Driving the Electro Engine Saab 9-3 Convertible

There was a comment earlier today from theSandySaab stating that he’d recently driven the Electro Engine Saab 9-3 Convertible.
I wrote to him asking for some more background so that I could post the comment as an article here. Instead of a little background, we’ve got the whole enchilada!!
It turns out tSS is a real electric-car-watcher, as you’ll see below.
The vehicle sounds impressive (still, again) and here’s hoping that Saab get to continue to play a role in its continued development. I noted when checking out Electro Engine’s website today that they’re running an electric SportCombi as a well as the electric Convertible we’ve seen before.
My thanks to theSandySaab for these thoughts.

So, as a Saab nut since almost as long as I can remember, I have been following SU and THS for some years now, especially during the recent financial/car industry crisis. The day starts and ends with SU. For financial reasons I have done most of my own work on old VW Beetles many years ago, but have at least a reasonable mechanical and engineering understanding. Also tried to understand the technology behind wankel/rotary engines, EGR, VVC etc… but always had a feeling the technology behind even new ideas was already old. Why explode dino juice to get propulsion? After all, even the first cars were electric.
Thanks to the strong oil interests weighing in on Ford’s decision to produce a gasoline engine in the model T, we still today using mainly oil to propel our vehicles. I have always wondered what happened to the GM EV1 that went silent after the initial massive media coverage. A year ago I came across the movie “Who killed the electrical car”.
The sad truth is explained very well in this documentary, revealing how the car industry needs the internal combustion engine, as they are in bed with the oil industry, the technology is there already and paid for with no or little interest to reinvent, but mainly, they need the customers back to for scheduled maintenance and servicing of this dirty, old engine technology. Oil, spark plugs, filters, you name it, you pay for it. See the movie!
Since then I have followed electric car developments, mainly the Tesla Motors and it’s Roadster. Finally there is a fun to drive electric alternative with very good range and clever people behind the company. However, the car is prohibitively expensive, and the more you get to know about their battery technology you realize how complex it is. Still, they guarantee the battery pack to keep at least 80% of it’s original range up to 7 years. Also, the model S looks promising, and looks very good.
ElectroEngine Saab 9-3Reading on SU about the ElectroEngine’s True Electric concept, I was very happy, intrigued and curious. An electric Saab with the latest technology!
So when passing by in Sweden I contacted them and got a talk and a short test drive, one of many they did that day. With a core team of only 3 persons, they are working on a very tight schedule. The drive was a very pleasant experience, very drivable, also at low speeds and extremely nice low end torque. It virtually looked, felt and drove like the original (or better) and very quiet. Even the fuel gauge was the same, just wired to indicate the charge status.

ElectroEngine has initially decided to use batteries from Boston, the prototype’s special and efficient torque motors are from Switzerland, controlled through their patent pending proprietary TEBS technology. The 2 engines are mounted directly to the driving axles, and are electronically controlled to provide TCS, differential, limited slip, regenerative braking, etc. They also talked about 4WD, with 4 motors, one driving each wheel, but the complexity is increasing exponentially. I would say they could start produce this car in larger (?) numbers very soon, if only there was a reasonable solution to the heating and a/c issue. Tesla Motors states that use of cabin heating or a/c in their Roadster results in a range decrease of single digit percentage… However, an article from Ny Teknik, shows the lineup of partner companies in the “Flash” (“Blixt”) project. One company specialised in battery heating technology, one in cabin heaters, others in battery technology and energy management… Add to that some government funding, stir well, and hopefully, hopefully something great will come out of it.
Still, it seems ElectroEngine will build a series of some 100 True Electric Saabs for evaluation during 2010. Most likely their driveline can be offered in parallel to the other engine alternatives, ie there will be the gasoline turbo engines, diesel turbos and then the true electric version, hopefully already from MY 2011/12… fingers crossed!
The uniqueness of True Electric concept can be summarized as this (I think):
1. “Making great cars greater” – the driveline can be installed in present car models (Saab and others). No expensive development of new, battery specific models. Just take out the old engine, gear box and differential, put in the True Electric drive line – finished.
2. New motor technology, giving an extreme torque of so desired/programmed (see Aero spec: 2480 Nm !!!), fun to drive, also very efficient.
3. TEBS – True Electric Battery System, the patent pending, proprietary battery management system, very flexible as to what cells to use (easily adaptable to the latest technology, allowing for individual cells to be swapped if faulty, while maintaining battery pack integrity and balancing of charge and load.
4. A complete concept, not only for the car itself and it’s technology, but they have also thought about the whole package, including after sales, pre-owned market, mechanic and engineering requirement at the workshop, etc etc…
5. They have 12 patents pending, applied for within the last 11 months, so many new concepts and ideas being thought up and invented. Many also in the area of safety issues, involving the battery packs, and they were not that impressed with some of the Tesla solutions in this regard.
6. Their homepage is loaded with interesting information, have a look on their homepage
Check the car spec here: http://www.electroengine.se/en/press/dokument_eng.php
Finally, some ask why electric cars? Well, the old arguments still apply, clean (park it in you living room), no or little maintenance, efficient use of energy. Also, the source for the electricity can be virtually anything, wind, solar, nuclear, gas, coal, oil. Now, with the latest battery and motor technology you can also have a safe, fun to drive everyday car that will handle 90% of most people’s needs in terms of range and carriage requirements.
Finally, at least some of Moore’s Law would apply to the further development of the electric car, so prepare your plugs and outlets…

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