Saab aiming to cut weight in future cars

Here’s an aspiration I can relate to…..

Ny Teknik has a report today, talking about Saab’s plans to reduce weight in future vehicles from between 20% to a massive 40%.

Cue the Googletrans:

The concept car which will be completed by summer 2013 will include solutions that make it possible to build cars 20 to 40 percent lighter than today. Without making major compromises elsewhere. Last fall, invited Saab therefore the Scandinavian suppliers to a workshop to reflect together on new solutions.

– We thought it would be difficult for suppliers that are competitors to cooperate in the forms, but it went really well, “says project leader Anders Holmkvist….

….The clear and specific goals will mean reduced weight. But another equally important part in the project according to Anna-Lena Björkstam, purchasing director for bilmaterial at Saab, cooperation with and between suppliers

it goes on to talk about Saab’s different practices now that Saab are out of the GM fold. They key point is the freedom that Saab now have to talk to supplies of their choosing, with goals of their choosing.

You don’t have to be Einstein to see the potential benefits of such substantial weight cuts. Reduced fuel consumption and emissions are obvious benefits. Cars of such weight, depending on the powerplant, could also be quite entertaining. The key will be maintaining ride comfort and safety.

I imagine the goal of putting these brains together is to figure out the solution to that question.

The whole thing sounds quite Saaby to me. Clever stuff. I really hope they get it done.

61 thoughts on “Saab aiming to cut weight in future cars”

  1. “Less is More”. High strength steels and clever use of light materials will really make a difference. Acceleration from rest is killed by excess weight, needing bigger engines and so on. City Cycle fuel economy figures (80% of real world stuff) will benefit in a big way.
    Bring it on!!

  2. I sugget getting in touch with SAAB weapon systems, develop the new JAS fighter togheter with SAAB Automobile concept veichles. Lighter and stronger materials, and a connection with the past 🙂

    • First we hav to convince present management that aerospace IS SAAB heart and soul. Unfortunately it sounds like the BORN FROM JETS is declared dead!
      Lets hope that it changes back Car & Driver awarded the Flight altimeter speedo one of the best designs for 2011. Finally Saab is AEROSPACE inspired…. Do not loose the momentum now SAAB!
      —-
      The backseat, well the good thing is if it is removable it works FOR EVERYONE……

  3. …a 20% to 40% lighter car? It sounds very interesting.
    Maybe “released” Saab is starting to run again? 🙂

  4. Very positive news. But very high ambition in itself to reduce weigt by that much, and then not at the expense of safety, particularly in accidents with much heavier cars. Do not agree about what to omit. Backseats easily removable is very important, highly functional feature for most Saab drivers. Would be great to be able to reduce weight considerably with currently launched products (9-5, 9-4x)., as in the case of the curent 9-3, not just within the framework of future newly developed cars

  5. The thing is that others will surely reduce weight and Saab needs to stay in the game. It’s now up to Scandinavian suppliers and universities to keep local car production alive.

  6. Yes, weight is very important for fuel economy as well, and considering the fact that the 9-5 is about 2 000 kg heavy, I could understand the targets of 20 – 40 % reduction in the next generation.
    A bit off topic, but in the latest issue of Teknikens Värld (Jan 20), they have a test between AWD and 2WD, chosing the 9-5 (weight 2 000 kg) with the BMW 320 (weight 1600 kg). As in these publications, the BMW won of course, but only with two points (69 against 67). Reading the article more carefully revealed the reasons;
    1. RWD is better than FWD when starting in up-hill (natural because you get more weight on the rear part of the car than the front part in this situation)
    2. Even more annoying, BMW got 6 points for economy and SAAB got 4 points. Even if they are equal in purchase price, BMW was praised for “free” service – which is included in the purchase price, fuel economy (the 320d with aut used 5.8l/100 km and the 9-5 TTiD used 6.0l/100 km) – actually the performance of the 9-5 was much better considering the weight difference and of course the residual value, which media always use in order to get lower points to SAAB.
    Of course, it is useless to write to them as they always claim their opinion, but in my view, all comparisons shall be fair and comparing a mid-size car with a full-size car of equal purchase price and almost equal fuel consumption and disqualifying the full-size car due to larger fuel consumption is not fair.

    • It would have to be a very steep hill for the weight to be moved significantly over the rear wheels… In most cases the situation is reversed.

