Internal combustion engine or the electric version? A question that is probably as old as the automobile itself and today more relevant than ever. But just over 25 years ago, the topic in the industry is suddenly picking up speed. Prototypes are presented, the race for the production maturity of the hybrid engine has begun.
With Audi, VW and Toyota mix the usual suspects on the floor of technical innovations. In Sweden, too, the topic is being pursued, but with turbo technology it has already been proven that one can play with the big ones. The race for the next big thing from Trollhättan begins!
Hybrid engine. On par with the big ones
At the beginning of the 90s, you are at perhaps the highest technical level you have ever been in Trollhättan. The 9000 is a technology carrier, the 900 Turbo can compete on the performance, but also in terms of price with cars from Zuffenhausen. At the time, however, car giants such as VW or Toyota are also researching new technologies.
Something with electric drives should be, the future is open, the results varied. Also in Trollhättan one wants to mix on the floor of the large manufacturers, and starts at the beginning of the 90er years with the research and development of hybrid engines.
While cars like the powerful 900 16S or 9000 Turbo are being produced on the tracks, the research center is racking their brains on how to supplement the 900 and 9000 engines with an electric solution. In Sweden, they show themselves innovative and find a solution. A small exclusive test car fleet is manufactured and extensively tested until the engineers in Trollhättan agree at some point. The result is convincing, the drive as good as ready for mass production.
Bad mood in Detroit
With the test results in the luggage, a small delegation from Trollhättan makes his way to Detroit. The Saab engineers believe that they have created the next big innovation after the turbo engine. But in America they showed little enthusiasm for the trials of the Swedes. One does not think much of the idea and the thumb for the hybrid engines show after a short time down, which is not necessarily reprehensible. If you follow the trend in the industry that solutions with electric drives will not have a market.
Because Audi suffers the same fate with VW. 1997 brings out the Audi 80 duo in Ingolstadt in the third hybrid version. Paired with a 1,9 liter machine, in the south of the republic, technology is the key to success. 80 km pure electric drive should have been well, even recuperation was possible. But the opinion in Wolfsburg is the same as in Detroit. After 90 copies is over, the Audi is discontinued. The model was just way too expensive. Way too expensive. At VW sees no future in the electric gimmick from Ingolstadt and decides that the group should focus on diesel direct injection. It will be a decision that will have consequences just under 20 years later.
The end of the future
In Trollhättan you take the decision from Detroit. The subject of hybrid is filed, all prototypes are scrapped. Thus the trace of the development of that time also loses itself, only from stories of former engineers the events of that time can be reconstructed. Too exclusive was the research on just such engines. So remains hidden in which car a hybrid variant could have gone into series at the end. An 9000 in electric glide would probably have been more comfortable than he had been without it, and maybe the 900 / 2 could have had a very different image if rolled into a hybrid version with the dealers.
Instead, one relies on GM's V6 engine from Opel, which will soon be found in 9000 and 900 / 2. An aggregate that never really fit Saab and the time.
Toyota won the race for the hybrid engine in the end. 1997 introduces the first Prius to the public. It becomes the symbol of the hybrid car a little later, sells over eleven million times and gives Toyota a (more or less) green image.
The thing with the hybrid engine. She could have taken Saab to a new level in the middle of the 90 years. Instead, it went downhill, the vintages 94 'and 95' are the last in which Saab will once again gain a profit, then you will have to explain to the boardroom in Detroit until the end of year by year, a consistent minus.
The big hit - a last try
In the German automotive industry, the topic of hybrid hybrid 2009 comes up again with the introduction of Mercedes W221. The luxury saloon will be the first hybrid-powered vehicle from Germany. In Trollhättan you never touch the subject again. Why should you? If you are already in 2009 with the development of a pure electric cars busy - while celebrating in Germany for the marketability of the hybrid engine.