In response to a request in comments…..
The quality and scope of Saab’s innovations in the car industry probably outweigh their size or reputation. There are a number of things, however, that we can’t add to that list because even though they were taken quite a long way through the development journey, for some reason or another, they didn’t get to the end of that journey.
There may well be very good reasons why these developments were left on the shelf. The hard part about being a Saab fan and knowing about these developments is not knowing why they were stopped.
Solar cooling – Saab EV1
One of the many nifty innovations incorporated into Bjorn Envall’s Saab EV1 concept car in the mid 80s were a set of solar panels in the vehicle’s roof. These panels generated energy that would then drive cooling fans to keep the interior cabin cool in the sun.
If you think this is still somewhat space age, well it is to an extent, but there are car companies now offering this technology as an option, most notably Audi with their solar sunroof.
More recently, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept also featured solar cells in the roof of the vehicle. In this case, the solar energy is used to charge the vehicle’s lithium ion batteries.
The Saab V8
This is one case where we probably do know why the development stopped before it really got off the ground.
Back in the late 1980’s, some of Saab’s cousins at Valmet in Finland decided to try and fit a V8 into a Saab 9000. Spurred on by their counterparts in Trollhattan who said it wouldn’t fit, the Finns developed a V8 engine using what appears to be two Saab B202s.
It slotted right into the Saab 9000 with no modifications necessary, but GM’s purchase of 50% of Saab the year after it was done made the engine somewhat redundant as GM had V6 engines they wanted Saab to utilise. I wonder which out of the GM V6 or “Saab’s” V8 would have been more efficient and reliable?
You can read Eggs’ full entry on this engine here.
Saab Variable Compression
This was going to be the Golden Egg but it ended up being squashed by a goose in a suit.
Saab variable compression, as the name suggests, should have been the next big development in engine technology. The project started around 1990 and Saab started to make serious noise about it in the late 1990s.
The idea was simple enough: engines are fairly inefficient given that the one engine has to cope with running at variable speeds and loads. What Saab did in response was to develop an engine that featured variable compression via a ‘monohead’ that was hinged on one side whilst the other side moved up and down via hydraulic rams.
The results were very promising. From a supercharged, five cylinder 1.6 litre engine, Saab generated around 225hp and 305Nm of torque, with around 30% less fuel consumption compared to a larger engine with similar output.
Saab Combustion Control
If you believe the press release, Saab Combustion Control was perhaps the most production-ready of any of these technologies. From the October 2000 press release on the technology:
The SCC system will be launched in the next generation of Saab cars.
I can’t claim to understand this one sufficiently well enough, so here’s some details from the Saab 9-3x press materials (the original one that could have been built 6 or 7 years ago, not the XWD vehicle we’ll see next year).
This revolutionary technology from Saab improves fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent and cuts emissions by as much as 75 per cent, all without impairing engine performance. Direct injection, variable valve timing and a variable spark gap are the key features, allied to a spark plug injector which provides air-assisted fuel injection and turbulence for better combustion, as well as a high-energy spark.
SCC allows exhaust gases to comprise up to 70 per cent of the combustion mixture, a far higher proportion than conventional exhaust-gas-recirculation systems. Carbon monoxide and hyrdocarbon emissions are reduced by almost 50 per cent and nitrogen oxides by 75 per cent. The Saab Ecopower 2 V6 is the first production engine designed to incorporate this technology.
A 10% reduction in fuel consumption and a potential 75% reduction in emissions – and again, in 2001 this was intended for production in the next generation of Saab cars.
You can read a full press release on Saab Combustion Control over at Saabnet and there’s also a great article at SAE.org.
Saab’s plug-in Hybrid
The Saab BioPower Hybrid Convertible was first shown at the Stockholm Motor Show in March 2006. The big official news at that time was that it was the world’s first fossil-free hybrid vehicle and it was made all the more notable by the fact that all this technology was present in a convertible car.
The press release that accompanied the vehicle, however, wasn’t the original press release. What the published press release held back was the fact that the vehicle was also a plug-in hybrid. Behind the glued-in rear badge was a plug-in capability that lifted the technology and the mileage capability of the car to new levels. It was reported in Aftonbladet (in Swedish) that GM told Saab at the last minute before the Stockholm show, to re-write the press releases and glue shut the plug-in cover. The plug-in capability of this car was not to be revealed.
The original press release was circulated to several outlets and then pulled by Saab just prior to the Stockholm show. Some of those outlets published the original release, however, which read:
To optimise the availability of ‘Zero Mode’, a plug-in-feature is available which allows the battery bank to be connected to a mains electricity supply for additional charging in the garage. This would, for example, allow a driver commuting in heavy traffic to immediately resume in ‘Zero Mode’ the next morning after arriving home the previous evening having used up all its range. A neat socket is located behind the Saab badge on the 9-3 BioPower Hybrid Concept’s trunk lid.
It is thought that the plug-in capability was covered up as the technology was not going to be featured in light of the fact that GM had bigger fish to fry when it comes to electric cars – the Chevrolet Volt debuted in concept form in January 2007.