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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 clovell on 1/9/2008 12:37:00 PM , Rating: 2
Just remember that not all Hybrids are created equal.

While the Provoq wouldn't be a bad comparison to a Prius, the Volt is a different beast. The Prius is a parallel hybrid - both electric motors and a gasoline engine directly give power to the Synergy Drive (Transmission) which goes to the wheels. There are far more moving parts involved since you essentially have a sort of Siamese drivetrain.

The Volt is a serial hybrid. It uses a 1.0L 3 cylinder turbocharged generator (among others - the Volt design will allow for gasoline, deisel, ethanol, and hydrogen generators) - it runs within the powerband at all times and does not give any power to the wheels or the transmission - it's only job is to recharge the batteries. The generator is never subject to shifting loads. What drives the wheels (via a transmission, I suppose) is the electric motor. True, it's going to need maintenance, but nothing like that of an ICE. As for regenerative braking, I haven't heard any plans to have that feature on the Volt - at least not as a standard feature.

Myself, I like the Volt. It's a fairly simple concept, and I don't think it would be too difficult to perform regular maintenance on it myself - it's not like Volvo's (read as Ford's) upcoming serial hybrid, with places motors in the wheels. I also like the styling, and the fact that it has four-dours (wife will be more likely to actaully let me get one). I don't see it as a money sink after purchase, but I hope they can price it reasonably.

RE: Props to GM
By Hoser McMoose on 1/10/2008 1:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
What drives the wheels (via a transmission, I suppose) is the electric motor.

As best as I can tell there is no transmission on the Chevy Volt. If it has a transmission at all it would be a VERY simple on.
As for regenerative braking, I haven't heard any plans to have that feature on the Volt

Regenerative braking is indeed a standard feature on the Volt. It really only makes sense on any vehicle with any sort of electrical drivetrain. Even some non-hybrids are starting to use regenerative breaking, such as the BMW 1-series which uses the energy from breaking to power it's electrical systems.

RE: Props to GM
By theapparition on 1/10/2008 9:11:56 AM , Rating: 2
Yes there is a transmission. You need some sort of torque multiplication at the wheels.
Many cars on the road today have a 1st gear final drive ratio of anywhere from 10-15.
For a final drive ratio of 10, that means it spins the tires 10x slower than the engine/motor, but increases torque 10x. Without that, acceleration performance would be incredibly bad. The other gears are there, obviously, to increase speed, since you won't get too far in 1st gear.
There are such devices known as stepping motors. Basically, they are motors with integrated transmissions. However you look at it, there will be some sort of transmission in the Volt.

RE: Props to GM
By masher2 (blog) on 1/10/2008 10:16:22 AM , Rating: 2
> "Yes there is a transmission. You need some sort of torque multiplication at the wheels."

Correction: an IC engine needs torque multiplication. An electric motor does not. Its peak torque lies at the bottom of the RPM range.

The EV1 had no transmission...I can certainly see the Volt not having one.

RE: Props to GM
By theapparition on 1/14/2008 11:36:54 AM , Rating: 2
Wrong. You still need torque multiplication. While there may not be a transmission, per se, there is at least a differential or transaxle to provide gearing. The EV1 also had this.

Even a similar performing base Honda Civic can achieve over 1200ft-lbs at the wheels in the low RPM range. Here's the specs on the EV1:

Configuration: Transverse-mounted, front-wheel drive
Motor Type: Three-phase, alternating current (AC) induction, electric
Power Rating: 102 kilowatts (137 horsepower) @ 7,000 rpm
Motor Torque: 150 Nm (110 lb-ft) @ 0-7,000 rpm
Transaxle Type : Single-speed with dual reduction gears
Drive Ratio: 10:946:1

Final torque at the wheels: 1204ft-lbs

RE: Props to GM
By clovell on 1/10/2008 5:39:38 PM , Rating: 2
You're right about the brakes - I had forgotten that they would be standard.

I wasn't sure about the transmission part, which you can kind of see from my remarks, but my point was that the electric motor was the only force driving the wheels.

RE: Props to GM
By elessar1 on 1/11/2008 8:25:11 AM , Rating: 2
...and it will have less moving parts than a conventional ICE or a parallel hibryd...

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