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Chevrolet Volt  (Source: Brandon Hill, DailyTech)

Cadillac Provoq  (Source: Brandon Hill, DailyTech)

  (Source: Brandon Hill, DailyTech)
GM uses CES to display its highly computerized automobiles

When it comes to General Motors vehicles with advanced powertrains, the Chevrolet Volt led the charge. The attractive four-door sedan uses a lithium-ion battery pack to travel 40 miles on a charge. It can also be plugged into a household outlet to charge over night.

Yesterday, GM announced its Cadillac Provoq concept vehicle, another plug-in, which couples the E-Flex propulsion system with the company's fifth generation fuel cell stack. GM CEO Rick Wagoner today rolled the vehicle out on stage at CES alongside the Volt during his keynote address.

Wagoner stated that the Provoq and its successors are the second big card in GM's hand in terms of protecting the environment, and saving consumers thousands in fuel expenses. Wagoner stated, "The auto industry can no longer depend entirely on oil... It is critical as both a business necessity and as an obligation to society to develop alternative energy."

Developing alternative energy, performing desirably, and looking good at the same time are among the Provoq's abilities.

The Provoq features two 10,000 psi composite storage tanks under the rear cargo floor which store the hydrogen. The dual tanks feed the fuel cell stack which in turn provides up to 88 kW of power. The 9 kWh lithium-ion battery pack powers a 70 kW co-axial motor which powers the front wheels while a single 40 kW motor is mounted in the hub of each rear wheel.

Thanks to its advanced powertrain, the Provoq can travel 300 miles with a full load of hydrogen -- it can travel a total of 20 miles on battery power alone. Likewise, the Provoq can reach 60 MPH in just 8.5 seconds and race to a top speed of 100 MPH.

GM also added additional touches which may find their way into future fuel cell and hybrid vehicles. The Provoq contains solar panels on the roof which are used to power electrical accessories within the vehicle. The front grill features louvers which remain open under low speeds to provide maximum cooling for the fuel cell stack, yet close to create a more streamlined shape for optimum aerodynamic performance. Finally, the Provoq features charging ports on either side of the vehicle ahead of the front doors -- this makes it more convenient to charge the vehicle at home.

While the fuel cell technology is definitely an incredible achievement for GM's Advanced Systems Integration team, the Provoq also foreshadows the styling of the next generation Cadillac SRX crossover utility vehicle (CUV).

The current generation SRX is built on the previous generation Cadillac CTS chassis. The second generation CTS was recently launched which means that the SRX is due for its own makeover. The fact that the Provoq looks very close to production-ready and that the interior looks like a heavily stylized version of the second generation CTS' interior leads to the pretty obvious observation.

DailyTech asked two members of the Chevrolet Volt team about the relationship between the Provoq and the second generation SRX -- they looked at each other with a smile and laughed knowingly, although their official stance was a textbook "no comment."

In addition to the Provoq, Wagner also talked up GM's OnStar system which will have the ability to slow down a vehicle at the request of pursuant law enforcement in the event of a vehicle theft. Offiers can call OnStar which can then beam a signal to the car's engine control unit (ECU) – the vehicle then safely slows to a stop while a pleasant voice tells the driver to steer the vehicle to the shoulder and remain in the vehicle. That segment of the keynote got quite a rise from the crowd.

Theft deterrence was not the only new OnStar feature, however.  GM is developing a mobile phone OnStar application which will allow you with a simple click to unlock your car, start your engine, check your car's status, or even help you locate it in a parking lot by turning on your lights and beeping the horn.  In the case that you lost your phone, GM engineers personally assured DailyTech that would-be thieves would not get out of the parking lot -- the car won't shift into gear, even if pre-started unless the key is inserted.

Wagner also talked about the self-driving Chevrolet Tahoe which recently won the DARPA Urban Challenge and the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle which will soon be available to southern California and fortunate east coast residents.

DailyTech will have one-on-one sessions with both the DARPA Tahoe and the Equinox fuel cell vehicle along with the Chevrolet Volt tomorrow. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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RE: Props to GM
By mdogs444 on 1/9/2008 6:45:51 AM , Rating: 2
That just took all your savings from getting those extra 10mpg over the years.

Im with you on this. I just dont see the added several thousand dollar premium cost as outweighing the regular ICE version you could be getting for cheaper. Perhaps if fuel prices rise to $5, 7, 10 dollars a gallon, then perhaps. But at $3/gallon, if not cheaper, I am going to stay with my standard 250hp V6, and be satisfied with 20/29 for my mileage on a new car.
However, I think Ford's approach is going to beat everybody's, especially Toyota's.

Im not sold on Ford's approach either. I've turbocharged Audi's before, and I've got to tell you, not very reliable. For some reason, I just dont trust a turbo as being a reliable, every day driven vehicle. Perhaps its personal experience, or perhaps on false premise, but I wouldnt buy a Ford ecoboost turbo.
Volvo has legendary reliability in the turbo deisel

True, but how is the reliability on Ford gasoline engines?
that'll be a harder push on Americans

Agreed - many Americans will not want diesel. If they did, you'd see more Mercedes & Volkswagon diesels on the road, especially considering the Jetta is a cheap car.
Toyota thinks Hybrid is the future and wants it in everything, forgetting it is expensive to maintain and only Toyota can maintain it.

