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Saab Unveils E100 Hybrid

Under the skin of the Biopower Hybrid.

At the Stockholm Motor Show, GM’s Saab brand premiered its promised 9-3 hybrid concept car that can run on 100% ethanol (E100) with combined cycle fuel consumption of about 30 mpg US. The car is also the world’s first hybrid soft-top.

It also represents a different approach to a hybrid drive than taken in GM’s current three announced production hybrid systems: the two-mode hybrid in full-size SUVs, the mild hybrid in the Saturn VUE and the micro-hybrid in the Silverado and Sierra.

Combining a 260 hp (191 kW) 2.0-litre turbo BioPower engine and two electric motors totalling 53 kW, the BioPower Hybrid Concept can briefly generate torque values three times greater than its gasoline-only equivalent.

The new modular hybrid system features a maintenance-free, 300-volt Li-ion battery pack designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle, a 38kW rear-mounted electric motor, a 15 kW integrated starter/generator (ISG) and all-wheel-drive with electric power transmission to the rear wheels.

The all-aluminum 2.0-liter BioPower engine is modified to run on pure E100 ethanol fuel, giving zero fossil CO2 exhaust emissions, and operates in tandem with the electrical power system. This system offers fuel-saving stop/start functionality, torque boosting electric power assistance on demand, an electric-only “Zero Mode” for city driving and regenerative braking.

Saab expects the BioPower Hybrid Concept prototype car to achieve 0 to 100 kph (0 to 62 mph) acceleration in just 6.9 seconds, a substantial improvement against 8.8 seconds for the equivalent gasoline model. Acceleration from 80 to 120 kph (50 to 75 mph) is in 5.5 seconds.

Hybrids are certainly interesting for Saab in the future and this project allows us to evaluate and explore the potential of hybrid technology in combination with our existing and already-proven BioPower technology. Although the exact hybrid application shown in this concept does not currently figure in our production plans, the project has been extremely valuable in helping us further our expertise. It shows how we could develop the sporty performance associated with Saab while using only renewable resources and saving energy overall.

—Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s Managing Director

The Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept is the first project to be announced under a joint investment program between General Motors R&D (Research and Development) and the Swedish Government. This has seen the establishment of a research and development office in Trollhättan, Sweden, focusing on vehicle safety, engine emissions and advanced manufacturing in collaboration with Swedish universities, research laboratories and suppliers.

Engine. The Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept engine is an enhancement of the current all-aluminum, 16-valve 2.0-liter turbo engine in the Saab 9-3 range. In the hybrid, the engine develops 260 hp and 375 Nm maximum torque, 24% and 25% more respectively than on gasoline.

The Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept retains a flex-fuel capability and features a Spark Ignited Direct Injection (SIDI) system for optimum combustion with E100; ensuring the same cold starting performance as a normal gasoline engine. Variable inlet and exhaust cam phasing is used for optimum breathing and more durable valves and valve seats are fitted, together with ethanol-compatible materials for the fuel system.

ISG. The compact 42-Volt ISG, built into the flywheel between the engine and transmission, provides the stop/start functionality, and also functions as a 15 kW engine power booster, working with the 38 kW motor on the rear axle. Auxiliary functions, such as the water pump, air conditioning and power steering systems, are now removed from the engine’s belt drive and electrically powered instead, further reducing fuel consumption.

Transmission. The five-speed automatic transmission, with Saab Sentronic sequential selection, includes an all-wheel-drive capability by the simultaneous addition of electrically powered drive to the rear wheels.

Hybrid booster. The Biopower Hybrid uses a parallel hybrid system configuration. Apart from converters to manage AC/DC and 12,42 and 300-volt interfaces, the system consists of just three core components: two electric motors and a battery bank.

A 42-cell, 300-volt lithium-ion battery bank provides energy storage. An electronic control unit monitors and governs its performance, and manages the current flow. This power pack is seated under the floor of the trunk, without taking up any stowage space, as demonstrated in the Stockholm show car.

The rear-wheel electric motor assembly

The battery powers a compact 38 kW electric motor located between the rear wheels which powers a transmission differential and drive shafts. At low speeds, this Rear Drive Unit (RDU) is able to briefly generate 666 Nm of additional torque.

