Liquor Does It Quicker

Saab’s BioPower engine gives ethanol a kick in the pants

Imported Spirits, Sir?

With all the buzz about hybrids, it´s easy to ignore our homegrown alternative fuel: ethanol. Clean-burning and infinitely renewable-we´re talking grain alcohol-ethanol is dear to environmentalists and economists alike. The standard 85/15-percent ethanol/gasoline blend (E85) is widely used in Sweden, but there are only 313 E85 fueling stations in the U.S. And motorheads aren´t clamoring for more, because E85 typically delivers inferior fuel economy; it has about 75 percent of the potential energy of gasoline, so it takes up to 20 percent more hooch to keep horsepower on par. But E85 also has a high octane rating (around 110), and Saab realized that a turbocharger could harness it. Turbos push extra air into the cylinder, and higher octane allows a fuel to better endure the increased pressure.
So Saab cranked up its fans and created the BioPower engine, the first commercially available ethanol turbo. A computer samples the fuel mixture and adjusts boost pressure-from 5.8 psi for pure gasoline to 13.8 psi for E85. Running straight gasoline, the engine produces 148 horsepower, but E85 jacks it up to 184, with no penalty in fuel economy.

SAAB 9-5 2.OT Biopower Sedan
SPECS GASOLINE E85
POWER 148 hp 184 hp
TORQUE 177 lb.-ft 207 lb.-ft
MAX. BOOST 5.8 psi 13.8 psi
0-62 MPH 9.8 sec 8.5 sec
TOP SPEED 134 mph 140 mph
PRICE $35,000 $35,000
*based on exchange rates at press time

**STATS

THE NUMBERS THAT COUNT**

Number of E85 REFUELING STATIONs, By state*

Minn 119
Ill. 51
Iowa 21
S.D. 20
Mo. 17
Neb. 16
Wis. 11
Colo. 10
S.C. 9
N.D. 9
Other 30
*as of 5/12/05

How much more you’ll have to pay for a flexible-fuel Vehicle
Zero

Average price per gallon in the U.S.*

Biodiesel $2.27
Diesel $2.24
Gasoline $2.11
Ethanol $1.86
Natural Gas $1.47
*as of 3/21/05

Corn used for fuel produces about:

53% Ethanol
42.5% Animal Feed
4.5% Corn Oil

Effect of federal taxes on Ethanol in cents per gallon
-51.0

Effect o federal taxes on gas, in cents per gallon
+18.4

Based on information from: National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition; U.S. Department of Energy; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Internal Revenue Service