On the outside, The Saab 9-5 BioPower looks very much like a normal Saab 9-5. But under the hood there sits a turbocharged, 2 liter 4 cylinder engine with some major differences from its standard-fuel brothers and sisters. While one of the primary complaints about bioethanol fuels has been their lower gas mileage, (typically, an E85 engine will get 20 to 30 percent lower fuel mileage on flex fuel than when running on gasoline alone), the fact remains that E85 fuel has a higher octane rating than standard fuel.
At 104 octane, Saab was able to increase the boost on their turbo, and as a result the engine makes 180 base horsepower as compared to 150 base horsepower while running straight gasoline. This extra power allows the Saab 9-5 BioPower to hit 60 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds – 1.3 seconds faster than a standard, gasoline powered 9-5.
If bioethanol fuel is so much better for the environment, then why aren't more cars using it as standard equipment? Part of the answer lies in the fact that in order to accommodate the different fuel, which is more corrosive than gasoline, some engine and fuel line components have to be made more durable.
The other factor that comes into play is political: since biofuels by their definition come from an agricultural source, many governments and citizens are concerned with the idea of converting farms from food producing crops to fuel producing crops.
With their home country of Sweden attempting to shed their reliance on fossil fuels by the year 2020, Saab has taken an important first step in the acceptance of alternative fuels in Europe.
It remains to be seen whether the market will respond enthusiastically to this corn-burner – public response will play a large role in whether the proliferation of E85 fueling stations will expand enough to support Saab’s environmental initiative.
Changing the public’s thinking about what they put in their tank will not be easy – but with lower biofuel prices effectively canceling out poorer fuel mileage, and turbo charging contributing a significant power increase, the Saab 9-5 BioPower makes a compelling argument.