In reverse operation, the motor acts as a generator to provide regenerative braking. It also performs the same function whenever the driver lifts off the throttle, harnessing the energy in the rotating drive shafts. This is achieved without any perceptible change in the rate of deceleration.

The second electric motor is the integrated starter generator (ISG) located within the flywheel between the engine and main transmission. On demand, it contributes 15 kW of additional power and 120 Nm of extra torque to the output of the engine through the front wheels.

Operating Modes. Under transient driving conditions, both electric motors are activated to augment the power of the engine, increasing standing start acceleration and in-gear performance for safe overtaking. This briefly raises total power by as much as 28%.

At take off, the Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept also exploits the instant torque generation of its electric motors, smoothly adding strong, accelerative power during the engine’s pick-up, from tick-over to about 1,500 rpm. It is during this phase that the available pulling power, or torque, is more than tripled.

An estimated fuel of saving of 5-7% is provided by the automatic engine stop/start function. Whenever the vehicle is stationary, the engine is immediately shut-off to save fuel. As soon as the brake is released, it is automatically started again by the powerful ISG. The operation is carried out seamlessly and requires no input from the driver.

In congested driving conditions, the Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept uses an all-electric Zero Mode (Zero fuel consumption, Zero emissions)—which can be selected by the driver via a button in the central console.

At speeds below 50 kph (31 mph), Zero Mode will shut off the engine and again switch the car over to electric power only through the RDU. In this mode, the battery bank provides a range of between 10 and 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles). The engine is smoothly re-engaged whenever the battery status approaches a low charge level or the electronic throttle opening requires acceleration beyond the 50 kph operating limit.

Whenever the engine is shut down, all auxiliary functions, such as the power steering, air conditioning and lighting, remain unaffected because they are now permanently electrically-powered through the battery. The removal of unnecessary loadings on the engine further contributes to fuel economy and in mixed driving the estimated range of Saab 9-3 BioPower Hybrid Concept test vehicles, with a standard 62 liter tank, is a competitive 800 kms—7.75 liters/100km, or 30 mpg (on ethanol).



What is the MPG of the gasoline-only 9-3?


Oh, nevermind, I found it online, EPA: 22mpg city, 31mpg highway.

Rafael Seidl

Saab's regular 9-3 convertible with AT gets 22.5 MPG combined, so the 30 claimed here for the hybrid would represent a 33% improvement based on current test procedures. However, the EPA is updating them because they produces unrealistically high results for hybrids. Figure ~25% actual improvement over the base model, which is substantial.

From a fuel economy perspective, 30 mpg is still not all that exciting. This concept reflects the desire for rapid acceleration but suffers from high weight. It's a convertible - a car for leisurly cruising - so the testoterone boost could perhaps have been more modest.

The 2.0L turbocharged engine (210hp) is the smallest one Saab currently has. Given that constraint, a mild hybrid system with just the ISG would have been quite sufficient. Acceleration would still have been better than the base model, and fuel economy likely greater than 30mpg due to the reduced weight. Convertibles are quite heavy enough already.

What you would lose is all-electric (indirectly gasoline-powered) cruise capability but that is anyhow not really needed anywhere or by anyone other than CARB. However, US consumers have been led to believe that anything less than a full hybrid is not worth buying, which is nonsense.

As for E100 or even E85, you'll have trouble finding any gas station that stocks it. High ethanol blends are a marketing scam for the sake of exploiting a loophole in CAFE - in the real world, you'll be filling up on gasoline.


Actually the improvment is even better than that, because Ethanol typically causes a 20% loss in MPG.

As for the EPA estimates being of, I don't agree that they are. If a person drives within the law, they'll get the EPA figures or better; however most people like to speed everywhere they go, and do moronic things like, tromping on the gas when there is a red light 100ft away, only to slam on the brakes at the last moment.

I regularly exceed the EPA figures for my Insight just by driving the speed limit.

Bud Johns

I agree with Ash. I always drive the speed limit, and I'm getting 55-56 mpg in my Prius. Since I have 32,000 miles experince with the car, I know. On interstate trips, I once again do the speed limit, and get about 52mpg. I did pick up a couple miles to the gallon when I switched to Mobil 1 synthetic.

