April 7, 2015 in Technical
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March 21, 2015 in Technical
Two weeks ago the Geneva international motor Show started. Not being there felt a little bit disappointing, on the one side, because it means another year without New SAAB branded cars, and on the other side because it is fun to be there during the press days and you get the info first hand.
Nevertheless lots of new things have been introduced in Geneva, but for me only two were really of interest.
First was the Koenigsegg Regera. It is always fascinating to see a new car coming from Koenigsegg every year, and on the booth in front of Koenigsegg you have seen the very same car for the last 6 years albeit in different colours. (You can guess which car brand am I talking about).
The Regera is an interesting way of using the capabilities of a hybrid car, but with all the respect to CvK, the Regera is a hybrid car. What I didn’t like about the Regera was the way the press was talking about the car. I mean it is no rocket science what Koenigsegg has done.
Why do cars need a gear-box? No, it is not to be able to drive fast, more than that is to be able to start moving. At low revs an IC-Engine has almost no torque at all, and to get a car to start moving needs more torque than to keep it moving.
October 11, 2014 in Technical
I have been long thinking about starting a series of posts about news in the automotive industry that have no direkt link to Saab or NEVS but could have an effect on the way we look at future products from Trollhättan [sorry guys I don't want to start a discussion about the brand, so till next notice I will call the cars this way]. So if you like it I will try to deliver a “Not SAAB related” post each week.
My first post is about a,quite funny in my opinion, article about the BMW i3 in the USA. The original article is from consumer report although I’ve found it somewhere else.
The guys at consumer report summarise the problem with this sentence
Relying on that gas engine when the main battery is depleted works well in most cases, including high-speed steady cruising, but not, we’ve discovered, if you demand more of it.
They’ve discovered? C’mon even some BMW manager talked about the drawbacks of such a range extender configuration at its presentation in Munich.
So let us talk about range extender and its problems.
Read the rest of this entry →
Yesterday we had the pleasure to test drive the electric Saab 9-3 from NEVS and here is a summary of my impressions of the car. Firstly I’d like to say that we’re gonna publish two videos from this, one is an interview with Anders Björnberg who is the Project Leader for the EV project at NEVS, a very nice and extremely experienced engineer who gave us a warm welcome and showed us how to have a lot of fun with an electric car on the Saab test track! The second is video from the test track which shows the electric car in action!
But until those videos are ready, here is what I thought of the car.
When I first saw it, the very first thing I realized that it really doesn’t look any different from the conventional car for an exterior view, except for one thing, it is higher than the normal sedan. Thats because on this test car, the engineers have used the suspension system from the 9-3X in order to create more ground clearance so that the battery pack can fit under the car. In all honesty it looks a bit weird and my first thoughts were that this car would behave strangely on the road, I was wrong!
Having driven the ZE (ePower) and almost every other electric car thats been made including the Tesla Roadster, my expectations of this prototype were pretty low at first, the car was under powered compared to what the production version will be and it still lacked several of the technologies that the production version will have, but it had things that impressed me a lot. After having mounted all the cameras on our two follow-me cars we drove out on the track and I was completely blown away, the underpowered (140 hp) electric 9-3 accelerated away from a 220 hp gasoline 9-3 without giving the gasoline car a chance, only once this prototype had reached its limit speed of 120 and slowed down did the gasoline car catch up. I was later told that once the electric car was rolling at speed it’ll have even better accelerating capabilities, my words were: show me. And they did. I did a classic overtake maneuver pushing the pedal to the metal and the acceleration was significant.
I’m used to driving a manual gear box and every time I press the clutch to shift gear, I lose speed and time, especially when overtaking someone, in an electric prototype like this the acceleration is fenomenal, just imagine what it will be in the production version? =)
And now for my biggest surprise, the handling… I was expecting an elephant on a skateboard, it certainly wasn’t. The extremely low center of gravity makes this car extremely responsive and sticks to the ground like few Saabs ever have, this car is even more responsive than the gasoline version which I’ve also driven several laps on the test track. The chassi setting is close to perfect, even though this is just a prototype, the engineers did not save anything on creating a chassi that “just works for now” it actually works and performs extremely well! The 50 / 50 weight distribution is really great and is also one that most sports car makers use which doesn’t surprise me one bit, it has clear advantages!
But now what probably came as the biggest shocker for me, regeneration. Saabs are generally built around a person who likes to drive, being efficient have not been the no 1 priority for Saab but most often driving experience has superseded fuel efficiency in order to make a car more fun. This has been greatly appreciated among Saabs drivers who most often think that a Saab is efficient enough, even though its no world leader in low fuel consumption. When building an electric car this creates a dilemma since you need to be as efficient as possible in order to get the person to where he/she wants to go. Can you really combine an efficient car and one that is fun to drive? Well yes, if you make it efficient enough.
