Saab Zero Emissions EV fleet under construction

The Saab 9-3 ePower Concept was first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in September 2010. Now, a fleet of vehicles based on that concept is under construction at Saab’s factory in Trollhattan.

Off to the side of Saab’s main production line is a room called Frickeboa, which is a multi-purpose facility that we’ll learn a bit more about in future entries on this site. Think of it as a combination of a prototype production line and training facility.

Right now, Frickeboa is being used to hand build Saab’s test fleet of zero emissions vehicles. The particular vehicles you can see in this article are intended to be used for validation testing inside the company. The final fleet vehicles will go out later this year and be used extensively by a select group of drivers, with feedback from the process being used to further improve the technology.

The Saab 9-3 ePower, the basis for these test vehicles, uses a lithium-ion battery pack and a new, advanced battery management system to deliver 200 kilometers of zero-emissions driving with the convenience of a full sized family wagon.

The Saab ePower is the first electric vehicle from Saab and is a result of a co-operation between Saab Automobile, Boston Power (batteries), Electroengine in Sweden AB (battery management system), Innovatum (project management), Power Circle (Sweden’s electric power industry trade organization) and the Swedish Energy Agency (partial financing).

Here’s a look at what’s happening on the build right now…

Saab 9-3 SportCombi bodies awaiting their fit-out as zero emissions electric vehicles.

Parts awaiting fitment are stored off to the side of the Frickeboa production line. Each crate has a label denoting an individual ZE vehicle from the production run.

A couple of vehicles on the line…… think of Frickeboa as a smaller, but fully functional version, of the main production line.

And a closer view of the same vehicle…..

A view of the battery case inside the vehicle. It goes down the middle of the car, allowing for optimal weight distribution and forms a divider between the two rear seats.

And a view from the rear of the car….

The cars take almost two weeks to build by hand at Frickeboa and come out as complete vehicles, just like off the real line.

The Saab 9-3 ePower transmission gearshift in detail…..

A look at the battery pack in a mostly-finished interior…..

And the finishing touch……

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42 Comments

  1. If you need a UK tester, give me a call!

    The novel solution to the battery placement problem is interesting. I’d be interested to see a picture of the boot fully trimmed.

      1. Hi, Swade! please tell a bit about the cockpit, what kind of gauges are placed there? I think ePower doesn’t has a rev counter, turbo gauge, fuel, etc…
        thx! 🙂 Z!

  2. Inside Saab is a lot of things but this story is a great example of the “inside” part.   

    The under-the-hood picture shows the electric motor and other components.  I noted the two cooling-system reservoir containers near the firewall, one filled with the familair orange engine coolant.  It appears some traditional components are being used for the electric-component cooling system.   Can you say more about the role of the two reservoir containers?  

      1. SW,

        Got both replies to my respective comments. Thanks for explaining why that
        release wasn’t fixed since I would presume someone found the typo earlier.

        I suspect the drive system, if only the battery, needs cooling and I also
        suspect they wanted to take advantage of the current HVAC heat exchanger in
        the 9-3 SC.

        This is what happens when you start writing about or showing photos about
        inside stuff not generally seen by the public – we ask questions. We can’t
        help but be curious! And at times, answers to some questions may still be
        proprietary…

        Here’s a treat for you…some great photos from Saabs@Carlisle from Thor
        Carlson…

        28.5 Pictures from SAABS@Carlisle, 2011, plus 3 shaky hand held videos…

        http://www.webmiscellany.net/saab/carlisle/

        We were there on Saturday. John Libbos made it too. In the indoor vendor
        area I was found by two former Saab USA and/or Saab-Scania of America folks,
        Dan David and Steve Rossi. The latter was Director of Communications in
        late-80s, early 90s and very involved in the first Talladega Challenge with
        the 9000s. You may have come across the names. Steve brought a Citroen EX
        to the show. Those DSs remind me so much of 900s.

        This was the biggest year yet for Saab representation and what a great
        weather day (always a potential problem). They were prepared this year
        with the biggest tent ever. You could stay out of the sun or rain depending
        on what ya got.

        Steve

      2. No worries, Swade.  Like I said, just curious as to how it works.   More interesting info for some future article.  🙂

  3. Very interesting.  I am curious about passenger compartment heating and cooling in an all electric vehicle, especially considering the cold winters in Sweden.  Does an electric engine generate enough heat to help with that (as would a petrol or diesel engine)?

    1. The electric engine probably does not generate enough heat to keep a decent cabin temperature since electric engines are very efficient compared to internal combustion engines. However, I recently read a testdrive of an all-electric Ovlov which had an ethanol burner to heaten the the cabin and it seemed to work very well. A similar solution should be possible for Saab to install in the ePower cars.

