Task

Here’s something I was thinking about earlier today, however I have no idea about who to contact to get the info needed to make an informed comment.

So here’s my uninformed opinion….

I think that if Saab are serious about BioPower, which I’m sure they are, then they should make their entire range of gasoline engines BioPower compatible.

Right now, most BioPower customers pay a premium to have the flexfuel capability. I say most as those lucky leprechauns in Ireland actually receive a hefty discount. They get to Hirsch the daylights out of their 9-5s and still have change left for a night’s supply of Guinness. The rest of Saab’s BioPower aspirants pay in the order of A$1,500 for the privilege.

Recently, Richo and I attended the Australian launch for BioPower. On the way to the event we were speaking with one of the grand poobahs of the ethanol industry here in Australia and we asked him how difficult it is to convert a car to run on E85. He seemed to think that the changeover parts would add something in the order of A$10 – A$30 to the cost. He’s an ethanol guy rather than a car guy, but you’d think he would make it his business to know such things. Even if he’s underestimating, there’s a heck of a lot of wiggle room between $10 and $1,500.

At the press session of the event I asked Parveen Batish why Australia didn’t just go all BioPower on the 9-5 range. If they want to get rid of the chicken-and-egg argument over E85 then just make the decision, price the cars reasonably and say “Here they are”.

The response was that they didn’t want to force the technology on anyone that didn’t want it. With all due respect to Parveen I’d say that’s bollocks. I’d say the price for BioPower is set in either Germany or Sweden and they’re making an extra buck or thousand on it and a minnow like Saab Oz has to take the price they’re given.

So, if there’s anyone out there in a position to know, or find out, I’d love to know that the additional incremental cost is to include the necessary hardware for BioPower.

Could Saab realistically be the BioPower company, with their entire range of gasoline engines capable of running on E85? If anyone can source those additional costs and either email me or leave the info in comments, I think it’d be very interesting.

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15 Comments

  1. This is some of the things changed on 9-5 BioPower compared to the petrol version.

    *Fueltank and filler tube
    *Fuelpump
    *Some hoses
    *Fuelpresure regulator
    *Harder valveseats
    *Other inlet valves
    *Spark plugs (BCPR7ES-11)

    So the extra charge for BioPower is more then reasonable.

    BioPower cars has a service intervall that is half of that on a normal car so I don’t think they should go all BioPower since they would get lots of complaints from customers that don’t run there cars on E85 but has to service there car as one.

  2. Swade – I would even venture to go as far as saying: ask anyone in Brazil. Since they have tons of the stuff (i.e. sugarcane), on what do they run their new Saab 9-5 or how prevalent is the BioPower compared to the gasoline versions or is no one in Brazil driving Saab?

  3. The costs are not in the materials but in the engineering; finding out the material composition of the parts needed, the tuning the engine management software to run the engine flawlessly on a mix of petrol and ethanol, etc.

    I guess it will easy add up to say EUR 1M, spread it out over an estimated 100K BioPower cars and you’ll have an additional EUR 1000 (USD 1300) cost price increase per BioPower car.

    Oh, and the BioPower engine is also very, very suitable for running the car on LPG (hardenend valve seats, Trionic and turbocharger to use the extra power of the LPG which has an octane rating of 100-110). I guess Saab will also introduce bi-fuel cars (like Volvo which has already got a line-up of bi-fuel cars) in the near future…

    some extra reading: http://www.engineerlive.com/homepage/features/17242/automotive-use-of-bioethanol.thtml

    Greetings,

    Rocco

  4. I still don’t know why we aren’t talking about biodiesel instead of ethanol. The infrastructure is readily available.

    Anyhoo, the Biopower engine will likely enjoy some tax offset here in the US as well once the E85 stuff is ironed out.

    And, of course, Roccoh is correct: the extra controls and optimization for different fuels will be a challenge. So, what to do? Especially in a country like ours where a car bought in, say, Southern California where E85 may be available will almost certainly be operated in Nevada, Texas or somewhere where E85 isn’t easily had.

    Here’s my solution: if the oil and gasoline refiners want to keep BioPower owners’ business, they should (and likely could) develop a fuel additive for regular gasoline to give it the properties of E85, or at least make it more compatible with E85 engines. This additive could be bottled and stocked at gas stations very easily, and re-stocked upon demand. In this way, the avialable fuel can be used until the owner has access to E85 once more.

    Make some sense? I think so. Chemistry is our friend.

  5. We also done lot of discussion on the Hungarian Saab forum about the conversion of regular petrol Saab engines to E85.
    The ECU software upgrade is ready: you can buy it from Maptun.
    The hardware: well, Saab says officially, it’s not recommended to use Ethanol without to change the parts listed above.
    And Maptun experts says (according to my friend, who is the Hungarian Maptun dealer) non-officially, they tested some regular engines with E85 for longtime use, the corrosive side-effect could be reduced by some add-on in the fuel and the noticable damages could be discovered after 100 000 km use only…

  6. eggsngrits >>> Saabs BioPower engine runs as good on regular gasoline as on E85, the only difference is that you will get 150 bhp instead of 180 (9-5 2.0t BioPower)

  7. All I have to say is, if Saab contimues to make the E85/Gas version more powerful when it is running E85 than when it is running on gas, they HAVE the motivating solution for me! Save the planet, give me a tax break, they sound nice. MORE POWER is better than a tax break.

