The 500-HP NEVS Emily GT Shows What Saab Could Have Done With EVs

Saab's final send-off from beyond the grave is a pretty sweet (and complex) EV built in just 10 months.
NEVS Emily
screengrab via YouTube

Oh, Saab, how we miss you. The beloved automaker’s demise has been covered ad nauseam, and its hopeful promises of a revival under the branding of National Electric Vehicle Sweden (better known as NEVS) are all but gone. However, NEVS recently announced the cessation of its product development division with a bang and unwrapped its last EV project, called Emily.

Emily isn’t new. The project’s roots can be traced back to December 2019 when Xu Jiayin, the chairman and billionaire founder of NEVS’ owner, Evergrande Group, gave the team at NEVS a sketch and ordered them to create a project that outlined the benefits of in-wheel “or hub-mounted” motors. And they had to do it all from scratch in just 8 to 10 months.

The small team of former Saab engineers immediately got to work, excited to transform ideas that have been looming in their heads for more than a decade into a real product. Working off of the initial sketch, the designers and engineers created an extremely Saab-like car: quirky, and probably ahead of its time.

To build the powertrain, NEVS tapped a U.K.-based automotive tech company called Protean Electric. Protean is known for its electric-drive systems which combine the drive unit, electronics, wheel bearing, brakes, and other components into a hub-mounted platform, which was a key goal in building Emily. The engineering firm was able to build an in-wheel motor system that outputs 121 hp and 1,100 pound-feet of torque all inside a package that fits within an 18-inch wheel. Have something larger than that? Well, good news, because the larger the wheel, the more power you can get.

Emily’s goal wasn’t to be the most powerful car on the road, though it was pretty peppy. In total, the standard car made 484 combined horsepower and could dart from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. NEVS also reportedly built a prototype performance version of Emily which offered 653 horsepower and a 60-mph sprint of just 3 seconds.

Each hub motor weighs in at just under 80 pounds (that’s 320 pounds in total). Comparatively, the standard rear drive unit in a Tesla Model S weighs in at around 290 pounds and the front at 200 pounds, or a combined weight of 55% more than the hub motor configuration, not counting axles or other components.

NEVS wasn’t the only modern company to explore in-wheel motors either. Defunct startup Lordstown Motors saw similar benefits with a hub-motor configuration in its Endurance pickup. So did Rivian in its R1T and R1S. The tech itself is more than a century old and can be traced back to the early days of Ferdinand Porsche and beyond. In a sedan configuration, NEVS’ designers also explored the potential of a three-row seating configuration, which was made possible by removing the hard constraints set by having an inboard motor and axles. It also allowed for better aerodynamics thanks to a lower-slung roofline, less weight, and less energy consumption.

Speaking of energy consumption now is a great time to talk about just how far Emily can travel on a single charge: 621 miles. The 1,000-kilometer barrier is a big one to break. It wasn’t until last year that Mercedes-Benz announced its EQXX concept would deliver a similar number from a major automaker—and NEVS built Emily three years prior.

You might be wondering how NEVS managed to get so much range out of its new sedan. The answer isn’t just efficiency, it’s also battery capacity. The Swedes managed to fit an incredible amount of usable energy storage in Emily; 175 kWh in total. And, engineers managed to do this without increasing the car’s wheelbase or its overall ride height.

An unexpected benefit of in-wheel motors is being able to fit additional battery capacity in the floor space where inboard electric motors would normally sit. Occupying the space where the rear drive unit would normally be installed is a 39-kilowatt-hour battery pack. This, plus the standard floor-mounted pack, brings Emily’s total capacity to 175 kWh, or enough energy to travel 621 miles on a single charge.

Obviously, the larger battery capacity does come with some downsides. The first is weight. While it’s not told just how much the vehicle or its battery pack weighs, we’re going to guess that it’s not a feather. The new 4680-cell battery pack in the Texas-built Tesla Model Y has about 70 kWh of capacity. It weighs in at just under 1,200 pounds or 17 pounds per kWh. Using this same formula, one could predict that the Emily’s pack may have weighed in close to 3,000 pounds, though this is an extremely rough estimate. Higher vehicle weight also means less efficiency and more wear on moving components.

The second downside to larger battery capacity is increased price. All of those cells quickly run up the tab. The U.S. EPA estimates that the cost per kWh was approximately $153 in 2022, meaning that Emily’s battery pack could cost more than $26,700. It’s not clear if NEVS planned a smaller-capacity battery pack for the EV.

Despite the company’s uncertain future and long idle time, the team behind Emily worked long hours, fueled by motivation and passion alone. They created this low, wide, and incredibly sporty EV with a clear Scandinavian influence, truly capturing what a Saab may have looked like if it were around today.

“We put a lot of passion and effort [into the] Emily EV but the dream never got the green light due to Evergrande,” wrote Hirash Razaghim, the lead creative who did most of the exterior design on the Emily, in a Facebook comment. “Everybody did their best with the super compressed time schedule we had and the result was rewarding. Pity that it has been under the cover for [the] past two years.”

Unfortunately, the Saab dream seems to have died once again as NEVS shuttered its production division. Earlier this year, the company went into “hibernation” mode, laying off 95% of its workforce and dimming the lights at its production facility in Trollhattan. Whether or not Emily will serve to be the base of another car one day is still to be seen, but it very well may have been Saab’s final send-off from beyond the grave.

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