DETROIT - Saab Automobile AB will build a new 9-5 BioPower model fueled by ethanol, an eco-friendly renewable energy source. Sales will begin next summer, initially only in Sweden, home of Saab.
The Saab 9-5 BioPower flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) will provide customers with a premium-class car for the first time in a rapidly growing market niche that is supported by favorable environmental and business tax concessions. Its 2.0-liter turbo engine also delivers a significant performance improvement when running on ethanol-based fuel, while still being able to use gasoline if necessary.
In Sweden, Saab 9-5 BioPower customers will be able to use E85 fuel (85% ethanol/15% gasoline) which costs about 25 percent less at the pumps than gasoline. They will also be exempt from projected city congestion and parking charges. In addition, company car drivers will qualify for a 20 percent reduction in Sweden's car benefit tax. On the road, the 180-hp Saab 9-5 BioPower running on E85 delivers sportier performance due to a significant 30-hp boost in maximum power and 30 lb.-ft. more torque, for a maximum of 206 lb.-ft., compared to its gasoline-powered equivalent. While fuel economy in city and mixed driving conditions is unlikely to show an improvement, preliminary testing indicates that up to a 15 percent gain can be expected at cruising speeds because of better combustion with higher efficiency.
Ethanol fuel is produced commercially from agricultural crops and, unlike gasoline, its consumption does not significantly raise atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the 'greenhouse' gas that contributes to global warming. This is because emissions during driving are essentially balanced by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere when crops for conversion are grown. In contrast, the use of fossil fuels continues to inject into the atmosphere additional new quantities of CO2 that have remained underground in oil deposits for millions of years.
The adaptability of Saab's powerful Trionic engine management system has facilitated re-programming to accommodate the different ignition timing characteristics and fuel/air mixture requirements of ethanol. Other significant modifications required are the use of ethanol-compatible materials for the fuel tank, fuel lines and connectors. During the development of the BioPower engine, Saab engineers worked with General Motors colleagues in Brazil where 100 percent ethanol (E100), produced locally from sugar cane, is the dominant fuel on the market.
"Our engine management system automatically adjusts for the type of fuel so, if there is no ethanol available, the customer can simply run on gasoline at any time," said Kjell Bergstrom, President and CEO of Saab Automobile Powertrain AB. "Turbocharged engines are particularly well-suited to exploiting the benefits of ethanol and our work with this engine indicates there is a great deal of development potential for this fuel."
The Saab 9-5 BioPower is scheduled to go on sale next summer, initially only in Sweden. Plans to expand into other markets have not been announced at this time. Pricing is expected to show only a very small increase in comparison to standard models.
Saab Automobile Chairman and CEO Peter Augustsson called on Sweden to lead Europe's switch to the wide-scale production and use of ethanol. "The Swedish government and its agencies are to be congratulated in rising to the challenge of encouraging an alternative and renewable energy source for transport," he commented. "At Saab, we too are making a contribution in developing our 9-5 BioPower model for the Swedish market.
"Ethanol provides an effective first step. It is a bridge that will be built in time, one that will help lead us from oil-based fuels towards new future technologies that are still under development, such as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles."