I’ve just got off the phone with Mats Fägerhag, Saab’s chief technical guru. We talked a little about the new e-AAM Driveline Systems venture that Saab has set up with American Axle Manufacturing.
Saab owns one third of the new company, which will be based in Trollhattan. AAM own the remaining two-thirds.
Here are the dot points from that conversation…..
Saab already use a class-leading all-wheel-drive system in Haldex’s XWD, but one of the downsides with it is that it brings a 10-12% penalty in fuel economy. That’s because the system works so well in terms of moving torque around to different wheels, keeping the car stable, predictable and dynamic when you need it to be – it all takes energy. Saab’s aim in researching this new system is finding a way to maintain XWD-like stability whilst substantially improving fuel economy.
The system that Saab have been developing since the carve-out from General Motors is an all-new system, developed by Saab. The patents and IP belong to Saab and this has been approved by GM.
Saab was the lead center for all-wheel-drive development within GM, so they built up a very experienced team that has been able to work quickly on this new technology once Saab were separated from GM.
AAM have come on board because Saab don’t have the capacity or capability to complete this technology to manufacturing stage, or to actually design and execute the manufacturing process. The new entity will be responsible for this. AAM also have vast marketing resources and contacts with other manufacturers – and that’s one of the principal aims of this venture: selling the technology to other manufacturers and thereby creating a revenue stream that will come back to Saab and AAM.
Whilst the technology will be sold to other manufacturers, there is an exclusivity agreement that ensures Saab will have the technology first, and exclusively for six months before others can use it. This exclusivity agreement applies to all new generations of the technology that will be developed in the future. It will always appear first on a Saab.
The technology involves two electric motors being used on the rear axle. Conventional thinking would be to have two large electric motors, one for each wheel. Large motors mean large batteries, or a generator. That means weight, and lack of economy.
The new system developed by Saab, which will be completed by e-AAM is different. There will be a large electric motor providing power and torque. In addition there will be a smaller electric motor that will handle the torque vectoring between the rear wheels. This means a smaller battery, less weight, but a heap more torque that’ll be precisely controlled by the combination rear axle motors.
For initial expected use, the car will still have an internal combustion engine in the front. It’s expected that fuel consumption will be below the fuel consumption of a regular front wheel drive car.
AWD technology and handling with better-than-FWD fuel economy. Now that’s an attractive offering.
The big one…..
Saab are working towards using this technology in the next generation of the Saab 9-3, expected for release in the last quarter of 2012.
As they’re aiming to sell the technology to other companies, the new system will be designed to be highly adaptable, meaning that it should be easily applied to the 9-5 and the quite possibly the Saab 9-4x and future Saabs as well.
This is a fantastic example of an intelligent, but smaller and more fast-moving Saab getting some meaningful developments underway in a quick timeframe.
This is the sort of stuff that we’ve always believed the Saab engineers were capable of. I can’t say enough about how happy it makes me to see this sort of thing getting underway.
This is the new Saab.