First off let me explain regeneration for you who have not driven an electric car or a gasoline car with regeneration. The principle is that you use the cars momentum to charge the batteries either when going down hill in order to maintain speed or when wanting to slow down. Rather than pressing the brakes and re-create the kinetic energy that the car has into heat which is just wasted, you use the kinetic energy (momentum of the car) to run a generator which in turn creates a bit of friction and slows the car down, while charging the batteries. Any electric motor can be used as a generation if you spin it the other way around. If it goes one way it draws electricity from the battery, spinn it the other way it’ll push electricity into the battery.
When you release the accelerator pedal on most electric cars you feel a strong deceleration (almost like pushing the brakes pretty hard on a normal car), this is because the most efficient way to generate power is to push it quickly into the battery when the car has a lot of momentum, on the BMW i3 you almost end up in the windshield if you’re not ready for it regardless of which speed you’re driving, the deceleration is that strong and it takes a bit of getting used to in order to learn how to drive.
Well Saab engineers are known for thinking different and this time they did that as well since they wanted a car that drivers don’t have to adapt to, they’re just supposed to drive it just like any other car. There is a concept in the auto industry called sailing which is used on many cars today, which actually comes from the old original Saabs of free-wheeling in which you physically disconnect the engine from the drive shaft and let the car just roll. A car will roll a lot further and maintain its speed a lot longer than most people think and when driving on the highway you most often don’t want your car to slow down quickly, you just want it to slow down a little bit so Saab engineers have implemented the concept of free-wheeling into the electric car as well making the car charge it self in a nice calm way when decelerating at slower speeds and by using the momentum of the car by free-wheeling at higher speeds. Its essentially back to the roots for Saab in this project which made it so much more interesting for me! Of course you don’t generate as much power into the cars but you still don’t use as much either when using the momentum that the car has making the car fun to drive, and efficient enough!
Now I’m not saying that the electric 9-3 is inefficient, far from it, the battery system and car works very well, but it won’t be a market leader in terms of range, but it is the most fun to drive electric car within its price-range!
So what about the noise level? Well the car is quiet, even more than any Tesla I’ve driven, perhaps not as quiet as the i3 but Saab engineers have done a great job in eliminating all of those electric motor noises that you usually get in electric cars. They are extremely annoying when you do notice them but the 9-3 is generally a quiet car compared to others in its class even with the gasoline engine in it, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its quiet as an electric version as well.
Another thing which really struck me even though I had been told this many times was that Saab engineers had not made any reductions in passenger space nor storage capability. By chance I opened the luggage compartment of the car to put my computer bag into it and once the hatch was opened I stopped and looked almost surprise, they were right, there is absolutely no infringement on the space at all. There is even space for a spare wheel.
Now this is a prototype, I know that and in order to make this a good commercial product the Saab engineers need to make some changes, they know that. So here are my thoughts on what the car needs.
- First off all the car is extremely fun to drive and its fast enough for most people, for hard core fans it needs a bit more acceleration capability than this car had but with a stronger electric motor in the front which is due on the production version that constraint will be taken care of.
- The engineers might want to rethink the big gap that is created in the wheel well by installing a higher suspension. Someone in the comments suggested that they’d just as well make a 9-3X out of it right away and I agree with that, having the chassi that it has now works, but it doesn’t look all that good. Sure the car needs to have the ground clearance in order to work, but it still needs to look good at the same time.
- Electric car range is today marketed according to an international standard for measuring range. This figure most often turns out to be wrong when not driving in the optimized conditions that the range is measured in. This in 99% of cases causes customers to feel cheated and let down since the car won’t perform to their expectations. This is dangerous territory. On a gasoline car if the fuel consumption was 5% higher than advertised it really didn’t matter that much since you’d just turn into a gas-station and fill it up anyway. On an electric car this is a completely different matter since most customers will carefully calculate if the car works for them or not, if the figures from the manufacture are different from what normally works in everyday life then the manufacturer will have a problem!
- Range extension! The BMW i3 has become the new market leader for electric cars, there is no doubt about it, with its carbon fibre structure and long range it outsold the Tesla already in its third month in the market and it is already pushing down sales for the Nissan Leaf and most other electric car. Even though the car looks like crap in my opinion its figures are excellent and it offers what most people want to have, range extension! This is what SAAB needs as well. Sure 95% of the time people will cope fine on just the electric range, but having a car is having freedom and if a customer is to spend close to 30-50k Euro on a car which most electric cars today cost, you as a manufacturer can not limit the customers freedom in any way! You are competing with gasoline cars, there is no question about that and you have to offer the customer the same freedom as he/she would get with a gasoline version. And being able to assure that the customer does not “get stuck” anywhere or is able to make it to that place that they spontaneously find out that they need to go to, you have to provide them with the option of having that freedom and not being locked into a fixed range!