    • A very confusing test indeed. What was the purpose of this test? Since they are not in the same size segment you might think they tried to find the best winter car becuase they brought on the 4wd models compared to the 2wd. The BMW 3-serie and the 9-5 were priced almost equally? They state that the best winter car was with no doubt the 9-5. They compare apples and bananas and of course it was a BMW victory.
      The 4wd BMW got stuck in one test area. The 9-5 XWD just passed by. They tried again to drive the BMW in the tyre-track of the 9-5, stuck again 🙂

      Yes they probably have their own “objective” view on this test and claims it is of course a fair test.

    • Well, actually
      The thing that made the BMW get the higher score was the fact that the expected residual value is higher for the BMW.
      That’s how I read the test at least.

    • Imho it sounds like comparing a motorbike to a bicycle and conclude that the bicycle is not fast enough and therefore the loser of the comparo. Ridiculous, although it does please me that the 9-5 did so well, even with the given handicap.

      Ivo

      • The most irritating part of this article was that the BMW’s residal value was said to be better due to the fact that it was a station wagon! Does anyone in this country or in any country for that matter choose between a BMW station and a 9-5 sedan?
        What was the purpose of the test? To test what kind of setup is best in snowy conditions? If so the test is clear to give 9-5 XWD the victory, BMW XWD a step behind and 9-5 FWD another step behind, and BMW RWD at least another two steps behind. And then they call a winner on a fact that wasn’t even in the test. The same issue of the publication brags about how the compose the best tests in the country… I used to subscribe bt this time I threw it away.

    • BMW has started to apply the technology of “Turbo Charging” in a facinating way. The delivery of power is so smooth that there are no sign of “Turbo Lag”. The torque is developed from as low rev of 1,400 rpm, and at the high end, there are additional 60 hp at almost 4,500 rpm which matches with BMW rotary high rev engines.

      The Rear Wheel Drive is also better than the Front Wheel drive. Sports and enthusiasts would like to have the feeling of “Over Steering” of the RWD, and hate the feeliing of “Under Steering” specially at Hard Cornering.

      In my point of view, The Interior & Exterior finishing, reliabiliy, durability, and serviceabiltiy of BMW is way much better than that of SAAB.

      It would be a good idea for SAAB to change it’s strategic planning in order to compete with the prime brands of the market like MERC, BMW, AUDI, JAG, and VOLVO.

      • Osama,

        One of the cars on your list of competitors has a long history of FWD products as well. And another of those brands converted to FWD in the 90s, probably because FWD makes cars easier to drive in the winter.

  7. Excellent! This is one area in which I feel that development of the new gen 9-5 suffered and it is good to see that free from GM bean counters, our favourite maker is getting creative again. With a trend toward bigger cars and smaller engines, use of alternative materials is definitely the way to go. Other makers, notably Jaguar, have taken this route with success and it will be good to see SAAB making cars that are lighter and more efficient without compromising crash performance.

  8. Just be be the devils advocate for a bit…

    * One engine size, 1.0 Turbo, manual gear box, no optional 4wd.
    (you’re only allowed to drive about 110-120km/h in most places of the world, why make a car that can go much much faster?)

    *Electonically leash all cars via gps etc so speeding automatically is punished.

    *Remove all controls from the car, the driver inputs the desired destination into the GPS and is taken there automatically….

    sounds fun doesn’t it ? 😉

      • Naaah….just wanted to point to the extremes….

        The power we all want from the engine to overtake safely drives more weight in the brakesystem which drives the weigh up in the wheel suspenssion. We want our
        cars to be quiet and comfortable so we can enjoy our 11 speakers + dvd and ipodcontrol and whatnot. We want nice materials to touch and see which also weigh something….. We take for granted that our Saab should be the safest car possible to protect ourselfes and our loved ones should the unthinkable happen…..

        All the SMALL things we consumers bitch and moan about drive up the weight of the car….and reducing it without sacrifcing things we want or even “NEED” is no small task…..

        Maybe the biggest change isn’t in what the car makers need to achieve…. it’s in what the consumers have to realize…..?

        -working with automotive lightweighting on a daily basis….

        • I know some people have sketched an idea of a car just what You mention Mats. An idea of a a car that really could take Saab back to the true roots of the company.
          Mats if You just know how close You are in Your thinking……

          • At least a new Sonnett should be like that, IMHO. A Saab 9-2 too, or at least one basic undressed version of it. I’m hoping that a Sonnett would be much closer to the Lotus Elise than a Spyker, for instance. A good first step to save weight is to start off with the concept of modest outer dimensions (and to stick to it, of course).

