For what it is worth, in talking with the Saab folk at the latest New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) meeting, it was mentioned that in Europe, the flex-fuel version of the 9-5 that runs on E85 ethanol outsells Toyota's hybrid Prius about six to one. (The absolute numbers are about 12,000 to 2,000 for the 2006 year)
It may be difficult to put these numbers in context, but it does serve to highlight the power train choices available to cut emissions. One benefit of renewable ethanol is much lower CO2 emissions, according to Saab spokesman Jan-Willem Vester. "If you take into account the positive effects of growing corn or sugarcane, you could even argue that burning ethanol is CO2 neutral," he adds.
Mileage-wise, the picture is fuzzier. Fuel efficiency is not an apples-to-apples comparison because ethanol has less energy per gallon than gasoline, thus mileage on the E85 ("BioPower") version of the 9-5 (about 20 mpg average) is roughly 20% less than the gasoline version. Conversely, horsepower is 20% more due to ethanol's greater octane rating (which could mean smaller engines without a power penalty in the future).
Also coming into play for European flex-fuel acceptance versus hybrids may be a "familiarity factor" with economical internal combustion enginesbecause of high fuel prices, Europeans, on average, buy more diesel powered cars that get better mileage than with gasoline engines.