Thanks for the info and advice. I'm apparently not as much a car guy as i thought - or just getting old and senile... Turns out the battery in question is a maintenance free one, just with big elevated caps and a drain tube. I suppose that makes sense when taken in the context of what I am finding to be the Saab design philosophy - redundancy and conservative margins in design engineering. An FSM i got says the heavy-duty covered battery box is to keep the battery from getting hot, as is the dedicated air intake to the box from the front grill. The extraordinarily vented battery i suppose is just in case the battery gets hot anyway, and can then easily vent its gases (out the tube). I didn't know it got so hot in Sweden?!
I put a new battery in from Advance Auto (specs call for exactly the same type/style as oem), and car is fine now.