  4. Since the edit function doesn’t seem to save my attempted additon, Here’s what I tried to add to my original post…

     I noted the linked Saab Newsroom story said the car had a 20 km range while I recall the original stories saying 200 km as you did in your post.  I hope the original stories were not a typo!
     

    1. Hi Steve,

      There is indeed a typo in the original press appearing on the Newsroom.  Unfortunately, the software behind the newsroom insists that any edits constitute a brand new article, meaning that a story from seven months ago would suddenly be the latest story on the site.  Not good, but we’ll live with it until the newsroom is overhauled.

  5.  From what I see from the photos, these will only be 4 seaters right ? If so, I’m curious SAAB is using sport combi instead of sedans ? I thought the idea of using SC was to fit he batteries under the trunk. 

    1. There might even be more batteries placed under the trunk.
      I believe they want to test the electric tech in the toughest way and thats in an estate with the test family filling the trunk as much as they are used to. Therefore the battery placement between rear seats.
      But that´s just an unqualified guess. 🙂

  6. Great article Swade! It`s really interesting to see what is going on at the factory behind the scenes.
    Although I already orderd one, I would really like to be able to “build your 95 SC” at the official webpage. Do you have any idea of when that will be available?

  7. I’d love to see a hybrid Saab over the full EV. While the EV is great for being zero emission the infrastructure just isn’t there yet to make it viable. It’s getting there, but we’re still a long ways off before its common. There is also the problem of city dwellers (like myself) that don’t have a garage or driveway in which to park for charging. The hybrid does away with that. 

    I’d also be curious to know what kind of heat the battery is going to put out. That divider down the middle seems pretty intrusive right now. 

  8. Nice!  That’s most unique console/cup holder I’ve ever seen in a rear seat.  I wonder, will the batteries underneath radiate heat into the cabin when the car is in use?

  9. What a lovely sight and nice reading! =)

    B t w, I’m just guessing now, but perhaps could it be that “Frickeboa” is actually spelled “Friggeboa”, which, sort of is spoken language for friggebod = garden shed (or cabin)?

    1. Nope, it’s Frickeboa, as written, though the friggebod word does have a link to the origin.  As I understand it, the line was established around the same time as the friggebod legislation was established.  The guy who established the line was named Fricke, hence the mashup of his name and the ‘garden shed’ terminology.  

      🙂

    1. Not the same… 
      While I am a Tesla fan (for starting the e-trend), when I asked Electro Engine, they stated that they found Tesla tech (in the roadster) rather primitive, especially in terms of individual cell control (balancing required) and the safety aspects of the battery pack. As the S is further developed some of this issues might have been resolved, but afaik, the tech that Saab has access to now (through EE, Boston, Innovatum, etc) is at least a generation newer, while possibly in a more “normal” package (9-3SC)….
      Keep ’em coming!

      1. I think the Boston Power company also uses the same Graphite-LiCoO2 stone-age technique as Tesla with thousands of laptop-like batteries put together into a module and thereafter put into the system. I hope SAABs system is a little more modern. On the other hand, this system is good enough for acquiring some nice EV data I guess.

        1. When I talked to Electro Engine I understood that while the battery type is important for energy density, the fact that the Tesla (Roadster, don’t know if tech is improved on S) battery pack requires very time consuming balancing of the various cells on an individual cell level initially, then limited in terms of replacement of faulty/malfunctioning cells. Electro Engine’s TEBS Battery Managment System claims to eliminate the balancing and allows for easy cell replacement, even with changing and improving battery technology (Boston or other).
          …afaik…

  10. Those pictures are literally inside the inside of a Saab we’ve all been waiting to see. Very cool Swade. It’s interesting to see how they’re handling the battery packaging. I wonder how they’d adapt it to a future model that they could design around the battery, seeing that this is more a retrofit. I can’t wait to hear reports about cold weather testing this winter on the fleet.

  11. This is great! While surprising choice for the battery pack a great example what can be done at Saab today. I like it!
    Now, has things like cabin heating&cooling been addressed in this test vehicle? Looks like a lot of stuff under the hood, including an air-filter?!
    More tech details (without revealing any secret IP) would be much appreciated…

  12. Very nice article. I’m impressed that it takes 2 weeks to build that car from hand.

    I like the place where they put the battery. It’s just so different from “the ordinary” place, so SAAB. I guess (almost) nobody will miss the middle seat on the rear bank…

  13. Hi all, I’m glad you’ve found some interest in this project.

    I’m working on an answer with regards to the heating/cooling of the car.  Will come back to the subject here in comments soon.

  14. Swade, when the car is built please take a test drive and make a video for us to see. I would love to see and hear the car in action.

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