A 1972 SAAB 96 Electric Vehicle

Posted on 17. Dec, 2007 by in 2000-2009, 96


Photo Credit: Christen Johansen

With everyone “going green” these days, it does not surprise me when I received the following information from a colleague. Apparently, a Saab Enthusiast by the name of Christen Johansen in New York, has recently outfitted a beautiful 1972 SAAB 96 into a full on Electric Vehicle or “EV”.

This is certainly not the first Saab or vintage SAAB that has had the necessary modifications in order to run with electric power. Back in 1993, Walter Kern, a physicist by trade and also the creator of the SAAB Quantum, designed and re-engineered a 1974 SAAB Sonett III to run on electrical power.

Here are some additional videos covering this project that are of particular historic importance regarding this project: Pierson to Person, Environmental Forum, Newsbeat 53

It seems that Duke University also had an interest in also converting a 1972 SAAB Sonett III, although I am unsure if Walter Kern & Dave Hosmer’s work inspired them to do the same.

All in all, it seems that there has been a lot of interest these days in people converting their vehicles from conventional fuel systems to more economical and environmental ones such as electricity. Just look at the progress Mark Ward in Missouri has made just this week with his new generation Saab 900 nicknamed “Saabrina”.

Leave it up Saab Enthusiasts, who hold the record as some of the most intelligent and progressive automobile enthusiasts and the world and you have projects like these cropping up everywhere now.

I leave you with an informative piece written by Christen Johansen on his beautiful yet highly sophisticated 1972 SAAB 96 as depicted in the photographs:

2.jpgI have avery simple system designed by Electric Vehicles of America (Bob Batson) with additional tech know how and parts from Electro-Automotive (Mike Brown). It’s basically a 96 volt traction system (16) 6 volt lead/acid deep cycle (golf cart) batteries connected to an Advanced DC motor through a Curtis controller.
The motor is mounted directly to the standard SAAB 4 speed transmission with a spacer and adapter plates with bolt patterns fitting the motor and transmission bell housing.
I do have regenerative braking, which is a wiring modification of the basic system which is transparent to the traction system until you toggle a switch on the turn signal and energize the motor field, changing the motor into a generator. The degree of braking is based on the controller’s demand (how far you depress the “accelerator” and the batteries’ ability to absorb more energy, you would not want to roll out of your hill top garage with a fully charged battery pack and expect the regen to slow you down much.

3.jpgSprings and struts are upgraded as the car weighs 1,000 pounds more than the original V4 model, tire pressure is about 50 lbs all around, 6 batteries in front (straddling the motor), 2 in the back seat (I cut 13″ out of the middle of the back seat and 8 in the trunk where the gas tank and spare tire were located.
Top speed on the flat is around 65 mph, and the range is about 75 miles. It cost me about $10,000. to do the restoration and conversion. I think I spent about $3000 on the restoration and paint job.

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6 Responses to “A 1972 SAAB 96 Electric Vehicle”

  1. Walter

    24. Dec, 2007

    Wow, this is super! I have exactly this car, having driven it for the last ~20 years. Only recently became interested in EV conversions, so I’m just coming up the learning curve, but thought the 96 would be a great candidate for conversion. I’ve just begun planning this project for next year, and Christen certainly has given a lot of helpful info to get me started. Any other advice would be much appreciated!

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  2. ryanoe9000

    31. Dec, 2007


    Happy Holidays! You should check this out and get in touch with both Mark as well as Christian to collaborate since all three of you folks are making Saabs electrically driven.


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  3. steve verkouteren

    13. Apr, 2008

    have stripped down (restoration in progress) 93B. considering ev conversion. seems like car would be good for this- light weight, enclosed bottom, no power stuff. anyway, already have 93F and 96. think that motor will fit on a bullnose?

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  4. Sevad

    19. Jul, 2014

    Christen, you’re a vandal. Taking a beautiful car like that 96 and filling it full of batteries is little short of an abomination. We’ve had real Saab enthusiasts on this site wondering if they should even wash and clean their barn find because they’re so concerned about originality but you’ve chosen to throw all of that out the window and destroy the car’s originality. And for what? Why can’t you show the car and its history a little respect?

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  5. Christen

    15. Jul, 2015


    I can be sure whether you’re joking or not. A Vandal? The original SAAB designers and engineers were inventive and resourceful developing their original monocoque aerodynamic body and popping in a 2 cylinder DKW engine. I see my converted SAAB 96 as an extension of that original insiration, My only regret is that I couldn’t afford smaller light weight ferrous-ion batteries and had to settle for 1200 lbs of lead-acid batteries. I agree that a pack of batteries with heavy cables isn’t as intriguing as looking as a high performance 2 stroke or V4, but the only thing I lost was the agility and handling of the original car. The car still turns heads and lots of interest in the car and the technology. This electric SAAB has been on the road without a breakdown for 21 years. When the current (2nd set) of batteries start to fade, I will be upgrading to ferrous-ion batteries, adjusting the suspension and making this a nimble and sporty drive again. It’s called evolution my man. I love perfectly restored cars, this is not one of them.

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  6. suba suba

    11. Jun, 2020

    I really liked your blog article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

    Reply to this comment

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