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GM Introduces 400hp, E100 BioPower Concept Saab

The front-opening canopy on the Saab Aero X E100 concept

GM is unveiling the Saab Aero X two-seater sports coupé concept at the Geneva motor show. Taking design cues from Saab’s aviation heritage, the Aero X has no door or windshield pillars; the car adopts a cockpit canopy instead.

The Aero X features a new 400 hp (298 kW), twin-turbo, BioPower V6 engine that is fueled entirely by ethanol (E100), thereby offering net zero tank-to-wheel CO2 emissions.

With carbon fiber bodywork, electronically-controlled suspension and all-wheel drive, the Saab Aero X is projected to accelerate from zero to 100 kph in just 4.9 seconds with a top (limited) speed of 250 kph (155 mph).

Although optimized for E100, the engine management system will make adjustments for any gasoline-ethanol blend.

For optimum handling, the powertrain is mounted entirely behind the front axle line, giving the Aero X a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. All-wheel-drive, with a variable torque split between the front and rear axles, provides excellent traction and Saab Active Chassis, with continuously variable damping, gives excellent real-life driving safety and control.

The 2.8-liter V6 E100 BioPower engine delivers 400 hp maximum power at 5,000 rpm and torque of 500 Nm between 2,000 and 5,000 rpm.

Pure ethanol (E100) fuel has a higher octane rating of 106 RON compared to gasoline’s 95 RON. Using a 12:1 compression ratio and twin turbochargers running at 1.0 bar boost, the Aero X BioPower engine delivers a hefty 143hp per liter displacement. Turbocharging with E100 fuel allows the use of a higher compression ratio—giving more engine power—than is possible with gasoline because of the risk of harmful knocking (pre-detonation).

The all-aluminum, 24-valve, four-cam engine is a higher-performance version of the current engine in the Saab 9-3 range. For the Aero X, the engine is longitudinally installed and features a Spark Ignited Direct Injection system (SIDI) for optimum combustion; variable inlet and exhaust cam phasing for improved breathing, and dry-sump lubrication for a lower chassis installation and reduced oil pumping losses. Both turbochargers have variable geometry turbine (VGT) wheels to give a quick low-end response.

More durable valves and valve seats are fitted, together with ethanol-compatible materials in the fuel system, including the tank, pump, lines and connectors. The addition of the SIDI system ensures the same cold starting performance as a normal gasoline engine.

The 32-bit engine management system simultaneously controls the ignition timing, fuel injection, turbo boost pressure, air mass measurement and the throttle setting. For minimized exhaust emissions, the two close-coupled catalysts are equipped with electronically controlled, secondary air injection, which gives extremely quick light-off following cold starts.

Turbocharging and bioethanol make excellent partners. In developing this BioPower V6 engine we have been able to take the next step by using E100 fuel, pure 100% bioethanol. That means there are zero fossil CO2 emissions because we are not using any gasoline at all.

—Kjell ac Bergström, Executive Director of Saab Automobile Powertrain AB

The 2.8-liter engine is matched to a seven-speed automated manual transmission using a wet double clutch system to allow fast, full throttle, sequential gear changes via the steering wheel paddles. Power is transmitted to all four wheels through a multi-plate clutch, allowing an infinitely variable front/rear torque split.

Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and an independent multi-link layout at the rear. Continuously adjustable damping (Saab Active Chassis) is adopted for enhanced body control, ride comfort and driving safety.

Saab Active Chassis involves processing signals from a number of on-board sensors which measure the vehicle’s vertical, lateral and body-in-roll movements. These inputs are fed into a central control unit, which monitors the behavior of each wheel as often as 100 times per second. It can then calculate and make small adjustments to the valving of each relevant damper as required in just 10-30 milliseconds. Opening the valve increases oil flow to allow softer damping, while closing the valve produces firmer damping. A range of pre-settings can be selected by the driver.



Wow, 400hp. That's a bit overkill isn't it? Also, I wonder how much of this is because Sweden wants to end their oil dependency? A 400hp car wouldn't fit into anybody's sustainability plan.


Net zero co2 emissions? Not.


Surely it is disingenuous to claim net zero CO2 emissions, unless the ethanol consumed is produced wholly using renewable energy, a highly unlikely prospect.


Tank-to-wheel only refers to the release during driving operations, not during the production phase of the fuel life cycle.


Looks very cool. Kudos to GM who generally produces a lot of crap concept and underwhelming product to market. Maybe a little fun mixed in with all of the "holier than thou" commentary that saturates this website isn't such a bad thing. I'm all for minimizing the impact on the "natural" state of the ecosystem. But who wants to always read a bunch of bitchin' posted by the same bunch of self-obsessed, crusty curmudgeons. Its a bit depressing really, which is why I don't read very much of the commentary here. Maybe high performance is a way to get the "less enlightened" to become increasingly aware of ecologically friendly transportation choices.


