Big plans for Saab BioPower in Australia
NEWS ON RADIO
Saab's 9-5 BioPower is coming to Australia
and this is a good thing according to
Next Car Editor, Stephen Walker
5th September, 2006
Saab BioPower, the best selling environmentally friendly vehicle in Sweden, is on its way to Australia to promote the benefits of ethanol, a renewable alternative fuel.
Running on E85, 85 per cent ethanol 15 per cent petrol, Saab BioPower 9-5 was launched in Sweden at the end of last year. In less than a year it has become the top selling environmentally friendly car in that market and driven record 9-5 sales. BioPower has also been launched in the UK and other markets across Europe.
Saab Australia will be running a demonstration fleet of BioPower 9-5 vehicles in Australia to help media, industry and government understand the benefits of ethanol and to stimulate serious debate about alternative fuels in Australia. The cars are due to arrive in coming months.
Director Saab Australia and New Zealand, Parveen Batish, says with a focus on fuel prices and the need for renewable energy, the time is right to start planning a BioPower roll-out in this market.
“Ethanol fuel makes sense in a country like Australia. It is a renewable, sustainable fuel – unlike fossil fuel,” Mr Batish said.
“You don’t have to sacrifice performance, boot space or the environment to switch to an alternative to petrol.”
Saab BioPower is a ‘flex-fuel’ vehicle, which means it can effectively run on 100 per cent ethanol or 100 per cent petrol or any combination in between, thanks to the Saab advanced trionic engine management system.
“BioPower drivers can still fill up with petrol when they need to – which makes ethanol ideal for Australia where we drive vast distances, making the roll-out of a new fuel technology, such as hydrogen, very challenging in the short to medium term.”
While engineering changes are required to run a vehicle on E85, it does not require any new technology.
E85 has a much higher octane rating (104 RON) than petrol (95 RON), and turbocharging allows the use of a higher boost pressure and more advanced ignition timing - giving more engine power - than is possible on petrol without risk of harmful 'knocking' or pre-detonation.
The hardware modifications necessary include the addition of more durable valves and valve seats, and the use of ethanol-compatible materials in the fuel system, including the tank, pump, lines and connectors to cope with the more corrosive nature of the fuel.
Ethanol also improves performance. Currently Saab offers BioPower versions of its turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3 and 2.0 litre turbocharged engines, which both deliver increased power and torque when running on ethanol compared to petrol.
“The higher octane of ethanol gives Saab BioPower up to 20 per cent more power and 16 per cent more torque compared to the equivalent petrol powered model - and Australians love performance vehicles.”
Saab 2.3t BioPower generates approximately 155 kW and 310 Nm of torque, and 2.0t BioPower approximately 133 kW and 280 Nm.
Swedish Case Study
BioPower demonstrates the importance of community and government support to establish a viable alternative fuel industry.
The success of BioPower was the result of close collaboration between Saab, the Swedish government, fuel suppliers and the community to provide demand for ethanol, to engineer the vehicles, encourage their take up and switch on the new fuel supply simultaneously.
To help make it more attractive to drive a car powered by the renewable fuel, the Swedish government offered tax incentives and other benefits to owners such as free parking in Stockholm and reduced excise on ethanol fuel compared to petrol.
Similarly fuel suppliers, which also have to upgrade their fuel storage tanks to hold ethanol, committed to a staged roll-out of E85 pumps at fuel stations over time to support the take up.
Ethanol is an alcohol distilled commercially from grain, cellulose or sugar cane. There is a local ethanol manufacturing industry in Australia.
Ethanol has been produced from sugar cane for many years in Brazil and also from corn in the mid-west of the United States. In Sweden, it is produced from wood pulp and forest residues and feasibility studies for ethanol from lignocelluloses are currently being done.
As a fuel, the most important difference between petrol and ethanol is that ethanol does not add to global CO2 levels because it is actually 'recycling' CO2 that is already present in the atmosphere.
This is because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis when crops are grown to be converted into ethanol fuel. It is then released - or returned - to the atmosphere during combustion when driving the car.
Burning fossil fuels such, as oil and petrol, adds to global CO2 because you are releasing new amounts of carbon that has lain fixed underground for many years, perhaps even thousands of years. Ethanol is, of course, renewable and oil isn't.
Well to wheel
Brazil, which is currently the largest producer of ethanol in the world, produces and consumes ethanol with a net saving of fossil carbon dioxide between 80 and 90 per cent.
A report from Chalmers (Magnus Blinge) demonstrates that 2 per cent fossil energy is required for current ethanol production from pulp residues in Sweden, which means a 98 per cent net reduction of fossil carbon dioxide. In future large-scale ethanol production from cellulose or grain, Swedish researchers calculate a net reduction in fossil carbon dioxide of between 90 and 95 per cent from cellulose and between 50 and 70 per cent from grain.
GM Alternative Fuel Strategy
GM has adopted a clear three-pronged strategy to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions:
1. Near-term: GM will continue to refine and improve today’s technology to
provide better efficiency and performance. Alternative fuel vehicles are part of
this near-term strategy. GM is producing alternative fuel vehicles, such as Saab
BioPower 9-5 that run on bio fuels such as ethanol/E85.