  8. I live in Finland and i just read an article by TM (a local car magazine) and Auto Motor&Sport (a Swedish car magazine) about Saab 9-5 BioPower. They had tested the car in cold (-7°) enviroment and they got pretty awful results: The car produced Carbonmonoxide, formaldehyde and plenty of other hazardous chemicals at least two times more with E85 than with normal gasoline. It also needed more fuel (22,5l with E85, 15,8l with gasoline).

    The reporter said in the end that he was grateful that Finnish goverment doesn’t support these “enviroment-friendly” cars in any ways like the Sweden does.
    This could mean problems…

  9. Going all BioPower, whether the customer wants it or not, is a pretty aggressive play.

    The big issue for the U.S. at least is that running on gas the BioPower cars might well be underpowered compared to their competitors. 150 hp is not a lot for a car like the 9-5.

    And given the lack of E85 pumps, they’ll all be running on gas.

    The flip side is perhaps too much power using the 2.3 liter motor. 260 hp with gas, 300+ with E85? If Saab was willing to put 300 hp through the front wheels, they’d be doing it already.

    My guess is that Saab goes all BioPower once the H-engine is retired, and they’re using Ecotec-derived motors exclusively. MY2010, or so.

  10. I live in Finland and i just read an article by TM (a local car magazine) and Auto Motor&Sport (a Swedish car magazine) about Saab 9-5 BioPower. They had tested the car in cold (-7°) enviroment and they got pretty awful results: The car produced Carbonmonoxide, formaldehyde and plenty of other hazardous chemicals at least two times more with E85 than with normal gasoline. It also needed more fuel (22,5l with E85, 15,8l with gasoline).

    The reporter said in the end that he was grateful that Finnish goverment doesn’t support these “enviroment-friendly” cars in any ways like the Sweden does.
    This could mean problems…

  11. According to Vinod Khosla, a major proponent and investor in ethanol, the cost to automakers to make a car flex-fuel capable is around USD$30 per car.
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2006/07/28/vinod-khosla-video-on-google/

    On the Discovery Channel miniseries “Future Car” they said the cost per car to make it flex-fuel is USD$100. (BTW, they showed a couple of segments on the Aero-X with commentary from Bryan Nesbitt and Anthony Lo!)

    So if Khosla is right, it is costing SAAB Australia more money to carbon-neutralize all SAABs sold in Australia through Greenfleet than it would cost SAAB to make them all BioPower. SAAB USA could buy TerraPasses for each SAAB sold in the U.S. for only slightly more!
    http://www.trollhattansaab.net/archives/2007/01/saab_oz_carbon.html
    http://www.terrapass.com

    eggsngrits: the thing that bothers me about biodiesel is the term. “Biodiesel” is widely used as a term to describe a fuel which is only 20% biofuel and 80% petrofuel (so-called “B20” like BioWillie brand biodiesel).

    If every diesel vehicle in the country moved to so called “biodiesel” this would be much better than nothing, and would meet President Bush’s mandate to reduce fossil fuel use by 20%, but that just doesn’t seem enough to me. Now if the “biodiesel” you’re speaking of is B100, then I’m all for it, but I understand that B100 has problems with gumming up the engine and there’s no real biodiesel standard yet, so one guy’s B20 can be different than another guy’s.

    As you can see I spend a lot of time at AutoblogGreen!

  12. This is why I am so skeptical when it comes to reliable information. Even Wikipedia, as good as it is, has some statistical discrepancies in need of reconciliation.

    Two problems:
    1)Too many “chiefs” that don’t have their facts right
    2)Too many “indians” that don’t screen those facts.

    Inconsistencies:
    Consumer Reports slammed E85 a few months back. Yet many hail it as the godsend alternative to fossil fuels. And yet others praise butanol/biobutanol over ethanol as a better option.

    Ethanol proponents say it takes $30 to upgrade a car. Discovery Channel’s Future Car series says $100. Car manufacturers say $1000-$1,500.

    Too many experts who claim to be authoritative yet contradict each other; and we, the indians, have trouble finding the real truth. I may not be a genius, but I’d say the chances are pretty good that somebody’s wrong. Furthermore, I have a brain and ten fingers that can Google for me,so as to ascertain the facts firsthand.

    My opinion is that most everyone has their OWN opinion- an agenda of some sort. Ethanol investors want to sell their product and get the Ethanol Train moving. Hardcore environmentalists demand vehicles that emit nothing worse than potpourri out the tailpipes.

    The better our homework and the facts we quote, the less we all find ourselves scratching our heads. It’s just like Swade said, “anyone out there **in a position** to know, or find out…” I.E. “any real chiefs out there with the answer?”

  13. Swade you are exactly right. The difference in cost between diesel and petrol has been shrinking for years but manufacturers still charge more for diesel, why? because the public will pay the premium and they get more cash.
    As to Greggs point on power, SAAB used to say (about 10 – 15 years ago) that 170bhp was the maximum front drive could take. As tyre technology and the cars chassis improved this rose to about 220bhp. Hot hatches putting 240+ through the front whees can be quite unruly(to put it mildly) so 300+ would be ambitious to say the least. They could probably put in a switchable ECU that kept bio power at a sane level.

  14. I stand corrected. My ignorance had unduly colored my perception of the technology, but I’m still not sold on the E85 concept for the US market.

    However, the BioPower technology is solid since it allows either.

  15. Stilt-Man,
    As scientists say: one experiment is not experiment. Do you know the exact conditions how the mentioned car magazin tested the BioPower?
    I would be very suprised if the swedish (and other) researchers didn’t make such tests or if they could hide the fact that the BioPower has so many disadvantages.
    The higher fuel need is absolutely normal due to the specific energy of E85 is 25-30% less than petrol. In the other hand it produces higher power and torque, too.

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