Saab Goes Electric
The Swedes make a statement by unveiling a battery-powered 9-3.
The Paris Motor Show is rife with eco-conscious electric vehicles,[link to R&T piece] ranging from wacky "personal mobility" concepts to conventional-looking 4-door sedans to futuristic supercars. Almost every major automaker has at least one; many have two or more on display.
Saab, the embattled Swedish automaker that was recently resurrected by Dutch supercar builder Spyker, flexed its EV muscle for the first time here in the City of Lights by unveiling the all-new 9-3 ePower, a battery-powered version of its 2011 9-3 SportWagon.
9-3 ePower: Rolling Prototype
Like MINI's Mini-E, the Saab 9-3 ePower is a rolling prototype, intended to be driven and used under everyday driving conditions to assess the automaker's electric drivetrain technology. That is, it's basically a real-world research and development tool that will get a limited rollout in Sweden only.
The front-wheel-drive 9-3 ePower is propelled by a 184-horsepower electric motor that draws juice from a lithium-ion battery pack located where the vehicle's fuel tank and exhaust system were once housed.
While speed and performance are usually secondary concerns when it comes to EVs, the 9-3 ePower will go from zero to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds, which isn't bad when you compare it with the 8.3 seconds it takes for the standard 9-3 equipped with a 1.9-liter TTiD diesel engine to make the run. Admittedly, the electric version can't match the diesel for top speed. But for most driving, it'll be fine. Projected range is 124 miles.
A fleet of 70 9-3 ePowers will be racking up the miles as Saab fine-tunes its electric powerplant. All will be equipped with data recorders to evaluate their performance — not least in the Swedish winter, cold being a traditional enemy of electrically powered cars.
Back From the Brink
Saved from the brink of disaster earlier in the year by Spyker, Saab is using this show to prove to the world that it's back in business.
In addition to the 9-3 ePower, the company is also debuting additional engines for the new 9-5. These include a 2.0-liter 190-horsepower twin-turbo version of the existing 160-horsepower diesel engine and a 1.8-liter 180-horsepower turbocharged engine.
Future models were hinted at, too. It was confirmed that the next 9-3 will use BMW-supplied engines; this is expected to help Saab boost sales to 120,000 vehicles. That's some jump from a company that makes only 45,000 cars now.