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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 Hoser McMoose on 1/10/2008 1:34:42 AM , Rating: 2
These Hybrids are a complete maintenance nightmare.

* THESE * hybrids (or at least the Volt and Provoq) bear little resemblance to a Toyota Prius mechanically. They will have a totally different set of maintenance requirements when compared to conventional ICE engines. They will need battery replacements every 10 years or so, but they will either have no transmission at all or a VERY simple transmission. The engine (generator) will be significantly less complex as well and should be much cheaper to maintain.
So, I'm glad to see hydrogen technology kicking up with GM vehicles.

Don't get too excited! All hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be hydrogen/electric 'hybrids' (of a sort), so they'll still have all the issues you're worried about PLUS the fuel cells themselves are likely to be extraordinarily expensive, both in terms of up-front costs and maintenance costs.
Ford's plan is to make smaller, efficient, turbo-charged engines that sip fuel.

Err, Ford's plan is hardly unique! There are plenty of car companies that make turbo charged engines. In fact, the standard configuration for the Chevy Volt will use a turbocharged gasoline generator. Toyota also makes several very good turbo-diesels (not sold in North America) and have, in the past, made several turbo gasoline vehicles as well.

As with almost everything in the automotive industry turbochargers have their pros and cons. Certainly if you're worried about maintenance costs then turbos are NOT what you should be after!
Honda plans to go the deisel route, which is almost as good as Fords solution

Honda was one of the last car companies to go the diesel route in any significant way. We don't see many of them in North America due to our low gas prices and more stringent emission restrictions, but in Europe companies like Ford, GM, Toyota and others have plenty of diesel-engined cars. With the Europeans finally catching up to North America in terms of emission controls we may start seeing more of the next generation 'clean' diesels coming over to this side of the pond.

RE: Props to GM
By Spuke on 1/10/2008 12:55:35 PM , Rating: 2
The engine (generator) will be significantly less complex as well and should be much cheaper to maintain.
It has a turbocharger and more than likely will employ direct injection or HCCI tech. So I doubt it will be any less complex or cheaper to maintain than any other gas engine. It will still require oil and other fluid changes, air filter changes, tune-ups, hose replacements, timing belts, and etc. that all other gas engines require.

I think the car will be more expensive to maintain (remember you're having a dealership do the work) than a regular car in reality.

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