    • With the upcoming hybrid versions, the first goal should at least be achievable. A small engine combined with the electrical motors on the rear wheels will give 4WD when needed with minimum extra weight.
      Talking about weight, I recently saw an article in AMS (in Swedish) about Chrysler tests with Hydraulic drive combined with a regular motor with main advantages over hybride-electrical cars;
      1. Lower weight
      2. Higher efficiency (70 % against 30 % for electrical regeneration)
      With a start / stop system, you would gain up to 60 % in fuel consumption. Of course, you can only drive limited range with the hydraulic system, it’s more like a boost which is used during acceleration (motor is not started until pressure is used) and add-on when needed (like when a car is overtaken).
      On the other items, I agree with Swade…

      • “With a start / stop system, you would gain up to 60 % in fuel consumption”

        If you are standing still, that is… Most people need to get somewhere, so start/stop is mainly a shortcut for manufacturers to get lower CO2 numbers…

        • Sorry, I lost a sentence;

          This will give about 40 % of savings in city traffic with an active motor all the time. With a start / stop system, the savings could be up to 60 % as the acceleration can be done by the hydraulic system and the motor is not started until it is needed again.

  9. Love to hear that sensible weightsaving is the way to go.
    Well, as long it doesn’t end up in unstable situations like the famous swedish euh … ikea-racks.
    But a Saab with a least the same strength as we already know, combined with less weight that means not only savings in fuel economy but certainly more fun on the road (i.e. higher speeds at turns, roundabouts, ‘upgrading the art of overtaking’, etc.. ).
    I’m looking forward to this better power-to-weight ratio.
    Complete carbonfibred anyone?

  10. … oh, and when the Caterham 7 or the Elise S1 are used as the benchmarks in this weight-saving-operation, I wouldn’t mind if the rear seats are left out (in the hopefully upcoming Sonett, wishfull thinking that is).

  11. Suggestion: pick up the phone and call Mazda; they’ve done quite a nice job of keeping their car’s weight under control with the Mazda2 and the Mazda6 😉

  12. Lowering the weight quite inevitably leads to lower towing capacity. Not good for a horse rider. Further, what about the drag coefficient? This might not help so much in the ECE cycle consumption, but the more so in real life; at least for most people. 0.28 is, well, at least not world record. The E class has 0.25. Instead of using all kinds of exotic materials, use common materials to smoothen the face and underside. Offering V6 engines instead of lighter I4s of the same power also slightly detracts from the weight reduction goal.

    After that, further weight reduction with new materials can be considered.

    • Saab does just that, doing a lot of aero on the old 9-3. This is how they managed to go down so low on CO2 with the 9-3 TTiD.

      I don’t think Saab is necessairly looking at an all-kevlar body with nylon upholstery. There are many other ways to remove all the junk a platform has acquired in its lifetime. E.g. think of all the wiring running accross the car – perhaps you can cut down a kilo or two on that? What about seat cushion fillers or trunk lining? Did anybody think of the weight of this stuff a few years ago?

      GM is the king of “heavyweight engineering”, incessantly adding components, reinforcements and complexity to their platforms and ending up with cars so girthy there are now state-mandated inventory limits for GM dealerships situated near the San Andreas fault. There is a lot to trim down from.

      PS. I do hope that while Ny Teknik got worked up about the yet-unannounced “2013 concept”, we will see continuous progress on that front every few months, like we do now.

    • The common rule of thumb is that aero is 1/3 surface, 1/3 underbody, and 1/3 cooling system. Smaller engines can contribute to the second and third categories.

      I wonder what the aero numbers were on 2 stroke and V4 Saabs that had completely flat underbodies, except for the exhaust.

      As for the towing capacity, your horse will need to go on a diet… or perhaps an aerospace-inspired trailer could help: stressed-skin aluminum/composite body, low drag, etc.

  13. Things are moving indeed!!

    Fantastic news. Definately Saaby all the way!
    This is the kind of information & news that media SHOULD report!

    /Daniel

  14. There are lots of interesting bits of tech out there. Lambos are apparently using a new graphite composite that was originally designed for golf clubs, and there’s this in wired. Last I checked there were lots you could do to make use of high tech steel, biggest issue seems to be finding steel plants that can make them.

    • I think that you cannot compare normal production cars with a $200k to $500k Lambo. Making a carbon fiber structure is done mostly by hand. You have to lay the plies in a mold, vacuum bag it to get a nice bubble free piece and cook it in an autoclave (huge pressure cooker). Lambo, together with Boeing, seems to have cut out the last step, which saves you from procuring large autoclaves (think airplane wing!). Maybe this technology will find its way to production cars somehow. Punching our panels from sheet metal will always be much faster, i.e. cheaper.
      For the time being the best way to save weight is by using stronger steel so that you can make the panels thinner.