Another piece of crap aimed at the reptilian brain...

Fortunately it is only a concept, but it seems clear GM intends to ride ethanol for all it is worth.


Please enlighten me, my high school chemistry was a long time ago:

Does burning C2H6O not produce CO2?

What's the definition of "tank-to-wheels"?


dimitris: Yes, burning ethanol does produce CO2 but the entire process is carbon neutral (or at least MAY be carbon neutral). For corn based ethanol, the corn removes the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere that is produced by burning's just a simple mass balance. Where things get tricky is trying to determine how much fossil fuels are being consumed by fertilizing the soil to grow the corn and determining how much fuel is being used by the farmer when harvesting the corn. IF you use less fossil fuel energy to make the ethanol than what the ethanol returns to you, then ethanol is indeed carbon neutral.

Technically tank to wheels does produce net CO2.


Tank-to-wheels refers to the buring of the fuel in the vehicle. "Well-to-tank" refers to the production of the fuel. Total fuel lifecycle emissions consist of both.

Burning a biofuel produces CO2. Basic chemistry. But the argument is that biofuel emissions during driving are balanced by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere when crops for biofuel conversion are grown..."recycling" the CO2 already present in the atmosphere, so to speak. Burning a fossil fuel releases new amounts of CO2 which have been locked away underground.


ben: I think you meant to say "if you use *no* fossil fuel". Even if your ethanol returns twice the fossil-based energy you put in to grow it, you still have net CO2 emissions.

From a non-expert-in-the-field perspective, biofuels are interesting for two reasons:

- You can trade mobile emissions and energy for their mostly fixed-site (farm) counterparts. A wind farm can't directly power my car, but it may be useful in producing synthetic fertilizer.

- Biodiesel and E85/E100 are incremental/retrofit friendly, vs mobile electric (hybrid) which requires a powerplant designed for that almost from scratch.


Even if the energy return of ethanol is positive, this doesn't make the ethanol carbon neutral. Assuming that the carbon uptake is equal to the carbon output, the carbon output of the fossil fuel still renders the whole process not neutral.

The University of California study concluded that the ratio of energy from fossil fuel input to energy output of the ethanol was 1 to 1.3. If this vehicle gets bad gas mileage, which I suspect it does, it is, at the very least putting out all the CO2 from that one unit of input.

GM, through efforts like this, and through its "go yellow" advertising is trying to deflect attention from the crummy gas mileage of its trucks and SUVs. Even under the best of assumptions, one is still way better off by driving a 40 plus mpg vehicle, even if it's all gas.

In any event, the best hope for the future, given emerging technology is to focus on high mileage PHEVs. The carbon output, this instance, would be less than ethanol, biodiesel, hydrgogen, you name it.

Buying into the GM program just takes us off where we should be focusing.


Tom: What's more feasible, thousands of PHEV cars that need a range in the hundreds of miles to be practical or one PHEV farm tractor with refueling facilities nearby?

Substitute hydrogen fuel cell instead of PHEV if you wish, the question is the same.

Adian Akau

Will GM ever grow up? It sounds like another way of saying 100 HP for the car and 300 HP for the driver's ego. Comon, GM. Get real for a change. One day people are going to wake up and be tired of these fancy toys.

[email protected]

Ron Fischer

There will always be a market for this kind of car, but GM will never bring this particular Saab-branded design to market because it would steal share from Corvette. You're more likely to see a flex-fuel Corvette actually being sold.


Remember, this is a Saab. It competes against the likes of BMW, Audi, MB, and Volvo (albeit, not very well). Granted, each of those competitors have smaller cars that they offer overseas, but none of them have built their names on that. If GM is going to invest in Saab to make it competitive, this is EXACTLY what they need to do. Their angle right now is this Biopower engine. If they could actually start filtering down some of this tech to the 9-3/9-5, they may actually have a competive product.


dimitris. Farm tractors are only part of the equation. If you are saying that you can effectively eliminiate fossil fuel inputs from fossil fuel production, that's sounds good. However, I will wait until I see a full analysis of the feasibility of same.

In any event, PHEVs are feasible for what people do every day, that is, commuting, and traveling locally. If ethanol becomes the fuel of choice , then by all means, use it it conjunction with PHEVs. But for the foreseeable future, don't buy gas guzzling SUV and monster trucks just because you can use ethanol. What we are doing now is wrong.

Perhaps the future is ethanol, wind, and solar powered fuel stations combined with PHEVs.

