renault Fluence (around 160km), but trail high-end EVs such as the Tesla S, which claims a range of 480km with a high-performance battery pack.

38 center imageLeft: Saab 9-3 ePower. Below: Saab 9-3 1.9 TTiD.

The Swedish car-maker, which was saved from closure by Netherlands sportscar manufacturer Spyker Motors when it acquired the company from General Motors early this year, said the 9-3 ePower was the first all-electric car to offer the space and comfort of a wagon.

It says the trick was to confine the electric infrastructure within the existing body, fitting the lithium-ion batteries into cavities vacated by items such as the exhaust and fuel tank.

Saab said the positioning of the batteries enables optimum weight distribution and driving dynamics similar to a standard SportCombi.

Powered by a 135kW electric motor driving the front wheels through a single-speed transmission, the vehicle is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds and top out at 150km/h.

The vehicle was developed by a consortium of companies to showcase their technologies, with the 35.5kWh battery pack supplied by Boston Power and the powertrain by Electroengine in Sweden.

Crucial to Swedish motorists, the vehicle is designed to operate in temperatures down to minus-30 degrees, which Saab says is about 10 degrees below other battery packs on the market.

Saab will spread the 70 test vehicles around Sweden, with “hundreds” of drivers and their families being enlisted as test drivers in 2011-12. The data will be logged in on-board ‘black boxes’ for Saab engineers to analyse.

Saab Automobile CEO Jan Åke Jonsson said annual global EV sales were expected to reach 500,000 units by 2015.

“Saab is determined to be represented in this important, growing segment,” he said.

“The 9-3 ePower program is our first step towards developing a potential production vehicle that will deliver the sort of advanced performance our customers expect. We now look forward to working with our technical partners in developing such a product.” In the meantime, Saab will continue to focus on improved diesel and E85 ethanol-capable EcoPower engines.

At Paris, Saab will debut its revised 1.9-litre diesel engine range for the 9-3, with a premium engine boasting fuel economy of 4.5 litres per 100km and “class-leading” 119g/km CO2 emissions – a cut of 12 per cent over Saab’s most frugal current engine.

The improvement was wrought with a range of tweaks from recalibrating the engine management system, adding new low-rolling resistance tyres, gear ratio changes and weight reduction, and brings the car under the 120g/km threshold that provides tax benefits in some European countries.

This range-topping TTiD engine retains handy 134kW/400Nm performance, and will be available in sedans at Linear and Vector specification.

Saab will also offer two other 1.9-litre diesels producing 97kW and 120kW, both with two-stage turbo boost but with slightly inferior fuel economy.

Petrol engines also get a 10 per cent cut in CO2 emissions in the 2011 model range while the all-wheel-drive 9-3 models get a new, entry-level 122kW E85-capable BioPower turbocharged engine.

Saab is planning to launch two new models in the next 12 months, including the 9-4X SUV, which is based on the Cadillac SRX (itself based on GM’s Captiva) and made in Mexico.

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