Reading Between the Lines on Electric Engines

A few months ago on a random internet search for NEVS, I came across a statement in an electric engine company’s annual report about having meetings in China. The company is familar to us at SU, since their engine powered the Saab ePower– UQM.

From their Q3 earnings call:

“We also met with several new companies in China to begin the process of assessing product sets, market potential and business opportunities. We believe that we now had narrowed the list of potential partners to those with the right combination of technical expertise, product introduction capability, market segment penetration and the political savvy to allow us to realize the sales potential for UQM products in China.

Next, the company NEVS, which is a successor to Saab, also announced a long-term partnership with the city of Quingdao. Quingdao plans to initially invest CNY 2 billion or a little over $300 million, obtaining a 22% ownership share of NEVS through a directed share issue. Quingdao also plans to invest in a plant in China with an ultimate capacity of 400,000 units per year. NEVS has stated that it’s looking to restart production on the current IC-based Saabs yet this year, with electric vehicles beginning in 2014. Because of our extensive development activities with Saab prior, and a ready inventory of motors and controllers, we believe we provide one of the quickest paths for NEVS to get EVs into production.”

Which begs the question, will UQM be the preferred EV motor? If so, will it be the same engine from the ePower? If that’s the case, expect it to drive and feel much the same as that car, which produced 181HP (though they have a more powerful engine available).

By no means is this confirmation that UQM has been chosen to power the future electric Saabs, and I honestly don’t have any insight into this myself. But it makes the most sense as NEVS seems to be trying to line up as much of the existing supplier network as possible. In the Q&A part of the earnings call, UQM’s CEO responded to a question about how to ship existing inventory out as quickly as possible:

And then, from the standpoint of the one that we have been talking about that we can mention is, obviously with Saab, is that, that exact system, with a different controller calibration was used with again, a few minor modifications in the Saab vehicle. So as that relationship comes together and we’re able to — as they put their team in place and get to more details, if that were to come to the fore, that would be a fairly quick usage of that exact inventory and then obviously like I said, there’s a few others we’re talking to, but at the same time, we are talking to new people.

More importantly, statements like this in suppliers’ earnings reports underscore that NEVS is in fact in constant contact, engagement, and development with numerous suppliers and are constantly advancing towards producing Saabs again. Don’t mistake the lack of press releases or information about new product fool you, they’re working feverishly behind the scenes to line up these details in order to have a solid product to eventually market. I think UQM’s CEO summed it up best for me himself during his earnings call,

“Again, there’s several [relationships we’re building]– the one we signed, the MOU with, there’s another that we’ve had by an equal amount of time with, it looks very promising, and then there’s new ones that we talked to. So again, it takes time. China’s about relationships. You don’t ever go in to China and just make a deal and you’re done, and it happens in a couple of weeks. It is the Chinese way, and so we’ve been building those relationships. As I mentioned in my comments, we’re now into the details, the specific of what we think target costs are going to be, and volumes are going to be, and specific specifications where we do specific performance curves for their specific vehicles and all those things, and they’re taking those things into their meetings. Again, we’ve been there 1/2 a dozen times in the last year, and it takes time. But I think it’s very promising and again, with the pollution, the government incentives, $15 billion over the next 5 years, it’s going to generate a whole lot of potential for us and that’s why we’re spending so much time there.

So again, it takes time.


25 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines on Electric Engines”

  1. I’m an old timer. I’ve been to Trollhatten to pick up one of my Saabs and was reading Swade beforehe started US; been to several European meetings and …..
    I have two things to say today.

    1. However good your information is if you can’t write perfect English do something else, Bullshitting English is not good enough !
    2. I’m now 65 and my ’03 9-3 is having annoying problems and I want to replace it with a new 9-3 hybrid. Please tell me it’s coming soon. I don’t want and don’t believe in all electric..
    Thank you.

    On your first point, could you please point to me where my English wasn’t up to your standards? Perhaps you might like to consider your own punctuation, as you put spaces between your exclamation point and sentence? Also, you might want to reconsider capitalizing “Bullshitting” as I’m fairly certain it’s not a person or proper name.

    On your second, at no point in the article did I say that Saab would only be producing electric cars. All I’m suggesting is that they are quietly meeting with electric engine companies. These companies are the same that would be providing the engine for your desired hybrid Saab. Understood?