  15. Lighter cars is absolutely the future, and it is surprising to notice that the trend is still that the cars grow bigger, stronger and heavier…

    Mazda has some ideas in the righ direction, with the new models weighing less than the old. But they are desperately alone so far.

    There is weight to be saved, but it has to start from the first sketch.

  16. 20%-40% Lighter? That will be very very difficult. It might be that Saab joined the SuperLIGHT-CAR project (Volkswagen (as coordinator), Fiat Research Centre, Opel, Renault, Volvo Technology Centre, Porsche and Daimler.).

    And they are only moving with very small steps at a time. The next goal fow VW/Aud is for instance to reduce the weight of the body (not the whole car!) with 20/30%.

    More information:
    http://www.superlightcar.com/public/index.php
    http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle.ASpx?AR=240665

    When you talk about losing weight miracles don’t exist (ask you wife ;))…

    • BoeBoe,
      If you had read the article you would know that their goal is a car that is 20%-40% lighter than the current 9-5.

      Otoh, VW had never produced very light cars, thus reducing the weight of their cars won’t be difficult.

  17. Yeah…. I was thinking about some weight saving mods for the Viggen –

    Perhaps F1 carbon brakes, some kind of advanced ceramic turbocharger….. And then just completely remove the exhaust system and have a 4 inch outlet pipe from the back of the turbo directly up and out through the bonnet… kind of like a chimney.

    I wonder if I’d see flames shooting out of it on gear changes?

    Maybe I’ll just remove the bonnet completely so I can admire the engine bay as I’m driving.

    That’d shave off some kilos.

    Genius 😉

    • Removing the bonnet and replacing it by a carbon fiber one is actually not such a bad idea.
      My 1991 Citroen BX, btw, is for a big part made out of plastic panels, so some of the technology was there 20 years ago already.

  18. As long as Saab is able to keep its top notch safety record with a lighter car then its great news.
    It’s great to see Saab being innovative again but I am sure the Swedish “media” will take a different slat on things. Example, that test between a 9-5 and 320d was quite ridiculous and considering the 320d is, for all intents and purposes, a two seater car its not that economical really. Im no journalist but I can tell you that an Audi R8 is definitely NOT as economical at a Mini Cooper S. Get my point? 😉

    Griffin Up. Saab has been more innovative since VM took over than at ant time under GM.

    Go Victor!!!

    • I agree this is very interesting news with the obvious advantages of lower weight cars, while maintaining the safety. The only other possible “problem” I can think of is if they start using a lot of special materials to reduce the weight, will that drive up the price of the car itself and the price of replacement parts when there is a minor accident?

      I’m not saying it should not be pursued. But 40% lighter is a huge difference, as Swade said. If everything goes to carbon fiber…. 🙂

  19. Getting cars back to the lighter weights of 30 years ago is a great idea. The #1 most distinguishing thing about Saab is its ability to come up with new ideas that inspire confidence in its vision and add value to the brand. Look like “our” Saab is back in business.

  20. Weight is an interesting issue.
    When I worked for the Swedish Road Administration (DOT) there where big discussions on getting car lighter. The aim was to get cars from different brands to be about equal in wight. Road safety could win a lot on this so at that time road administrations internationally aimed for 1100-1200 kg. Weight difference is extremely bad for safety. Almost every accident involving trucks and cars leads to someone dead in the car. If traffic class separation is not possible bring the cars to the same weight. An accident with a Ford Excurcion and a small asian car means that the big truck capitalize on the small car. From a governmental standpoint this is not OK.

    Saab good luck reducing weight.
    Throw out:
    – electric operated seats
    – electric window motors
    – Big stereo systems
    And:
    – make backseats easily removable 98% of the time it is not used

    • “- make backseats easily removable 98% of the time it is not used”

      Wow! This is something I hadn’t even reflected about once! Imagine if that was easy and simple. A foldable comfortable and removable rear seat. As you say, I almost never use mine! Nice bagage compartment after removal also! Sound like a winner concept here!