I still think we need to be cautious even when we just focuses on the "carbon neutral" part of the equation. Carbon neutral isn't necessarily an improvement if we are converting carbon negative prairie or forest land to ethanol production. And that is not even considering the ecological impact of converting wild or semi wild land to agricultural production.

Ethanol might very well make sense for the future, but it does not make sense given the way GM wants to implement it, mainly as a marketing tool that diverts us from the real problems.

barry J hanson

The Swedes know what they are doing in going to an ethanol economy. There are no fossil carbon emissions when using ethanol derived from biomass, the problem is FOSSIL carbon. It is now possible to use waste (MSW, used tires, plastics) to ethanol processes...such as gasification and then a bio-catalytic conversion to ethanol using natural microorganisms such as clostridium ljungdahlii.

The other thing they are doing is optimizing for ethanol; the Saab 9-5 and now this one perform better on ethanol, more MPG, than they do on gasoline.


yes, 400hp is so horrible how dare they demonstrate the potential of ethanol and work against under-powered stereotypes, they should have made a 1/2hp ethanol moped instead.

C'mon you Sierra-club wannabes, the real solution is not going to be found by trying to make everyone conform to your perspective on what makes a vehicle worthwhile.

Instead it is to be found by making the products that people actually DO buy more sustainable.

As for infrastructure problems with ethanol, you are putting the cart before the horse. No one is going to convert to a massivly expensive low-emissions inrastructure setup w/o anything to use that infrastructure.

Fix transportation first... the rest is 100x easier.

If you wait for a 100% ideal solution before changing, then you'll never get anything done. Wouldn't you agree that 400hp E100 cars are a better option than 500+hp gasoline powered cars that are being produced by GM, Daimler/Chrysler, Ford, and many more?

Stop whining for an utterly unreasonable and unrealistic 100% over-night change, and start supporting real world solutions that people will actually embrace.

fred dzlsabe

Conspicuous by its absense (as usual with GM ethanol sniffing run amok) is the fuel economy estimates. I am sure they've got the performance thing could they halve it and get a car in the showroom that gets 30-40 city mpg? We need to see real-world-possible cars...400hp is a waste. GM see the other "concepts"
on this page and get a clue.


Ash hit the nail on the head.....there simply is not a one-size-fits all hybrid concept. Why spend time arguing over whether it should have had half the HP (which by the way, does not mean twice the MPG)? This type of car could appeal to many, and be much more sustainable than current offerings.

The way I see it, this is progress, and that is a step in the right direction.

tom deplume

First, I find the comments 90% of the fun at this and other sites.
Secondly, doesn't increasing compression ratio also increase NOx?
Thirdly, could this engine run well on 180 proof moonshine?


If we are on the precipice, not sure these so called little steps in the right direction will really be sufficient. Since we have no clue what the MPG on this is, how can we say we've made a step in the right direction?


"Since we have no clue what the MPG on this is, how can we say we've made a step in the right direction?"

Because it's neccesarily more sustainable than a simular setup powered by gasoline. That is how we know it is a step in the right direction.

I would like to see fuel economy stats too... but much of the market dosn't CARE about MPG. And those people have to be migrated to a sustainable solution too. One can't just demagog and say "I declare that all cars may have no more than 100hp, because I feel it is a waste of power!" and expect to fix the world's energy needs.


Even if this is more sustainable than a similar setup powered by gasoline, it does not make it a step in the right direction. What if, tomorrow, we reduced the mpg of all vehicles by half but powered them by ethanol, would that be a step in the right direction?

A step in the right direction is when we are actually reducing the oil consumed and carbon produced.

If the market does not care about mpg, then we need to change that. The vast majority of people will not be migrated without a significant increase in gas prices and/or gas taxes.

For all I know, this sucker get 5 mpg. If one thinks this is a step in the right direction, we are worse off than I thought.


"What if, tomorrow, we reduced the mpg of all vehicles by half but powered them by ethanol, would that be a step in the right direction?"

Even if that was the MPG penalty for replacing gasoline with ethanol (and it's not - it's typically about a 20% reduction), that answer would still be YES! The POINT is that we won't see significant advances in the production methods of ethanol before there is a demand for it, so the ethanol powered cars are kinda important....

The current production methods of ethanol have little bearing. We can produce ethanol from cellulose very efficiently, which regardless of "mpg", would be a HUGE win as it would be virtually carbon neutral. This cannot be done with gasoline, even with 100mpg cars.

Would you prefer to sit around and do nothing until we can buy a two-seater car with a 5HP engine that can run off of banana peels? Lets be realistic here. As outlined in one of my favorite movies, "Baby Steps..."

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