The clouds over Gothenburg are dark gray this morning when our Saab 9-5 NG rolls off the car deck of the Stena Germanica. An autumn blues lies over the Västragötland; we steer via the Inlandsvägen towards Trollhättan. The two-lane E45 is not very busy, and it is not a golden, Swedish autumn that welcomes us. Sweden appears in muted colors at the start of our visit.
We still have some time until our appointment at NEVS. On the way through the city, to our astonishment, we still discover “SAAB” on signposts. It's almost like the old days. As we set course for the plant, the big Saab lettering greets the driveway.
In the background the NEVS flags are blowing in the harsh autumn wind. NEVS and Saab. This image will be symbolic for the next few hours.
We circle the factory, pass the north portal, drive down to the Göta Älv. There is an uncanny silence over the halls, and only occasionally does a car pass through the lines of sight. Some halls have been given a new coat of paint; a large crane truck is working on one of the buildings. The image of the plant, which still does not build vehicles, is depressing. My mood has now approached zero - somehow.
Mark's smartphone answers and pulls me out of my gray autumn blues thoughts. Michèl Annink, Senior Director Mobility Services and Customer Journeys, calls. He's waiting for us at the R&D center.
NEVS Technical Center
Minutes later. Spokeswoman Ulrika Hultgren and Michèl Annink warmly welcome you to the Technical Center. In the run-up to the visit we had communicated our wishes and interests. Some things, we hear, can be realized. Other is not possible. What awaits us? We will see !
Before we start with the visit program, we strengthen ourselves in the restaurant on the ground floor. If you want to get an original impression of what is happening in the Stallbacka, you could Saltes restaurant visit the Technical Center. It is freely accessible to all visitors and not only NEVS employees spend their lunch break there. The food is a mix of international cuisine and Swedish menus. The ambience in the style of a canteen can be classified as unpretentious and functional. The guests are international, you hear a flood of languages. Swedish and English are spoken in a mix of all kinds of accents.
After dinner we look for a free conference room. Which is not easy, because the pulsating hustle and bustle in the R&D center contrasts with the spooky quiet on the production site. The heart of the company beats in the technology complex, the majority of the almost 1.000 NEVS employees are engineers and developers.
Future Lab NEVS
Michèl Annink tells us about his frequent visits to Beijing, where NEVS also has an office. He impressively describes the acrid, yellow smog that almost tears your lungs apart as soon as you leave the aircraft. He describes the pressing environmental problems that harm people and make people sick. Then he pans around and talks about the upheaval that lies ahead in the auto industry. Digitization, alternative drive technologies, autonomous driving.
Each topic represents a great challenge. The bundling of all changes is a revolution. NEVS will have the right answers and present the right solutions for more sustainability and a better environment. But, he recommends, discusses it best with Christian Bromander. He will tell more.
From the conference room we start the walk through the development departments - the sanctuary of every company. Mark and I receive red ID cards that identify us as visitors. Thomas comes up to us. He is our guide, probably also our minder, and we are starting a very exciting tour together with Ulrika Hultgren, which will give us a lot of new insights.
It started in the 80 years
The NEVS Technical Center was put into operation in the middle of the 80 years of Saab-Scania and since then constantly expanded. Historical pictures on the walls show the construction phases on our way to the first lab.
The facilities for “Sound & Vibration Analyzes” have a special structural feature. So that nothing can falsify the measurement results, the laboratories have no direct connection to the other parts of the building and are stored in a vibration-neutral manner.
An employee, in NEVS work clothes, leads us through the laboratories. The absolute silence in the rooms after closing the heavy doors is very impressive, the equipment up to date. A laser measures the vibrations of components, in the laboratory next door, the noise behavior of a power steering is analyzed on the entire vehicle.
Several generations of Saab vehicles have been tested in these rooms. NEVS is now testing its own products and is also working for other companies. We continue and meet Lars Hoffmann. And that gives us a first impression of the future.
NEVS 9-3 EV Mule in the R&D Center.
A few doors down is the test workshop. A limousine, not the usual silver or black, is covered in the room. A pre-series of the EV for China? We won't find out. Right next door is a 9-3 EV Mule on the lifting platform, in the background another test vehicle with green license plates. We look at the vehicle on stage. Very intense, also from below. Thomas, our guide, is getting more and more nervous now, especially as we unpack the Nikon. I wonder why ? The mule is equipped with test equipment. But the rule is: trust against trust. Whoever opens the doors for us does not have to worry. Only the lettering of the Mule is on the blog.
Fortunately, there is an official display board for visitors in the hall in front of the laboratory. We can photograph them, and we ask Lars Hoffmann questions about the NEVS 9-3 EV for China. The answers, or rather the facts, are revealing.
The NEVS 9-3 EV sedan is used in China for professional passenger transport. Didi, the equivalent in China, works with NEVS customer Panda New Energy and has brokered 1.4 billion trips over the past year. This year we expect a doubling.
Electric car yes. But please at Aero level.
There are lithium-ion battery modules in prismatic cells in the underbody of the electric car. Each of these modules is managed separately. I ask Lars what life cycle he expects for the batteries. The time frame until only 80% of the original capacity is available. The answer surprises me a little, because it should be 150.000 kilometers. At least!
The reason for this is the design of the batteries used. For a good reason, NEVS does not rely on the popular cylindrical design of 18.650 or 20.700 cells. The benefits of hard, professional use are obvious. A prismatic design offers better thermal characteristics and requires less cooling than cylindrical cells. The number of possible charge cycles is also higher by up to 4 times.
The longevity of the batteries is, however, bought at a higher cost of up to 50% by a lower energy density compared to cells with a cylindrical shape. The NEVS 9-3 EV with 50 kWh will have more than 300 kilometers of range, its 16o KW (217 PS) electric motor and 500 Newtonmeter afford. Strong performance on Saab Aero level and a rich torque at the start are promised.
After we said goodbye to Lars, who let us feel that he enjoyed working with NEVS, we walk with Ulrika and Thomas through the R&D Center - to the engine test benches.
Tomorrow we will continue with part 2 of our visit to NEVS.
- engine test stand
- Wind and climate tunnel
- Keep it simple. Conversation with Christian Bromander.