Following its purchase from General Motors by Dutch hand-built automobile manufacturer Spyker earlier this year, Saab is working on its first all-electric vehicle . Taking its body from a conventional 9-3 SportCombi station wagon, the Saab 9-3 ePower has a 135kW/184 hp electric motor, a projected range of 124 miles and makes zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds on the way to a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). The wraps come off the prototype at the 2010 Paris Motor Show ahead of fleet trials in Sweden next year.

The ePower is the result of a co-operation between Saab Automobile, Boston Power (batteries), Electroengine in Sweden AB (electric power trains), Innovatum (project management) and Power Circle (Sweden’s electric power industry trade organization).

Battery pack

A compact 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which provides a projected range of around 200km (124 miles), is accommodated in a modified floor-pan, mainly in space within the car’s wheelbase previously occupied by the exhaust system and fuel tank. Saab says this enables optimum weight distribution and driving dynamics similar to those of a standard SportCombi.

The air-cooled battery pack is designed to operate with full power in ambient temperatures as low as -30°C (-22°F), which the company says is at least 10°C (50°F) below the operating level of other battery packs on the market today.

The pack is intended to support recharge cycles equivalent to about ten years average use. It can be fully recharged from a domestic mains supply in about three to six hours. The company says charging times can be greatly reduced if the voltage of the electrical feed is raised, as there is no limitation on the battery’s input capacity.

The vehicle’s lithium-ion battery cells are also the first to receive a Nordic Ecolabel accreditation for their environmental safety and sustainability, which includes manufacturing processes.

Interior

Inside the cabin, the rev-counter, fuel and turbo boost displays in the main instrument cluster are replaced by read-outs for battery status, power consumption and driving range, all illuminated in green.

There's also an electric park brake is also fitted, electro-hydraulic power steering and air conditioning via a compressor powered by the battery pack. A separate 12-volt battery, for the lights and cabin ancillaries, is also charged from the battery pack.

The operation of the vehicle’s powertrain is controlled by a version of Saab’s own in-house Trionic 8 engine management system, with new software written for an electric vehicle application.

Vehicle testing

A test fleet of 70 vehicles which will participate in extensive field trials carried out by hundreds of drivers and their families in Sweden early next year. The Saab ePower project team will monitor the performance of the cars across a wide variety of usage patterns and driving conditions with all vehicles to be equipped with aircraft-style, black box recorders to log essential component data.

“This program is designed to evaluate the potential for developing a high performance, zero emission electric vehicle and is an important next-step in the extension of our EcoPower propulsion strategy,” says Mats Fagerhag, Executive Director, Vehicle Engineering at Saab Automobile.

Jan Ake Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s CEO adds, “By 2015, annual global sales of electric vehicles are expected to reach 500,000 units and Saab is determined to be represented in this important, growing segment.”

Saab is showing the prototype 9-3 ePower for the first time at the Paris Motor Show – see the gallery for more pics.