It’s obvious from comments that there are many disappointed SU readers today. The Saab we knew is essentially history, and a clean start focusing on future technology is what’s ahead. The extent to which NEVS plans to go to full electric has not been elaborated on, but I have a strong feeling that they will be going the hybrid route as their own graphics discuss PHEVs (Plugin-Hybrid Electric Vehicles). What I find most heartening about the new owners is that they are looking to pursue cutting edge propulsion technology to contribute to the most economical, environmentally sound, and best driving experience. This isn’t unlike the first Saab engineers using a two-stroke engine, or the addition of a turbo to a mainstream vehicle that made the 99 so damn enjoyable to drive. Electrification has come a long way and will continue to rapidly improve well before the first new Saab is sold in 2013-14.
For those of you who remember my earliest comments from when Swade was around, you might know that I’ve been pushing Saab to get into the EV/PHEV space for some time (as far back as 2009). To me the argument is simple: with the right business model and scale, a manufacturer can just as easily charge the same for an electrified powertrain as a premium or near premium car such as Saab, while giving the consumer the benefit of added reliability, stronger off the line performance and much more insulation from fluctuating fuel prices. It’s clear that the entire industry isn’t going to switch over night, but I’d rather be with one of the companies embracing the technology and innovating with it early. To me, Saab should own the innovation in this space, and it’s clear that NEVS shares this goal.
As I’ve been so interested in electric cars the past few years, I’ve followed the research and design of battery and propulsion technology. The through the road eAAM hybrid was truly exciting to me, as it delivered high payback with low cost. However, as I described in my dream of a Hybrid Performance model for Saab last year, I could see electrification taking a much stronger role in the new Saab. Imagine turning a knob that goes from hypermiling performance that gives you 600km per charge to a high performance boost button that summons up 500+hp. That’s the kind of instantaneous and flexible performance electric motors gives you. All the talk of variable compression ratios that Saab had been working on for years becomes a software, not hardware problem, as battery chemistry continues to be refined to deliver stronger charges and densities. From NEVS own statements it’s clear they will be going with Japanese battery companies, which leads me to think Panasonic. Their cylindrical batteries are the gold standard for EVs now, but there are several new companies, notably Envia, which are promising much stronger and cheaper batteries. No doubt the Japanese are hot on the heels and have their own top secret innovations, and hopefully now that Saab is so intertwined with them we’ll see them first on a Swedish made product.
For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to drive an electric car or PHEV using the latest lithium ion tech, I’d strongly recommend you find a way to try it. Realistically imagine yourself owning one and fitting it into your daily routine. I think most of us here would agree a hybrid that allows us to go unlimited miles is preferential to an electric car, but if the added cost to fit a motor generator adds cost and decreases range, would you be able to get by with an electric car and simply rent the PHEV? Is there a business model you could see working for you before you just go and trash the idea of an eSaab completely? Think before you react, is all I ask.