Bruk B

"As for E100 or even E85, you'll have trouble finding any gas station that stocks it... in the real world, you'll be filling up on gasoline."

These are separate issues and should be treated separately. Same thing applies to the claim about plug-in hybrids: that because a great deal of our electricity is coal-based, plugging the car in only shifts emissions elsewhere. Pursuing this line of thinking only perpetuates a chicken-and-egg situation.

First, build the capability into the automotive fleet. Then address the second issue (or address it at the same time, but don't use one as a reason to stall doing the other). We can install more ethanol pumps, and we can construct less carbon-intensive electric supply. We already know how to do both of these things. The important thing is we need to start making headway towards getting off oil NOW.

Speaking of which, a plug on the above vehicle would be a nice addition.

Johan Lans

Wake-up Rafael!

Where SAAB's are made there are E85 stations all over the place.



Not a good example. PHEV would cut emissions regardless of the source. Obviously, the less coal intensive the better.

Joseph Willemssen

"PHEV would cut emissions regardless of the source."

Really? Have you run the numbers for electricity coming only from coal from a long distance away? And are you considering that coal burning produces SOx, mercury, etc?

For an average grid mix, there's a little less CO2 emissions overall, but coal puts out a lot of CO2 per BTU, so any change to the mix above grid averages will surely negate that benefit (as in my state).

The main beneift of running on electric for mobile applications is not having NOx in populated areas, which creates smog when reacting with sunlight.

Harvey D

Bruk B ...I fully agree with you that ...a plug would be a nice addition.... We have plenty of clean Hydro and Wind Electric power in our part of the country and even a limited EV mode range would be a good step in the right direction. What are the car manufacturers waiting for??

The Swede

Listen everyone that are thinking that most electricity comes from plants burning coal.
That might be true for you americans, but aren't most car models for every market in the world?
I am very excited of PHEV since here almost all electricity are not from burning coal or oil. Pretty sad that SAAB is focusing on horse power instead of mileage, but it is at least a start and the idea of E100 is great. Soon there has to be a release of an interesting model with a plug!

Mike H.

This car is stupid. Not only is it not revolutionary (any high school could build a ethanol burner that is a hybrid), but it doesn't fill any niche within the market. The guy who needs the sticker of the car tell him he could theoretically go 0 to 60 in 7 sec. really doesn't have efficiency on his mind. The treehugger isn't impressed with 30mpg on Ethanol, either. By the way the US doesn't produce more than .1% of the ethanol required for all cars to run on the stuff, and won't anytime soon. If you want something usefull Saab, make it run on straight vegetable oil with a heated gas tank to prevent gelling and lower the displacement and horsepower numbers. All the technology and fuel is here just build the thing.


From ev world

Admittedly, California's mix of power plants is

relatively clean compared to that in the rest of

the country. However, in Arizona where 67 percent

of power plants are coal-fired, a study concluded

that electric vehicles would reduce greenhouse gases

such as CO2 by 71 percent. Likewise, a study

conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists found

that electric vehicles in the Northeast would reduce

CO emissions by 99.8 percent, volatile organic compounds

by 90 percent, NOx by 80 percent, and CO2 by as much as

60 percent.

The above is not a pure coal scenario, but it shows that PHEVs, when running on electric would be an improvement. What the numbers would be for pure coal , I don't know, but with a reasonably high proportion of coal, it still comes out on top compared to a purely gasoline powered vehicle.

Rafael Seidl

Johan -

afaik, Sweden is the ONLY country in the world to have a reasonably well-developed E85 infratructure. However, the domestic market is far too small to sustain any one model that SAAB produces, let alone the whole company. Therefore, they ought to be designing for export.


About Coal fired electric plants. About twenty years ago - pushed by canada - The monster four corners plant was forced to start controlling emissiond due to acid rain.

You ought to have heard all the crying and screaming. They got all sorts of tax breaks and subsidies.

They collected all the fly ash and made cinder blocks from them and made a fortune the first year from the sulfer alone.

Think they gave back the subsidies and tax breaks when they broke even the second year?

Yes? What you been drinking. They are STILL getting them.

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