Saab says that it is being inundated with orders for its newly developed bioethanol-fuelled car, which has just been launched onto its home market of Sweden.

Already, says Saab, the 9-5 BioPower, which runs on a blend of 85% renewable fuel bioethanol and 15% petrol (E85) (and which can run on 100% petrol if required), has an orderbank of more than 1,000 units since becoming available in the last month.

That means that between 85% and 90% of current 9-5 orders are for the BioPower derivative, which has propelled the Saab 9-5 into first place in the best-selling car rankings, overtaking arch domestic rival Volvo.

Although the 9-5 BioPower is on sale for the same price as its petrol equivalent, Saab engineers have developed the technology in a way that it actually delivers more power than the standard model, taking brake horse power (bhp) from 150 up to 180bhp.

Bioethanol is an alcohol, produced from grain, cellulose or sugar cane, making it a renewable fuel. Unlike petrol, the consumption of bioethanol does not raise atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. This is because the emissions that are released during driving are cancelled out by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere when crops for conversion are grown.

Swedish drivers of the BioPower are exempt from paying congestion charges in the capital city Stockholm, qualify for free parking throughout Swedish cities, and enjoy 20% lower company car tax charges. E85 also costs around 25% less at the pump per litre than petrol.
Saab says that it would like to export BioPower technology to other European countries, including the UK, should market conditions support it. For example, the UK government's relatively primitive tax structure on tailpipe emissions does not distinguish between non-fossil and fossil CO2 emissions, (fossil being those that harm the environment), meaning that it would not automatically qualify for the same concessions in the UK that it does in Sweden.

Currently only available on the 2.0 Light-Pressure Turbo (LPT) 9-5, Saab is working on the launch of BioPower technology across the whole of its range, including on the top-of-the-range 9-5 Aero, which promises to deliver some 300bhp up from the current 250bhp.