The 310 hp Saab 9-5 Aero BioPower concept, which makes its world debut at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show, demonstrates that Saab drivers can enjoy the benefits of increased power and performance - while having a greater regard for the environment. In combining the enjoyment of sporty driving with innovative and rewarding technology, it builds on Saab's strong Scandinavian tradition of providing 'performance with responsibility'.
Powered by bio-ethanol (E85), a renewable and sustainable fuel, the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine of the 9-5 Aero SportCombi show car delivers almost 20 per cent more maximum power (310 v 260 bhp) and 25 per cent more torque (440 Nm/325 lb.ft v 350 Nm/258 lb.ft) than its gasoline equivalent. On the road, this is expected to translate to zero to 60 mph acceleration in under 6 seconds, compared to 6.9 seconds with gasoline. This is all achieved alongside a dramatic improvement in environmental performance, through reduced emissions of fossil carbon dioxide (CO2), the 'greenhouse' gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming.
Saab already leads the European premium car segment in offering a BioPower model. Sales began on the Swedish market last year (2005), where the Saab 9-5 2.0t BioPower's winning combination of enhanced engine and environmental performance - its power is raised from 150 to 180 bhp when running on E85 - currently accounts for 70 per cent of all 9-5 sales. The same model also recently attracted Popular Science magazineb"s Best of Whatb"s New award, an annual selection of 100 breakthrough new products and technologies.
Now BioPower technology is being applied for the first time to Saab's top-of-the-line 9-5 Aero model, showcasing the potential of developing a version for the North American market.
Ethanol fuel is produced commercially from agricultural crops or forest residues and is already produced in the US Mid-West region from corn. Unlike gasoline, its consumption does not raise atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is because emissions during driving are balanced by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere, through natural photosynthesis, when crops for conversion are grown. To ensure good cold starting performance, ethanol is usually blended (85% ethanol/15% gasoline) and sold commercially as E85 fuel.
E85 is a high quality fuel with a much higher octane rating (104 RON) than gasoline, allowing the engine's ignition timing to be advanced for more power without risk of harmful 'knocking'. The adaptability of Saab's powerful Trionic engine management system has facilitated re-programming to accommodate its different ignition and fuel/air mixture requirements. The only hardware modifications necessary for BioPower are more durable valves and valve seats, and the use of ethanol-compatible materials in the fuel system, including the tank, pump, lines and connectors.
Trionic monitors fuel quality after every visit to the filling station and automatically makes any adjustments necessary for running on E85 and/or gasoline in any combination. That means Saab BioPower drivers can also use gasoline, should E85 not be available.
During the development of BioPower, Swedish engineers liaised with their General Motors colleagues in Brazil where 100 per cent ethanol (E100), produced locally from sugar cane, is the dominant fuel on the market. Saab has found that turbocharged engines are particularly well suited to exploiting the benefits of ethanol, allowing the possibility of introducing higher compression ratios for optimum power and efficiency, while also encouraging powertrain downsizing.
"We are delighted to be taking a lead in the development of BioPower, which expresses many of the traditional values of the Saab brand, " says Jan-b"ke Jonsson, Saab Automobile's managing director. "We are convinced alcohol fuels like ethanol can provide an effective short to mid-term solution in our search for sustainable alternatives to fossil-based fuels for road transport.
"It is compatible with conventional gasoline engines and can be supplied through the existing fuel infrastructure, without the need for any major new investment. A transition towards ethanol can run in parallel with the development of other, longer-term energy solutions, which could also include ethanol as an energy-carrier for the introduction of fuel-cell technology."