September 17, 2014 in Interview
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!
September 14, 2014 in News
Monday at 10:00 SU will arrive at Saab in Trollhättan, the mission is to test drive the electric 9-3. There are a lot of magazines and media who will get that chance now and its something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time!
The work that we do at SU is for you guys, the fans, so we’d like to ask you: what do you want to know about the electric car?
Place your questions in the comments section!
It was 10 AM on a Saturday morning (September 6th, 2014 to be exact), at the center of a usual quiet weekend in the Santa Clara high-tech office park that was not even disturbed by the newly constructed football stadium. Yes, it was a quiet morning indeed. But, that was about to change: more on that later. The first item on our itinerary was a visit to the European Auto Factory. We observed various models: including 9-3s, 900s and of course the venerable Sonett. After nearly an hour of mingling, the quite air was filled with pistons firing and Turbochargers whistling: the 2014 San Francisco Bay Area Saab Club Meet and Drive was now on the move!
September 13, 2014 in Sotw
In most pictures we see on SOTW the cars are well washed and clean. To get another point of view of a Saab I tested my photoshop-program and I found a function how to change the pictures into a drawing of the silhouettes. The results are the following drawings of our last Saab 9-3. In the background the Cathedral of Cologne. Gus.
Our Hirsch Performance Day is almost here so I wanted to give you an update.
One of the nice treats for the Day is the opportunity to test drive a limited edition 9-3 Carlsson, 1 of only 96 made. Its for sale too but you can drive it with for a few miles with Jerry’s pleasure. Please bring along your licences.
Jerry will have quite a few other offers for all on the day including a thorough convertible roof clean. He will do a half and half before and after clean and you can book in an appointment for another day. A total exhaust system clean is another idea and mine will go through this during the morning.
There will be cakes and drinks too and time for chatting.
Lance will be bringing a few paintings along including a new Classic 900 five door. Don’t forget to bring your books for signing.
See you Saturday, from 9.00 onwards.
SouthWestSaab in conjunction with Astley Saab are holding a Hirsch performance day here in Yeovil, Somerset, on Saturday the 13th of September giving Saab owners a no obligation opportunity to a ‘try before you buy’ engine upgrade on their own car.
This not only improves the performance, but more importantly enhances the way the engine responds during all everyday driving situations, giving the driver increased torque and flexibility. This in turn creates a more relaxing and therefore enjoyable car to drive.
Alex has recently had the upgrade done to his 9-3 2.0t convertible and has had the opportunity to experience the results for himself during the Saabs on the Marches driving tour.
“I am very impressed with the extra torque available and am convinced it has made the car more relaxing to drive, with less throttle required, along with reduced gear changing on the hills.
My average fuel consumption over the whole event, including motorway driving at a steady seventy, was 35 Mpg…very impressive indeed!”
Also at the event will be Lance Cole, the author of the recent ‘Saab Cars the Complete Story’, to sign copies of his book and will be very pleased to personally sign your copy if you already have one on the day. He will also bring along a few prints of his Saab Paintings for you to look at.
So come down and see what a difference a Hirsch upgrade can do for your engine at ‘very special’ on the day prices, along with other special offers on Saturday the 13th September.
Although SWS are organising this, you don’t have to be a SOC member, just a big lovable Saab enthusiast.
Refreshments will be provided.
September 10, 2014 in News
The day was held in the Garage Daniel Car, a garage with at least 60 Saab 900 and 9000 and the respective spares and parts for these models. Daniel had displaced a lot of these cars to give room to have visitors also see the tables from other Saab club members who wanted to show and sell their Saab inventories. Food and drinks got served as well. A gorgeous day for all who came and visited this event. If you have missed this and am looking for parts and spares for 900 and 9000 Saabs, just contact Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org while he has nearly everything available a Saab enthusiast can dream about.