I highly doubt Toyota "forgot" that part ;-). But you know what, Toyota is the most reliable car on the road today (along with Honda) - so if they choose to go one route, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that its going to be reliable, until proven wrong.
Toyota, good luck. When your customers finally start doing the math, your doomed unless you start using better battery technology ASAP.

Although I do not like Hybrid, nor will I buy one, I still do not agree with your assessment of Toyota. People buy Toyota because they know it has a high resale value, and the dependability of their cars are next to none (besides Honda). They will not lose buyers because of a small increase in price.

RE: Props to GM
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 6:55:07 AM , Rating: 2
I think the main reason people don't go to diesel is

a) negative attitude associated with it (noisy, smelly, etc) despite it not being true anymore.

b) the extremely high cost of diesel in many urban areas. Diesel around here is typically a quarter more than premium.

I honestly wouldn't mind a diesel car even with the high cost if the power was there along with the mileage to make me use less fuel. The biggest problem is that there aren't any diesel cars I want to buy. I don't want a Volkswagen. I'm sorry but the Jetta is a chick car. And I can't afford a Mercedes.

If in some alternate reality GM would sell a turbocharged V8 diesel Camaro putting down at least 300 hp and monster torque, oh yeah I'd buy it. The front end would be heavy as sh*t but I'd buy it.

RE: Props to GM
By VIAN on 1/9/2008 8:19:37 AM , Rating: 1
I would also like to see a bunch of turbocharged 4 cylinder engines on the road because they are more efficient than naturally aspirated. I don't know how reliable they are, but Audi isn't a good example of a reliable car.

Diesel will never get adopted. Vokswagen was supposed to release a diesel Jetta here, but it's price would be more expensive than the Prius, it wouldn't achieve as great a fuel economy, and you'd have to pay more for fuel.

RE: Props to GM
By thereverendmaynard on 1/9/2008 9:22:45 AM , Rating: 3
Diesel will never get adopted. Vokswagen was supposed to release a diesel Jetta here, but it's price would be more expensive than the Prius, it wouldn't achieve as great a fuel economy, and you'd have to pay more for fuel.

What are you talking about? VW has a ton of diesel Jettas, Passats, Golfs/Rabits etc. I paid 21k for my loaded 03 Jetta Wagon TDI, (with 0.9% financing) and it gets ~ 50MPG. Great, I pay more 20% more than regular for diesel (3.50/gal), but look at the mileage I get.

Maint is also a piece of cake (I do it all myself) and the longevity of a diesel is much better than a gasser. In addition, I have the option of running biodiesel (which I can have delivered to my house for 3.59 a gal)

Here in the North East, I see a ton of TDI's on the road. If you are in a CARB state, then you have to wait until the 50 state legal diesels are available (already with the MB, soon with the VW) But you could always buy used.

RE: Props to GM
By VIAN on 1/10/2008 9:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
VW may have Diesels on the road, but its current lineup does not have any Diesel cars, just one SUV.

The VW Jetta Diesel 2008 was estimated to cost about 23,000 in new condition. In the tri-state area, Diesel is 16% more expensive than Regular Gasoline. Early reports estimated the MPG of this Jetta to be 41mpg combine. There is no concrete evidence to suggest better mpg. Although, more recently, the VW website anticipates that it has 51mpg, a full 10mpg over the original estimates. We'll see.

In contrast, the Prius costs about 21,000 in new condition and gets 47mpg combined. If the new mpg estimates are true, then Diesel might have a good chance, otherwise it won't.

RE: Props to GM
By Spuke on 1/9/2008 9:54:54 AM , Rating: 2
Im not sold on Ford's approach either. I've turbocharged Audi's before, and I've got to tell you, not very reliable. For some reason, I just dont trust a turbo as being a reliable, every day driven vehicle.
No offense but I wouldn't trust you turbocharging my car either. I would trust Ford, GM, Toyota, or even Hyundai's turbo cars. There's not much R&D in a garage job but there's millions of man hours and dollars in a factory effort. The Japanese have tons of turbo cars and they are just as reliable as non-turbo one's. You have Audi, Saab, Volvo, Porsche, and Nissan just to name a few that have decades of experience here.

RE: Props to GM
By mdogs444 on 1/9/2008 10:38:39 AM , Rating: 2
LOL - i think i typed it wrong. I did not personally turbocharge my car. I meant that I owned a turbocharge audi - a 1.8T Quattro.

I wouldnt trust myself working on a motor either.

RE: Props to GM
By Spuke on 1/9/2008 12:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
LOL - i think i typed it wrong. I did not personally turbocharge my car.
It did read funny. What kind of problems were you having with the turbo? A turbo is a mechanical device and a simple one at that. I find it hard to believe that there would be many turbo failures.

