January 8, 2008 11:00 PM PST

GM unveils eco-friendly concept Cadillac

GM unveils eco-friendly concept Cadillac
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LAS VEGAS--General Motors' latest concept car is a Cadillac that could get 300 miles on a single tank and has nearly all the eco-friendly features you can think of.

The Provoq--the first concept car to get its premiere at CES--runs on a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium ion battery, according to GM CEO Rick Wagoner, who unveiled the car during a keynote speech Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show here. The car primarily runs on hydrogen, but uses the battery for peak power and storing electricity to extend the range. (The battery gets recharged from a wall socket.)

It is expected to get 300 miles on a tank of hydrogen, and the fuel cell--GM's fifth generation of fuel cells--is half the size of the last one, which increases internal room and storage. On the roof sits a solar panel for running the car's electronics.

Cadillac Provoq

To increase aerodynamics, shutters automatically cover up the air vents on the grill at high speeds.

"It will go up to 100 miles an hour and from zero to 60 in 8.5 seconds," Wagoner said.

The idea behind the Provoq is to extend some of the eco-friendly features GM has tinkered with in other concept cars into a luxury car. A shrinking supply of fossil fuels, environmental concerns, and rising demand for cars in emerging nations demand it. Global sales of cars hit 70 million units in 2007 and will grow to 85 million in five years.

Critics have complained that GM concentrates too much on gas guzzlers, while investors have noted that Toyota has grown at GM's expense with its efficient cars.

By 2012, half of the company's cars coming off the production line will be capable of running on either gas or E85, which contains 85 percent ethanol, Wagoner said.

"The automotive industry can no longer almost exclusively rely on oil to supply the world's transportation requirements," he said.

Still, Wagoner admitted in his speech and a meeting with reporters before the speech that finding ethanol now isn't easy. Only around 1,400 stations in the U.S. sell E85, while there are about 170,000 stations that sell gas in the country. GM will have eight types of hybrid cars on the road by the end of the year.

Nonetheless, GM has yet to release some of its fancier concepts such as a plug-in hybrid, and several years ago it killed an all-electric car, the EV1.

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the massive electronics show.

Wagoner also showed off the Chevy Volt, which GM hopes to roll out in 2010. The Volt runs on batteries that are recharged by a motor that runs on ethanol or gas.

"It has been remarkably difficult" to get ethanol pumps installed, he said during the reporter briefing. "We've been doing more work than I thought we would need to."

The U.S. will likely over time have to switch from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol made from grasses and wood chips. A lot of research will have to be performed on lithium ion batteries too, he added.

Electronics will also play an increasingly important role in car safety. GM's Onstar service, for instance, will get a new feature called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, which slows down a car that's been reported stolen.

Onstar already contains a feature that lets police track a car reported stolen with the onboard GPS system. Many times, however, police find the car thieves in the car. Rather than surrender, thieves often try to escape. In a given year, police conduct approximately 30,000 chases that result in 300 deaths.

With Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, after the stolen car is started, police can send a signal that will slow it to a stop. While slowing, a cheery automated voice begins to converse with the thieves.

"This vehicle is being slowed at the request of a law enforcement agency," the voice states. "Please remain inside the vehicle."

A lane departure system, which tells you when you are veering out of your lane, was recently installed in some 2008 Cadillacs.

In the future, GM will try to incorporate sensors and transponders in cars that will communicate with other cars and warn of traffic jams and potentially dangerous situations. Cars will slow automatically if the danger of an accident, unknown to the driver, has become imminent.

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Rick Wagoner, General Motors, concept car, fuel cell, Cadillac


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Fuel cell cost?
Exactly how much will a fuel cell with a range of 300 miles cost? As in, will it have a cost-per-mile comparable to gasoline? Or is GM betting that a luxury car such as this will attract customers willing to pay a premium for eco-friendliness?
Posted by No_Man (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Way too much.
Fuel cells and hydrogen both cost way too much to be practical, and there is no infrastructure to distribute hydrogen. Maybe in 10-20 years, but not today.

That's why this is a concept car and not something they intend to manufacture. The purpose is to learn what people think of its appearance and features.

Many people are baffled why manufactures keep distracting the public with fuel cells.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
Fuel cells are expensive
I couldn't quote you an exact number, but fuel cells are EXPENSIVE! Most estimates I've seen figure that, were ready for mass production now (they aren't) it would add between $50,000 and $100,000 to the cost of the vehicle.

For the hydrogen itself that will depend on the energy source used to get the hydrogen from. The only economical method of making hydrogen right now is by splitting it out of natural gas. This is reasonably cost-effective when compared to gasoline, depending on taxation levels and the price of natural gas vs. crude oil (currently strongly favouring natural gas, but that may change), though there are very non-trivial infrastructure issues. Also we're now just switching from one fossil fuel to the another.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Link Flag
The question I didn't see asked here is:
How green is the manufacturing process for the batteries, etc. My understanding is that if you take into account the hidden pollution - that caused by the manufacture of the compenents, not the operation of the vehicle, - that many of these cars are not that much more green than a good fuel efficient gas powered vehicle.
Posted by DigitalFrog (301 comments )
Link Flag
I believe it when I can buy one
I believe it when I can buy one. Until then, I also have a spacecraft that is powered by the magnetic field of the earth, so the cost of fuel is zero. When are these companies going to have a product??? 2008 cars are a COMPLETE JOKE. DONT BUY ANY OF THEM. Wait for companies to finally put green cars on the road. Meanwhile I am taking orders from my spacecraft.
Posted by yacahuma (530 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How kill the electric car? GM
Isnt this the company that killed the electric car?
Posted by yacahuma (530 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes. Also Ford and Toyota.
In addition to the auto-makers, the movie also points blame at consumers, oil companies, the federal government, and CARB.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
The electric car
There are MANY things the killed the electric car, GM played only a fair small part of it.

