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Saab boosts bio-ethanol range

Future fuel: BioPower will soon supersede petrol engines in Saab's range.

Saab gets set to increase BioPower models, despite one E85 pump in Australia

Saab logo1 Jul 2008

LUXURY brand Saab will soon consolidate its commitment to selling bio-ethanol vehicles in Australia, making its BioPower engine its mainstream offering across the entire 9-3 range – despite the fact that just one service station in the nation offers the eco-oriented E85 fuel.

The move will see the deletion of the 2.0-litre inline-four petrol engine and the wider use of the identical-displacement BioPower engine, which produces a little less power – 147kW versus 154kW – but has the same 300Nm of torque and is less expensive to run considering the lower price per litre of E85 bio-ethanol fuel compared to regular or premium unleaded petrol.

It is also claimed that driving an E85 vehicle reduces fossil fuel-based CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent, while Saab maintains that power increases 20 per cent when using E85 compared to regular unleaded.

“We’ve now got over 100 BioPower cars out on the road and soon we will be in a position where we will only have BioPower cars,” Saab Australia director Parveen Batish told GoAuto last week. “We will drop the petrol engine so that we’ll just have (V6 turbo) Aero, diesel and then a BioPower engine. It depends what stock we’ve got left but it will be fairly soon.” The BioPower engine can run on regular unleaded fuel but is designed to use an ethanol blend of up to 85 per cent.

“You do lose some (savings) through fuel economy, but you’re getting more performance, it’s better for the environment and it’s cheaper for you as well,” Mr Batish said.

 center imageLeft: 9-5 BioPower.

The Saab chief said his management team was in the process of talking to petrol companies “to make sure that we can get that alignment together” but must contend with the fact that getting E85 pumps into action is taking much longer than anticipated.

He admitted that it was a strange situation to be in, but said parent company General Motors was committed to the technology.

“GM has been very clear in terms of its future direction as far as alternative fuels is concerned and ethanol is very much at the forefront of that currently,” Mr Batish said. “We’re leading that, as the Saab brand, and I’m sure that within the next six to eight months we won’t be the only manufacturer offering ethanol engines.

“Once that happens then I think you’ll see a proliferation of filling stations offering ethanol. The problem at the moment is the chicken and the egg – they (oil companies/petrol retailers) don’t want to invest because there isn’t the cars, but the more cars we put out, the more opportunity there is for those companies, especially around a Saab dealership.” The only pump available in Australia is with United Petroleum in Sydney. It is located on Victoria Road in Rozelle. At the time of writing, United was selling E85 for around $1.25 per litre, compared to regular unleaded at between $1.60 and $1.70 per litre.

“They (United) have got plans to open one in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, and unfortunately when you’re doing things like this – and I don’t wish to speak for them – they’ve run into a few more issues than they thought they would do to start with,” Mr Batish said.

Although the sales numbers are small, Mr Batish said the introduction of bio-ethanol cars had made a difference.

“We hope we are seen as a company who is about performance, but actually is about ‘responsible performance’ as well,” he said. “We have ethanol as an alternative fuel across our (9-3 and 9-5) range, and our diesels are very efficient. The reason we’ve brought the TTiD out is exactly that: you get really great fuel consumption – 5.7L/100km – but you get performance as well. And that’s what our customers want.

“What we have to do, I guess, is to change peoples’ perceptions. You’re beginning to see more and more fleets now go to four-cylinder or to diesel, and we have to make sure that we are an alternative to what those fleets are looking for.” United Petroleum Australia general manager David Szymczak was unavailable for comment before GoAuto went to publication this week. Watch out for United’s side of the story soon.

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