Gripen here. This is a long post, as is my style, so consider that fair warning. I figure if you’re reading this blog you have a little free time on your hands anyway.
As many regular visitors to Swade’s blog know I’m the resident “treehugger” at TS. Now, let me temper that statement by pointing-out I’m not a nutcase extremist like those Greenies in New Zealand, Australia, and Belgium attacking Saab for trying to do the right thing. Like my political beliefs, in regards to my environmental beliefs I tend to fall smack-dab in the center between extremes. For example, I wouldn’t own a HUMMER, but I wouldn’t own a Prius either. I might own a Chevy Volt, Opel Flextreme, Tesla Roadster, Tesla WhiteStar or Tesla BlueStar if I could, though.
So due to Saab’s traditional ethos of “rightsizing” they’re a good fit for me.
There’s a big political push in the U.S. right now for “reducing our dependence on foreign oil” to achieve “energy independence and security” and we’ve heard previously that Sweden has a goal in pushing ethanol – to wean itself off of petroleum by 2020. Could it be that driving a BioPower Saab running on E85 would help further that goal more than driving a Toyota Prius?
Absolutely. Read on.
Now, making a statement like that I’m of course going to have to explain myself. I recently received a flex-fuel capable lease car from my employer. It’s a 2008 Chevrolet Impala LS. It has a 3.5-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing. I looked-up this car at fueleconomy.gov and compared it to the Toyota Prius.
Running on E85 and assuming 15,000 miles per-year driven with a mix of 45% city and 55% highway driving the Impala will consume 5 barrels of petroleum per year. With the same parameters the Prius will consume 7.4 barrels of petroleum per year. Now, I know this isn’t directly comparing the Saab to the Prius, but that’s something I can’t do because the BioPower Saabs are not offered in the U.S. market yet.
However, using common sense and knowing that the Saab has two fewer cylinders and a smaller displacement engine than the Impala (2 liters versus 3.5 liters) and that it’s a smaller and lighter car, it’s logical to figure that the Saab would consume even less petroleum per year running on E85 than the Impala.
Here are the numbers for the Impala and that gas-guzzler Prius:
I’m seriously thinking about buying one of those scrolling LED signs for the back window of my Impala and setting it up to read, “Reducing our dependence on foreign oil: This car running on E85 ethanol consumes less gasoline than your Prius” just to stick-it to those high-and-mighty Prius owners!
Living in Los Angeles, California, U.S. of A, I see a lot of self-important people driving hybrids around, particularly the Prius. I’d love to know how many Prius (I’ve read that’s the plural, just like “moose”) Toyota has sold in California alone, or how many Honda, Lexus, Ford, and Toyota hybrids have been sold in the state. They’re everywhere!
An added bonus of owning a Prius or a Honda Civic Hybrid in California is that you can buy a permit which allows you to display a sticker on your car and drive in the high-occupancy vehicle (“carpool”) lanes even if you have no passengers. Long-distance commuters really like this as they can often speed around traffic jams even though they’re alone in their car. Not every hybrid vehicle owner can apply for one of these special permits, only the most fuel-efficient and least-polluting models. The vehicle has to get over 45 miles-per-U.S.-gallon (5.22 liters-per-100-km or 54 miles-per-Imperial-gallon) highway and meet California’s advanced technology partial zero-emission vehicle (AT PZEV) standard for criteria pollutant emissions. As of 2007 only two models qualified (the Prius and the Civic Hybrid).
To give you an idea of how popular hybrids are in California, 85,000 stickers are issued per-year, and only to hybrids which meet the strict standards detailed above. Last year the state had issued 85,700 stickers by early February. Keep in mind that only two hybrid models qualify. So Toyota and Honda sold more than 85,000 Prius and Civic Hybrid models in about five months (assuming the 2007 models went on sale in September 2006) in California alone. To put that into context, Saab sold 32,711 vehicles in the entire United States in 2007. That’s for the entire year. Toyota and Honda sold more than two-and-a-half times more Prius and Civic Hybrid models in about five months in the State of California alone than Saab sold 9-3, 9-5, and 9-7X models in the entire nation in twelve months.
Sadly, the demand for these stickers is so great it has led to a black market of stolen stickers! Also, used cars with the stickers are fetching a premium of up to USD4K for the privilege of using the carpool lanes. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a USD4K premium on the resale value of your Saab?
Personally, while I’m concerned about particulate matter emissions (the cancer rates of residents in the area of the ports where the air is most polluted by diesel emissions is multiple times the national average) and NOx emissions (I can see a marked improvement in air quality since the state started cracking-down on emissions since I was a kid), I’m most concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on global climate change.
Therefore I believe that that ethanol technology is a better solution than gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles right now. Of course, Saab’s BioPower plug-in hybrid technology would be even better!
When a larger portion of the U.S. ethanol supply comes from cellulosic processes, preferably from waste feedstock, rather than the currently-favored corn-based ethanol it’ll make ethanol even more attractive and a viable option for BioPower customers. General Motors’ recent deal with Coskata announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit will help further that cause.
Saab is targeting the 2.0T BioPower 9-3 for sale in the U.S. in “early 2009”, according to Saab USA President Steve Shannon in his presentation at the 2008 9-3 media debut in Washington, D.C. in August, 2007.
Shortly after Saab starts selling BioPower cars in the U.S, we’ll start seeing second-generation biofuels in the marketplace. The U.S. Department of Energy is investing US$114M in four small-scale cellulosic ethanol plants with a second round of funding this Spring of up to US$200M to be invested. GM’s partner Coskata could possibly receive some of this funding.
So after all that, what I wanted to point-out is something I discovered that I hadn’t heard anywhere else before: running your car on E85 uses less gasoline than a Toyota Prius hybrid. Your BioPowered Saab could be more “green” than the most efficient gasoline-electric hybrid.
If only more people knew about it.