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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Saab unveils biofuel hybrid dream
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, British International Motor Show

Saab Bio Power Hybrid
The Saab Bio Power Hybrid could go on sale one day
Saab has unveiled its automotive vision for a greener future at the British International Motor Show.

The Swedish subsidiary of the embattled American automotive giant General Motors has already made a name as a leading maker of biofuel cars, which can run on any mixture between ordinary petrol and E85, a fuel blend that contains 85% bioethanol made from plants.

In the future, Saab intends to go one step further with its Bio Power Hybrid, a concept car that combines a plant-powered engine with an electric one, thus reducing emissions even further.

There is no news yet about when such a car could hit the tarmac, but Saab's hybrid head Martin Elliot is confident that in a few years "we'll get something on the market" similar to what is on display.

"Within General Motors, we already have production plans for the two-mode hybrid system, starting in 2008 in trucks and sports utility vehicles," says Mr Elliot, referring to the hybrid system that GM is producing in partnership with rival automotive groups BMW and DaimlerChrysler.

State support

The car's battery pack is hidden inside the car's boot, replacing the spare tyre, which in turn is replaced by run-flat tyres, explains Mr Elliot.

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Thus the biofuel-powered hybrid Saab remains as roomy as a conventional model.

Biofuel has proven an instant hit in Saab's home market.

"Eighty per cent of Saab 9-5s sold in Sweden are Bio Power and this trend is rapidly spreading throughout Europe ," insists GM Europe boss Carl-Peter Forster.

So far, biofuel has been more successful in Sweden than elsewhere in Europe, largely because of significant state support that includes tax advantages and exemptions from road charging for drivers who are steering clear of conventional diesel and petrol powered cars.

A biofuel-powered hybrid solution may seem like an obvious next step, though taking it could take time - not least because of economic reasons.

"A hybrid system is not cheap," points out Mr Elliot.

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