There is space in the 9-3 to offer a small 25 kW engine and a gasoline tank of 10-15 liters that can charge the batteries, this could be offered as an option on the car which customers who might want to assure that freedom of getting that extra mile that the car otherwise can’t, and are willing to pay for it. Sure the car won’t be 100% clean anymore, but just like its sacrifice to make it fun to drive and efficient enough, it’ll also bee clean enough for the real Saab driver!
Yesterday I was out for a spin in my M91 900 Turbo 16, and after I had driven a few kilometres I loose all the power in the middle of a sharp bend, while I was accelerating. My initial reaction was that something was wrong with the fuel supply, but after the road straighten out I realise this had to be a issue with the air supply. I was lucky and found a bus-stop in the middle of the countryside, and turned off to locate the fault. When I opened the hood, my idea about the air supply was absolute right, a hose from the intercooler to the throttle body had jumped off. A very quick fix if you have the right tool, but in a small second I got a little panic – in this car I don’t have a toolbox… This time it was false alarm, I was able to tighten the hose clamp with a flat screwdriver from the original tool kit.
I know – many of you guys in here drive newer cars as your daily driver, and have a big toolbox in the boot shouldn’t be necessary. As some of you know have I a M04 9-5 Aero as my daily driver, and like it or not – in this car I have a big toolbox in the boot. But isn’t very often I need some the tools for that car either, in the four years and 80’000km’s I’ve had it, it only has let me down three times;
- The fuel pump – after a attempt to change the pump outside my work (failed because I don’t had extra fuel hose – but I had a spare pump) I managed to get the pump working again, so I get home.
- On my way to the Oktoberfest 2012, when the crank sensor gave up. This happened appropriately enough when I was going to drive off a ferry, so two crew members had to push me off the boat… Luckily a crank sensor is a part of the “T7 rescue kit” (crank sensor, fuel pump and DI-unit ) so after the engine had cooled down a bit I changed the sensor myself.
- The hose from the boost valve to the turbo compressor. The thin hose had gnawed on the V-band clamp that connect the turbo and king cobra pipe, and at a point it went off. This resulted that I had no power at all… This time it was enough to cut the hose and connect it again until I get home and was able to mount the V-band clamp properly.
So in total no big things, two well known T7-issues, and one issue caused by bad work from my side – but some basic tools have saved me from tow-trucks and a lot of wasted time.
After slimming my toolbox down to my new tool-bag, I now have to a set of some wrenches, a monkey wrench, a big and a small flat screwdriver, some torx-bits, a hose clamp screwdriver with spiral blade, fuel-pump-tool, a cutting pier, a LED-torch, some cable ties + gaffa tape and at least some glows and rags for cleaning up stuff. And of course a box of scrubbing wipes for oil and other dirt.
So to sum this up, which basic tools do you think is nice to have in a small bag in the spare tire compartment? Or maybe you don’t have tools at all, and have the number for SAAB-assistance stored in your mobile phone?
And I almost forgot, on my way back home after visiting some friends I stopped and shoot some pics on my old 900.
Actually the time was around 00:45 when I shoot these pictures, and it’s still pretty much daylight outside where I live…
As an owner of a 2004 9-3 convertible it looks like I have to set an appointment with a Saab garage to have some parts of the seatbeltsystem in the front seats replaced. It is the retractor system that can break.
Some very interesting talks yesterday in Jörgens post about lightweight materials and I thought that I’d continue the discussion about future materials with a small exception, its already in production! For some time now I’ve been following the tech coming out from BMW, especially about lightweight materials and high power and for you guys who have missed this, get ready for something very cool! This is exactly the kind of thing I’d expect Saab to make in the future if they are to be successful!
How about a car, plug-in hybrid with the following specs:
- Electric drive motor in the front, twin-power turbo engine in the back
- 35 km range on pure electric drive at speed up to 120 km/h
- 2,5 liters / 100 km fuel consumption on gasoline drive
- 231 Hp / 320 Nm on gasoline, combined with electric motor 352 hp
- zero to 100 km/h in 4,4 seconds (0-60 mph)
- Either rear wheel drive, or front wheel drive or four-wheel drive in the same car
- Weight: 1490 kg
- Recycling possibility: close to 100 %
Direct Youtube links: http://www.youtube.com/embed/HPIc-9-owyk http://www.youtube.com/embed/frgQ-WjZ2GI http://www.youtube.com/embed/GeZ094QImWs http://www.youtube.com/embed/-6UssR2-NcI http://www.youtube.com/embed/qIPBKNwARac