    • Old and cranky. Hmmm…sounds like my old Saab! I realize that there are contributors to this site from all language backgrounds trying to write in English, so I can easily overlook any grammatical errors, and I don’t find many in any event. So, how about we all just be thankful that these contributors are doing a good job keeping us abreast of SAAB-related developments. I certainly am. Thanks


  2. I guess I missed it last time I watched this video, but that looks like a 60’s or early 70’s Mustang convertible at 4:19. It is interesting seeing that classic ICE car with the ePower on the same road.

      • Jeff, is NEVS still considering producing the gas engine 9-3? Was I hearing that correctly in the past? Thanks, and I don’t believe you were bullshitting in that article, LOL!

        • As Tim states in the article about hybrid drive, they’re trying to get the gas 9-3 (refresh of the old 9-3) back in production. As far as the Gen 2 cars, I doubt they’ll have an exclusively gas powered car, which makes sense given that they’re named National Electric Vehicle Sweden. Even the most diehard anti-EV guys have to admit that smart hybrid design can beat even the best ICE only product.

          • Jeff, I’m glad you put in the world ‘can’ 😉
            With todays hybrid prices I’d still go pure ICE. Still in shock btw when I saw how much BMW, Volvo and the rest ask for their hybrid offerings.
            A Saab Biopower and/or TTiD with a small battery for city driving would probably be the ideal solution for those who drive long distances (and those living in the cities).

    • I caught that the first time and sent a screenshot to my dad who has owned 3 ’65 or ’66 Mustangs. He said it looked like a California Special with the turn-up on the trunk lid which would make it a ’68.

      Whenever I hear about electric vehicles being the one ones on the road in the future, I think about Demolition Man with Sylvester Stalone’s Olds 442 and iRobot with Will Smith’s motorcycle and how they work without a hacker or computer virus being able to control them. It’s interesting to point out this old Mustang on the road with an electric car.

  3. I am not quite as old as you David, but I don’t understand your comment about writing perfect English. Jeff’s post had grammatically correct English and the quotes in the post are from UQM’s annual report and an earnings call. Jeff is not responsible for what UQM says or writes with respect to their use of the language. Also, it seems you are less likely to get an answer to your question (2) after being so rude in (1).

      • I don’t think quotation marks are required on a quote when you indent the whole paragraph. There were also a couple of extra commas that didn’t need to be in there but other than that, Jeff’s grammar seems okay to me. I don’t understand why it is being criticized here on a news/blog website and especially this article. I’ve read several past articles that had worse grammar plus misspelled words and typos but I know the writers are in a hurry to get us this great information so I overlook those flaws as long as I can understand the content. Thanks to all the SU staff who bring us great news and articles!

    • Commenting on someones grammar and spelling on an international forum is generally considered to be extremely rude. Please keep in mind that there are many not native speakers and Americans 🙂 here.

      The main goal should be that everyone can have his/her say, not impeded by self-consciousness about their command of the English language.

  4. UQM signed a deal with Coda to provide the electric motors for their electric cars. Coda folded and UQM is stuck with a very large quantity of electric motors without a customer. NEVS could probably offer significantly less than Coda promised and pick up a large inventory of electric motors.

    Then again, the Coda cars got pretty bad reviews and a lot of that was due to the behavior of the electric motors. They were criticized for the unpleasant whining sound they made at highway speed. Let’s hope Saab tech can make better use of them than Coda was able to do.

    • That’s the idea, except the Coda engine was the PowerPhase Pro 100, the ePower was the PowerPhase Pro 135. In my understanding it was the packaging and inverter that wasn’t up to snuff for the Coda. The big question for NEVS is what performance targets they have for the Saab. This will affect who is building the engine (Siemens, UQM, etc), who provides the Inverter, and who is designing the PCM.

    • 🙂 Considering Electroengine was responsible for the battery packaging, BMS, and cooling components of the battery in the TrueElectric Saabs, and NEVS has already publicly announced two of those, Beijing National Battery Technology and Etteplan, it doesn’t seem they’ll go with Electroengine’s TEBS system. The BMS system is critical to making sure the car can effectively manage its power and prolong the life of the battery. I’m very anxious to see who they ended up going with.

  5. Jeff, I’m equally as curious to find out more about the “whispers” SU heard with regards to the ICE manufacturer for the 9-3’s several months ago. It was hinted that it may be an Asian source, maybe even Chinese. Can you report any more on that? I would only be OK with a Chinese ICE engine if it was from BAIC, and was originally a Saab design!

    • No, we can’t lol. Read Tim’s hybrid comments if you want hints though. We usually bury the most inside information in comments if you hadn’t noticed by now :P.

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