September 10, 2014 in Editorial
I dont even know where to start, but it seams that the Saabosphere is so desperate for news that it’ll believe just about anything… A reporter named Lijee Philip sure made his magazine enter into the headlines around the western world with a story based on what “people in the know said.” I’d like you guys to consider that this publication is considered to be marginally reliable at best and is known for spreading rumors which are most often met with “no comment” from the major auto brands. This also happened in the article in question.
This article is something I read and then discarded pretty much straight away since to anyone who know the auto industry in Europe, it didn’t make much sense and was mostly speculation from the journalist in question. But fact that TTELA actually reported about this as credible news and strengthened its credibility by stating that it was one of the most read english papers in India made this whole situation look very strange.
First of all, yes, we know that Mahindra is working with NEVS in acquiring some kind of ownership in the company, NEVS stated that “a new owner was coming in” in their application for reconstruction of the company. So there is not much doubt about that. And this economictimes etc etc started to write about M&M’s dealings with the PSA group already back in May, it was also reported about M&Ms involvement in NEVS at the same time so its obviously a story that isn’t really news, its more of a spinn-off on the older articles. But what some, so called “expert”, might have pointed out and which the reporter made some pretty strange assumptions is that M&M would somehow integrate its korean brand Ssangyong with PSA and SAAB?
First of all, lets get something straight. PSA doesn’t need Ssangyong in any way shape or form. PSA needs money but to start mixing PSA’s brands with Ssangyong would probably be a huge deflation of credibility for the PSA brands which have come a long way towards building credibility with its customers for being “not just another cheap european brand” but actually a maker of high quality and close to luxury brand cars. PSA’s diesel engines are very well made and can easily compete with the best brands in the world. As for parts sharing its not something PSA need, they make a big enough volume of cars to buy their parts at the price they need.
Second: NEVS no longer has any of the rights to use the SAAB name (which is something the reporter obviously didn’t know about) and I personally think its going to be extremely tough for NEVS/M&M to regain credibility with SAAB AB in order to get the name back. I personally hope that it can be done, but I don’t think there is a lot of chance that SAAB AB will ever let go of the brand name again. They were asked to give the Saab auto-brand another chance in 2012 by higher powers even though they didn’t want to, but they did anyway, and now we’re back to “2011″ again and I doubt after this turn of events, there will be any pressure on SAAB AB to release the name to anyone again. And its very clearly documented in reports from the bankruptcy administration that M&M left the game for SAAB Automobile ABs assets pretty early as I’ve explained in previous articles. M&M never even placed a bid even though they had every chance of doing so when it became clear to them that the SAAB brand was not automatically included in the purchase of the assets.
So what does Mahindra want with NEVS?, Read the rest of this entry →
September 7, 2014 in News
This weekend the battle between 5 Saab 9-3´s from two separate teams Tidö and PWR, and the arch rivals Volvo Polestar has taken place. The race conditions have been perfect on the from horse trotting to race car for the weekend converted Solvalla Stadium. Tarmac has been put on the gravek and some more gravel twist have been adden in the center parts of the grounds for the Rally Cross cars. Where we got to see the legend Per Eklund in his 650 BHP Saab 9-3 car. All in all a lot of competition Saabs out there but no production of Saab cars for the moment at least not in Trollhättan. With the exception of my SU Saab factory less then 2 km from the racetrack where I make 99 Turbos, more on that soon here.
In the crowd many familiar Saab faces could be seen PWR Racing Team owner “Poker” Wallenberg, the leadership of NEVS with CEO Mattias Bergman and Communications Manager Mikael Östlund. The Saab museum manger was seen as well unloading a the blue Saab Super Sport Sonett I (the blue) and put on display in the Tidö racing VIP hospitality lounge unde cristal-lamps and fake bookshelves.
It is great to see the enthusiasm from the NEVS management for the racing sport lets hope this will be included in the future business plans. The world need more Saabs on the tracks. Next race is at Mantorp track in two weeks time hope to be there to see the finals and supply You readers with more great pictures and videos.