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Swedish automaker powers into the future

Saab, the Swedish automaker which came close to closure earlier this year, has announced that it will debut its first electric vehicle at the Paris Motor Show next month.

The Saab 9-3 ePower is to be a prototype for a fleet of electric Saabs which will take to the streets of Sweden in early 2011, the automaker confirmed last week.

The 135 kW motor is capable of a top speed of 150 km/h and a projected all-electric driving range of approximately 200 kilometers, which Saab says "pushes out the boundaries for current EV performance."

In a nod to its expected domestic market, Saab says that the 35.5 kW/h battery pack can operate with full power in ambient temperatures as low as -30ºC, below the level of battery packs on the market today.

Seventy Saab 9-3 ePowers will be produced to be tested in Sweden during 2011-12, with Saab's CEO Jan Åke Jonsson saying that "Saab is determined to be represented" in the important, growing EV market.

The announcement is a huge step forward for the brand, which was set to be wound down by former owner General Motors until an intervention by Dutch manufacturer Spyker in January 2010.

Saab fans, proven in a 2009 Ruhr University study to be the most passionate in the world, were predictably pleased with the news.

"Please please please hurry. Now you are back in to serious car business," said one Saab message board user.

"This is the most promising development I've seen! Who wouldn't be overjoyed to be one of those test drivers?" said another.