DETROIT – Saab Automobile brings its latest green machine to the North American International Auto Show today as it introduces the BioPower Hybrid Concept vehicle.

The flex-fuel vehicle, which premiered in Europe and was featured at last summer’s Sydney auto show, is equipped with General Motor Corp.’s new Two- Mode hybrid system and capable of running on 100% ethanol or any combination of ethanol and gasoline.

The concept, which the Swedish auto maker displays as a 9-3 Convertible, proves the Two-Mode hybrid system, which includes three electric motors and four fixed gears within a single transmission housing, can be scaled down for small vehicles.

GM co-developed the Two-Mode system with DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG and will launch the technology later in 2007 in its ’08 fullsize SUVs.

The BioPower concept “shows how we can continue to express the sporty performance associated with Saab while using renewable resources and saving energy overall,” Managing Director Jan Ake Jonsson says.

The show car primarily is powered by a 2.0L engine that kicks out 260 hp. The three electric motors contribute a combined 48 kW (199 hp) to the engine’s 277 lb.-ft. (375 Nm) of torque.

The rear-drive electric motor, generating 38 kW (51 hp), alone, is located between the rear wheels and powers the transmission differential and drive shafts, supplying up to 490 lb.-ft. (665 Nm) of additional torque when the vehicle is accelerating at low speeds.

A high-capacity, 300-volt lithium-ion battery provides storage for the three motors. The hybrid system also features engine stop/start; electric power assist; regenerative braking; and electric-only “Zero Mode” capability mainly for city driving.

The auto maker introduced a Saab 9-5 BioPower last year in Sweden sporting a 2.0L 16-valve turbocharged engine, followed this year by a Saab 9-5 2.3t BioPower performance sedan and wagon for Scandinavia, the U.K. and Ireland, with other European countries to follow.

The auto maker’s BioPower vehicles are a sales success in Sweden, where the 2.0L 9-5 is Sweden’s best-selling environmentally friendly vehicle.

Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman for global product development, has said GM intends to bring the Saab BioPower vehicles to the U.S. but does not indicate when that will take place.

The 9-3, Saab’s best-selling model in the U.S., is expected to be the first in Saab’s U.S. lineup to be equipped as a flex-fuel-powered model.

scanderson@wardsauto.com