RE: Props to GM
By mdogs444 on 1/9/2008 12:20:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well mine was an 02, and according to the Audi mechanics at my local dealership, most have to have the timing belt, fuel injectors, and many other parts replaced early (at 60k) due to the strain that the turbo puts on the motor. Im no mechanic, so it may be B.S - but the audi was the only turbo i've had, and in all: injectors blew at 55k, timing belt needed replaced at 60k, intake manifold needed replaced at 60k. Im sure i can pull up more receipts, but that car had more mechanical & electrical issues than any car i've ever seen. could've been a lemon though. But i prefer a basic motor that i can still work on a bit - as opposed to the new technology that even most mechanics can't fix.

RE: Props to GM
By FITCamaro on 1/9/2008 12:55:47 PM , Rating: 2
In that case get a 69 Camaro with a carbed 350. :)

Nice big wide engine bay. No computers. You need about 10 tools to work on the entire car.

RE: Props to GM
By Moishe on 1/9/2008 2:37:04 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly, it's not the turbo, it's the Audi.
I was in the market for an Audi not that long ago and did a bunch of research. As nice as those cars are, they've had a real problem with reliability in the past few years.

RE: Props to GM
By Spuke on 1/9/2008 2:41:34 PM , Rating: 2
You might see some stresses to the internal components but the timing belt and injectors? Timing belts are usually changed at 60k on any car. That's normal. The weird things are the intake manifold and the injectors. Intake manifolds don't go bad. It's just of hunk of metal to allow air into the engine. Unless they punched a hole in it when trying to fix something else.

Those mechanics fed you a line of crap. The car was designed to be boosted from the factory so Audi would take that into account when designing the motor.

BTW, I've heard other people complain about Audi's and VW's quality so these problems don't surprise me.

RE: Props to GM
By mdogs444 on 1/9/2008 4:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
I've heard other people complain about Audi's and VW's quality so these problems don't surprise me.

Only wish I had known that years ago. The electrical system was a nightmare. The external temperature sensor was linked to the interior digital temperature control. The external sensor always blew, so when it did, this is what would happen (as an example):

Its 90 degrees outside. Temperature sensor went bad, and read -40 degrees. Put A/C on, but blows in 90 degree air - since the computer thinks its can use the cold air from outside instead.

From what I understand and read on multiple Audi forums, this is a common issue. So is engine sludge, early timing belt breakage around 60k miles (when recommended per manual is 90k), window motors breaking (mine did, and bumped window off track & shattered inside the door panel). The list goes on. It really turned me off to this idea of "german luxury" engineering.

RE: Props to GM
By MrX8503 on 1/9/2008 2:57:20 PM , Rating: 2
Turbos are forced induction. Forced being the keyword here. Theoretically a turbo charged engine would be less reliable than a non-turbo charged one. Unless the cylinder walls are thick enough, a turbo charged engine would be less reliable by nature of forcing more pressure into the engine to create more horsepower.

On another note, diesel engines would theoretically be less reliable than gas engines because diesel uses high pressures to ignite the gas/air mixture, whereas gas engines uses a spark plug. Pressure ignition is a lot more efficient because it ignites every molecule resulting in better mileage, but it puts an incredible strain on the engine from high pressures.

RE: Props to GM
By masher2 on 1/9/2008 4:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
> "diesel engines would theoretically be less reliable than gas engines because diesel uses high pressures "

True. In practice, however, diesel engines are nearly always more reliable, because they're built to withstand those higher pressures.

> "Pressure ignition is a lot more efficient because it ignites every molecule... "

No. A diesel engine is more efficient because it runs off a higher temperature differential. The efficiency of a heat engine is based on the difference between its high and low temperatures.

RE: Props to GM
By theapparition on 1/10/2008 8:47:16 AM , Rating: 2
So wrong I don't even know where to begin.

Forced inductions (Turbo/Superchargers) are certainly more harsh on engines, and the cylinders have to cope with much higher pressures. However, no engine I've ever seen has had a direct cylinder wall failure from pressure. You'll usually get piston/rod or head/valve problems before every having to worry about cylinder integrity. In fact, usually the only reason a cylinder wall gets damaged is from failure of the other components (like a snapped valve being thrown around the clyinder at 6500RPM), or from very high heat, which forced inductions are prone to. There are ways to combat heat, like both my SC cars have meth injection.

Turbo's are far less reliable because they use exhaust pressure (very high heat) to spool a turbine. Those turbines spin at very high speeds to make any appreciable boost. ANYTIME you spin something faster, it is prone to wear out sooner. That's a core tenent of mechanical engineering. Bearings wear out faster, material fatigues quicker, etc. Add the high heat were dealing with and that only accelerates this effect. Plus, oil can cook in the turbos if driven too hard.

Many reasons that turbos are far less reliable than NA engines, but cyliner wall integrity is not one of them.

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