Comments response: Saab hybrid? (think eXWD)

The following was written in comments yesterday…..

Steven, I do not mean to post an off-topic response to this particular discussion, but I do have a question about future products. Has Saab considered introducing a hybrid model (gas + battery) into its line up? I know that you had written about various diesel options, but here in the US, there are few diesel cars and the models you find are incredible expensive. It seems the new ultra-efficient “hype” in the US is around solar and electric.

So, does Saab have any such product currently in development?

This is a great opportunity to talk more about something I’m very keen on promoting – the incredible engineering expertise that Saab holds as a company. It’s one of the key reasons this company has so much value.

When you say “gas + battery” people might automatically think of something like the Chevrolet Volt. In that case, the answer is No. We’re not doing a range-extended electric car that’s also powered by a gasoline engine.

However……

Last year, Saab partnered with a company called American Axle to form a joint venture called e-AAM. The main focus of e-AAM’s work is a new electric drive system that will work in conjunction with a gasoline powered car to produce an electrically assisted all-wheel-drive system. The rights to the name eXWD have already been filed.

e-AAM, which formally started operations on October 1 last year, is being led by Peter Johansson, a third-generation Saab guy known as the guru of XWD (he’s the guy Saab sent around the world to introduce the XWD system back in 2008, and he used to build AWD systems with his dad for their privateer rally team).

Some historical reading on eXWD and e-AAM:

Ny Teknik, a Swedish technology magazine, took a good look at the e-XWD system and predicted that it could be a bigger than turbocharging for Saab.

XWD is already the leading system in the world for delivering optimum traction. The downside is that there are efficiency losses in the system, as well as weight gains that can and should be lowered. e-XWD is the answer to that.

In short, you get an electric motor to drive the rear axle in combination with the gasoline engine driving the front. The system weighs around 40% less than a fully mechanical XWD system, and it also thinks and works faster.

Bottom line: when crunching the numbers for the Saab PhoeniX concept car, engineers calculated diesel-like fuel consumption numbers at around 5 litres per 100 kilometers from the 1600cc 200hp gasoline engine and that’s with the benefits of XWD traction for safety and performance.

Back in 2010, I did an interview with Saab engineering guru Mats Fägerhag and I think you’ll find that that article gives a good insight into the system, and why Saab were so keen on developing it:

The technology involves two electric motors being used on the rear axle. Conventional thinking would be to have two large electric motors, one for each wheel. Large motors mean large batteries, or a generator. That means weight, and lack of economy.

The new system developed by Saab, which will be completed by e-AAM is different. There will be a large electric motor providing power and torque. In addition there will be a smaller electric motor that will handle the torque vectoring between the rear wheels. This means a smaller battery, less weight, but a heap more torque that’ll be precisely controlled by the combination rear axle motors.

For initial expected use, the car will still have an internal combustion engine in the front. It’s expected that fuel consumption will be below the fuel consumption of a regular front wheel drive car.

AWD technology and handling with better-than-FWD fuel economy. Now that’s an attractive offering.

As mentioned in that article, the e-XWD system is slated for use in the replacement for the Saab 9-3. The article mentioned a 2012 launch date, which has been pushed out due to this year’s events.

I should mention that this isn’t just pie-in-the-sky theoretical stuff.

Auto Motor and Sport magazine have driven a prototype vehicle and e-AAM have a Youtube channel where you can see some winter testing video from last year.

This is real.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks, Swade.  I knew you would jump at the chance to write about these cars and product instead of the current waiting game.  🙂

    I, for one, am very excited to see what eXWD will do for future Saabs!

  2. Sounds interesting. Question; How will the batteries stay charged? eg, Honda CRZ is hybrid and if you push it, after a while it stops supporting the conventional engine with electric power.

    In Saab’s case, if there exists such a weak point, the car may turn to FWD in a short while when pushed a bit hard for more than a couple of minutes. And that might compromise safety of course. How does Saab intend to solve this? 

    This is extremely important as all automotive companies have their own path to sustainability and lowering environmental impact, and this idea could be a very good one if it proves to be a real alternative for real world use.

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