Flashback Friday: More Saturn "Did You Know?" Facts

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A few weeks ago, in another episode of "Flashback Friday," I posted some not-so-well-known Saturn trivia bits. Folks seemed to enjoy taking a look back at Saturn while testing their knowledge of both the company and cars of yesterday. As a result of the feedback, I've compiled another list of "Did You Know?" Saturn trivia facts for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

  • Saturn created a recycling program to help it dispose of painted polymer body panels and fascias. This was not only good for the environment, but it made good business sense. Regrinding and reusing plastic eliminated the cost of raw materials as well as the cost of disposal.
  • A key to recycling was the ability to separate materials and prepare them for reprocessing. For example, car seats were often made by embedding the springs into the foam padding. Saturn kept foam and springs separate, making components easy to separate for recycling at the end of the car's life.
  • Reprocessing and recycling have been designed into the manufacturing process. More than 35 percent of each Saturn built in Spring Hill was made from recycled materials, including recycled steel from the space frame, aluminum in the engine and wheels, and reprocessed polymers for body panels.
  • From 1995-2000, Saturn recycled more than 250,000 tons of waste.
  • During the manufacturing process, the paint shop represents a car plant's biggest environmental challenge, mainly because solvent-borne paints pose a threat to air and water quality. Consequently, Saturn's Spring Hill plant was among the first in the U.S. auto industry to use water-based paints. Once the Wilmington assembly center was chosen to build the new L-Series cars, Saturn made a significant financial investment to upgrade the paint shop at Wilmington to a water-borne system as well.
  • All Saturn engines meet nationwide 100,000-mile hydrocarbon emissions requirements.
  • Since 1994, all Saturn air conditioning systems have used chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerant.
  • Virtually all of Saturn's painted and unpainted polymer scrap was reground and remolded to create new products. Some of Saturn's scrap polymer was recycled into faux marble countertops. Other scrap was made into wheel-well liners and rocker panels.
  • In 1994, Saturn introduced a program to all of its North American retailers allowing them to return damaged bumper fascias for recycling. The program doesn't cost much since Saturn's transportation partner, Ryder, picks up the parts at the retailer during normal runs. This was one of the first commercial examples of closed-loop auto-parts recycling in North America.
  • Saturn, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Design for the Environment Program, and the University of Tennessee's Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies entered into a partnership in June 1999, which promoted cleaner production practices and pollution reduction throughout the life cycle of Saturn vehicles. The partnership focuses on recyclability of supplier parts used in Saturn vehicles. This new partnership built upon the gains made by a previous and ongoing partnership, which focused on the recyclability of vehicle parts produced by Saturn itself. Another primary benefit was that relatively small gains in environmental performance achieved at one company can be magnified greatly when applied over the 400 company Saturn supply chain.
  • Of all the Saturn recycling and reprocessing efforts, one of the most dramatic was the "Zero Packaging Waste to Landfill" program at the Wilmington assembly center. "No shipping materials – plastic, stretch wrap, cardboard, or wooden pallets go to the landfill," says Vince Alexander, environmental coordinator at Wilmington. "We return it to the vendor for reuse, or recycle it."
  • At the time, the Wilmington plant hadn't sent any shipping aids or packaging materials to a landfill in two years. "Before that, we sent over 3.5 tons of plastic caps, which protect tie rod ends during shipping, to the landfill every month. We also sent 300 tons of cardboard, a vast quantity of wood, and countless tons of packaging refuse," Alexander explains.
  • Wooden pallets were reprocessed and made into park benches.
  • Plastic was melted down and turned into infiltrator systems used in 46 states and Canada to filter septic and run-off water. All steel and cardboard were sent out for recycling, too. "We have only one container of waste each day. It consists mainly of discarded food," Alexander says.
  • In lieu of an engine and transmission, GM EV1 sold at one time by Saturn had what its engineers called a traction system. A battery pack assembly replaced the fuel tank, and powered a 137 horsepower (102 kW) AC induction motor that converted energy stored in the battery pack to the torque needed for propulsion.
  • Like conventional cars, the EV1 propulsion system was lubricated with 56-ounces of oil and cooled with a water-antifreeze solution. However, no routine maintenance was necessary during a 100,000-mile service life.
  • Unlike a piston engine, the EV1's torque was maximum at zero rpm for excellent acceleration from a stop light.
  • No shifting was necessary in the EV1 because the motor spins almost inaudibly to over 13,000 rpm at a governed maximum road speed of 80 mph.
  • Less energy was wasted when the EV1 was stopped because its propulsion system doesn't "idle" like a conventional car.
  • The EV1's batteries were replenished by means of a charge port at the front of the car. Its "Magne Charge" system used an inductive coupler to provide a safe, reliable, and durable electrical connection. A 1.2kW convenience charger carried in the trunk could restore a full charge in 15 hours. The standard charger module for home use was a 6.6kW wall-mounted or floor-standing device that did the same job in about three hours.
  • Saturn doubled its internet advertising budget in 2000 (compared to 1999).
  • When Saturn added it's second car (the midsize L-Series), the company will split its target audience: S-Series cars will be targeted at the ages 18-34; L-Series models will be targeted at the ages 35-49.
  • Two separate target audiences changed the way Saturn bought magazine ad space. For instance, ads for the 2000 S-Series cars were printed in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Elle, and Vibe. L-Series ads were be shown in Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure magazines.
  • Saturn's Wilmington, Delaware manufacturing facility was publicly labeled a "Saturn" plant on May 18, 1999.
  • The 2.2L 4-cylinder engine used to power base LS, LS1, LW1 cars was the first product of GM's new Powertrain division. The engine was the first of a series of new engine families to come from GM in the next few years.
  • Saturn engineers reduced the energy required to spin the engine's crankshaft by putting aero "wings" on the counterweights. The wings not only help the shaft spin easily through air space in the crankcase, but they also help direct the oil to flow down specially shaped passages into the oil pan.
  • Both the 2.2L 4-cylinder and the 3.0L V6 engines used replaceable cartridge oil filters, as opposed to the traditional spin-off filters.

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