2007 Saab BioPower Hybrid Concept

David Axberg
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Swedes love trees. And apparently they love saving them, as evidenced by the Saab 9-5 BioPower--Sweden's best selling flex-fuel vehicle. Saab has been continuing to work on its BioPower technology and is one fruit of its labor has fallen from the tree at this year's Detroit Auto Show, in the form of a 9-3 Convertible called the BioPower Hybrid Concept. One can only guess the convertible was chosen for its show stand appeal despite its obviously higher drag coefficient.

More important than the car's shape, though, is what powers this 9-3. Here, power comes from Saab's 2.0 four-cylinder that is now capable of running on any mixture between pure gasoline and 100% bio-ethanol fuel--an improvement over the aforementioned 9-5's E85 capability. Assisting the revamped engine is a two-mode electric motor that sends power to the rear wheels (while the other engine powers the front). Like many hybrids, this 9-3 uses a continuously variable transmission and regenerative braking and because it is a two-mode, the BioPower Hybrid can accelerate using electricity only. This "Zero Mode" can be activated with a dashboard switch, and will power the vehicle up to about 32 mph while locking out activation of the gas engine. This differs from hybrids like the Toyota Prius that will automatically use gasoline power if you aren't feather-light with the throttle.

The icing on this green cake is that the BioPower Hybrid Concept enjoys substantially better performance than its conventional stable mates, thanks to its dual motor powertrain, and retains an easy everyday usability that would make it practical for use in the real world. See? Saving trees can be easy.

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