Weeks ago, Saab executives let slip that the company would soon be building a fleet of electric 9-3s. Today, the company released the first photos and information about the 2011 9-3 ePower, which will debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show later this month.
Although the majority of the car appears to be a stock 9-3 Sport Combi, its engine, transmission, exhaust system, and fuel tank were stripped to accommodate the electric drivetrain. A 135 kW (184 horsepower) electric motor drives the front wheels via a single-speed transmission. According to Saab, the driveline can reportedly propel the electric-powered wagon from 0-62 mph in 8.5 seconds, and ultimately to a top speed of 93 mph.
Power is provided by a 35.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is nestled into the space beneath the cargo floor previously occupied by the fuel tank. Since Sweden is prone to long, frigid winters, the engineers at Boston Electric paid special attention to the battery's performance in cold temperatures. Saab says the air-cooled battery pack can still deliver its full power at negative 22 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 18 degrees below most other lithium-ion packs. A full charge provides roughly 124 miles of range, and if using a 220-volt supply, a full recharge can be accomplished in six hours.
Apart from the battery pack and the electric motor, a 9-3 ePower is remarkably similar to its gas-powered siblings. Saab's own engine management system was tweaked to control the electric driveline, while gauges were revised to indicate both range remaining and battery charge levels. Electric power steering is fitted, and a new air conditioning is also powered by the lithium-ion battery pack.
Like other automakers' early EV offerings, the 9-3 ePower isn't necessarily destined to become a regular production model. Instead, it allows Saab the chance to develop, build, and evaluate technology that could ultimately appear in future vehicles. If all goes according to plan, roughly 70 ePowers will take to the roads of Sweden by the end of 2012, all underneath the watchful eye of Saab's engineering staff.