Saab is developing a flex-fuel 2.0-liter turbo engine for its 9-5 model range slated to go on sale in 2005. The FFV Saab will burn either E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) or gasoline in any mixture.
In addition to the emissions benefits expected from burning E85, Saab indicates that the new turbo flex-fuel engine will improve fuel consumption under mid- to high-load driving.
Whilst fuel economy over the official EU city and mixed cycles is unlikely to show an improvement, testing indicates that a useful 15 per cent gain can be expected at higher speeds because fuel enrichment for engine cooling is no longer necessary.
In [the] Saab turbo, the high 104 RON octane rating of E85 fuel...also produces a significant 20 per cent increase in maximum engine power, up from 150 to 180 bhp.
Key to the engine’s capabilities is the Trionic engine management system that recalibrates and programs to accommodate the different timing characteristics and the fuel/air mixture requirements of ethanol.
“The 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,” says Kjell ac Bergström, 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.”
GM, the owner of Saab, is the largest producer of FFVs, but up to now all the FFV models (at least in the US) have been in pickup and SUV models. The Saab FFV is the first sedan—and a sporty one at that—in the GM family to offer the E85 FFV option. Bravo!
Now, the big question: how aggressively will they promote this in the US? My guess is that the Saab demographic would be very open to opting for an FFV model: especially in areas where they could actually fill it up with E85.
For earlier thoughts on missed opportunities, see this earlier post on Saab.