      • “- make backseats easily removable 98% of the time it is not used”

        If you ask me – stupidest idea ever 😉

        – Most (99%) people would not be bothered of going through the trouble of removing (and putting them back) the seats just to save that 0,1l/100km.
        – Most people have no place to store the seats when they are not in use.
        – Most people do not want to take the risk of removing the seats, and then encountering a situation where you suddenly need the seats (and they are nowhere to be found).
        – Most people would not like to pay extra (how little ever that is) for a feature which they do not want, or need.

        • That’s also what I thought about Jörgen’s suggestion. However, the Saab engineers have to have ideas which nobody thought of before or which are thought in a new way so that they become realizable.

      • Wow, This could actually be a quite nice feature/ concept of a Saab car. Versatility where it´s most needed. What if a future Saab 92 could use a feature like this?

        BUT I personally think that a smart solutions of folding the backseat to a completely flat surface flush with the trunk floor is the way to go for larger models
        /D

    • Removable backseats – this is an idea I´ve been crying for ages. If you have possibility to test Skoda Yeti (or Roomster for that matter) there is an example of good rear seat functionality. You can remove them really easy or you can tilt them, adjust them forth and back. Very simple and clever idea.

      I carry bicycles a lot and mainly when I do so, I travel alone. Would be great to have possibility to remove rear seats for all large items such as bikes.

      • This is not a new idea. My 1984 VW gti has a removable rear seat.

        I’m not sure of the exact weight. Probably around 30 lbs.
        In such a small car it increases the luggage space tremendously. I can fit my bicycle inside with no problem.

        I take it out when I autocross it and could keep it out if it weren’t for my 3 small dogs that insist on sitting on something soft.

        At any rate it’s definitely something to keep in mind for future Saabs.

    • Jörgen, I respect your passion (and experience) in this area but I have to disagree with some of your selections. I would gladly do without electric seats, but advanced sound systems and electric windows are considered necessities (at least in my North American experience). Perhaps these components will ultimately remain, but Saab and its suppliers will find a way to simplify and lighten the components. (or they will be deleted in a performance version of a 9-2 model)

      Making the back seats removable, I think, is not the way to go. If a driver doesn’t use his back seats 98% of the time, he is probably driving the wrong car. Saab has managed in the past to find a good balance between necessity and luxury. I’d like them to continue with their innovative approaches to cargo management and work on ways to make it even easier to fold/flatten the rear seats.

      But, now that I give it some more thought, maybe all of your ideas will be implemented in an ‘eco version’ of the 9-3. The TTiD plus (or minus 😉 ) the weight-saving measures you suggested would make for some seriously low fuel economy and CO2 figures (and maybe some big tax breaks). Hmmm….

    • I would especially like to see removable back seats in the 9-4X or 9-3X for utilitarian reasons. It really increases load carrying capacity (volume-wise) a lot. We haul our alpacas in our Aztek. Would like it to be a 9-4X someday, but not enough room if it’s like the SRX. And, they tend to be heavy nowadays. Our Aztek seats must be 50 lbs each.

  21. The PBS science program Nova once had a whole show about the future car. Weight loss is the most significant factor. Together with turbo-charging Saab will have a winner, in the performance with low mpg category.

    • Speaking of PBS and having a sour taste in my mouth regarding VM’s recent interview. I was thinking that there is a show (in the US) where grown-ups have adult conversations in a relaxed atmosphere: it’s called Charlie Rose. I think he’s great and that it would be a terrific venue for VM to get the word out about SAAB and ,at the same time, reach an “intelligent” audience.

  22. I would concentrate on trimming steel and fasteners because they end up being the heaviest.
    Too many times I see bolts that are many mms, even cms longer than they need to be. The bolts on the rear of sport sedans that make caliper removal difficult come to mind. Its not much per car but multiplied by thousands?

  23. There is a natural link between Saab and Lotus through Spyker. I suggest that they take a close look at the Elise to see how that is build and glued together. Lotus shows that a really light car doesn’t have to cost more than $50k. Although some of the price savings are probably because of the cheapo Toyota engine they put in.

  24. Add up all the electronics and cables on a table. Lock at all components and ask yourself, how can we reduce those kabellength in half. Must a “stereo weight that much? Cant we use that cabel for more than one perpose. fiber link maybee? Does a comfortable seat have to weight that much. Do we have to overlap these plastic parts, can we make them into one piese. The exhaust system with the cat weight Xkg I bet we can save Xkg on this. Do this thing have to have that? No we do this instead and so on in every detail and I bet the weightloss is significant.

    I haven´t even started with exotic materials yet. Just to cut costs. Change to lighter alternatives and dont do things layer on layer. Thats what I would do, start with all electronics/cables and go from there.

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