Thanks to 1985Gripen for all the ideas that follow:
In my editorial on The Truth About Cars a few days ago I mentioned that if you wanted to describe Saab’s recent history in one word, that word would be underinvestment. That sounds a little unfair on the surface as Saab did some absolutely brilliant work over the years on a pretty small budget. But the fact is that Saab haven’t always had the financial muscle to bring all their ideas to market.
This post will cite only two examples, but I’m sure there’s a few more.
The Solar Cell
Remember the Saab EV-1 concept car? Designed by Bjorn Envall, the removable roof had solar cells embedded in it that drove a vent fan to keep the interior temperature as close to ambient temperature as possible.
Solar cells don’t come cheap nowadays and I can’t imagine what an option like this would have cost back in 1985.
In 2007 it will cost you US$790 as an option on either the Audi A8 or the A6.
Like the EV-1’s solar cell, the Audi solar sunroof drives the fresh air vent in the cabin when required. It works in exactly the same way as Bjorn Envall’s idea 22 years ago.
The electric assist engine
OK, to be fair, this hasn’t been released yet and is theoretically still in ‘concept’ form, but once again Audi are planning for the market introduction of an idea that I first saw on a Saab (it may well have been on another vehicle prior, but I don’t know).
This week, Audi took the wraps of their new Mini-fighter, the A1.
In addition to a bunch of other features, the A1 features an electric motor driving the rear wheels providing 30kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. Normally a FWD vehicle, the pocket rocket will have what Audi call ‘tractive power’ of around 440 Nm.
It never received as much attention, but Saab’s BioPower
Plugin Hybrid Concept had two electric motors, one of which was a 38kW motor between the rear wheels.
As mentioned, I have to be fair about this one, and it may be that Saab’s investment in this technology will pay off in the future with the adaptation of this drive system into a future 9-5 or 9-3.
The Audi A1 is due in 2009.
That’s two examples of technologies I’ve first seen in Saabs that are being used in other makes rather than in Saabs. I’m sure there’s more, though, so if you know of any then please leave the story in comments.
Saab have done a heck of a lot of innovation for such a small company over the years. It’s a pity that they haven’t always been in a position to capitalise on their own work.