#1. In 1996 gas was cheap

#2. In 1996 batteries sucked. The lead-acid batteries of the first generation EV1 were TERRIBLE and the NiMH batteries of the second were merely awful (poor energy density, lots of waste for charge/discharge and poor cold weather performance... not to mention big-$$$). They might work ok for parallel hybrids like the Prius, but for a serial plug-in hybrid like the Volt or a pure battery electric vehicle they're a non-starter. It wasn't until Li-Ion batteries came around that they STARTED to become viable, and even today it's still the major stumbling block in building electric cars.

3. Lack of demand. Lets face it, the number of people who wanted a 2-seat vehicle that only had a 100-mile range and couldn't be recharged on the road was pretty limited, especially at a cost of $75,000+ (as mentioned above, those batteries were EXPENSIVE).

In the 1990s the electric car was a total market failure, so it's no surprise GM wasn't too happy with it and killed the project. It was only going to be a market "success" because California was going to force automakers to take a HUGE loss on some electric vehicles so that they were legally allowed to sell other profitable vehicles.

Looking back with hindsight being 20/20 I suspect GM kind of regrets TOTALLY killing off the program, even though it was a failure. If they had used the cars strictly for research purposes they probably would have been further ahead now when a plug-in hybrid DOES make sense. The last prototype of the EV1 actually had a drivetrain that was conceptually the same as the upcoming Volt. They could have perfected the design on an EV1 research vehicle and maybe brought out the Volt (or something similar) a year or two earlier.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Link Flag
Too little, too late! GM makes ugly cars...
except for the corvette. Cadillacs have to be one of the most ugliest vehicles ever designed and built. This is a car Americans should NOT be proud of and why GM lost an incredible market share over the past 20 years. Their designers absolutely live in the stone age. They could learn a thing or two from the Germans and Japanese on how to build an attractive and reliable vehicle.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stuck in the 80s I see
Try leaving your parents' basement. GM has made some strides in the past few years.
Posted by jrm125 (334 comments )
Link Flag
GM makes Ugly Cars
Very true. I was wondering for years why GM and others are making Cars that are not aesthetically attractive. They make huge Cars, with large engines, and mostly V-6, that consume lot of fuel and they drive lot of distances. A waste of natural resources, and a incredible life style. Also why they are still not accepting Diesel engines, though Europe have already accepted it. Some of the most beautiful and compact Cars come from, Japan, Germany, Italy and France
Posted by vinayababu (8 comments )
Link Flag
Volt skeptics are just dumb people
Having watched the development of the Volt via www.gm-volt.com, a non-official website with
previously unimaginable access to a GM development project, I have to laugh at the ignorance of those fools who really believe that there's a chance the Volt won't appear. Whether it makes its target launch date goal of late 2010, which GM has never "guaranteed" (as if anybody can guarantee the occurance of any event 3 years down the road!!) is of no matter. Any delay will be short unless there is some really unexpected development during battery testing that shows that the packs will not meet GM's lifespan requirement of at least 10 years. Any other delay will be the same as thsoe that frequently occur. I notice that Tesla has delayed their non-mass produced roadster for over 6 months. It is already several months overdue. It will fail. It has sold barely 650 cars in a year and a half and has tapped out its Hollywood millionaire customer base. The Fisker 2+2 sports car plug-in being debuted at this week's auto show is cheaper, is a practical car that is a legitimate alternative to a gasoline powered car, replicates the architecture of the Chevy Volt, looks better, runs faster and is a lot cheaper than the Tesla. Tesla has zero chances of competeting successfully against such a car. And with the Tesla, it's another $25,0000 battery pack every five years, whether you drive the car 100 miles or 100,000 miles.
I see that GM is grabbing all the honors this year at the show - 4 of the top 6 cars are from GM. None are from Toyota, which is very much the dysfunctional automaker these days. Looks like Toyota could stand an infusion of younger management - what's still there is on life-support.
Posted by theBike45 (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
recycling is the key
Fuel efficiency in automobiles is of course important to our survival as a species, and it is very encouraging that GM is pursuing this as aggressively as it has decided to, however Earth simply cannot support year on year growth in manufacturing and consumerism without a revolutionary commitment to recycling and reducing both manufacturing and consumption-- consider "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch".
Posted by Lsavagejt (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you crazy???
Hydrogen + fuel cell makes perfect sense.

Hydrogen is just a battery

Solar(or|and wind) + water = hydrogen

hydrogen + fuel cell = electricity
Nasa is being doing it from their first moon mission and there are a lot of DIY that have done it.

Please STOP MAKING HYDROGEN SOUND LIUKE THE MOST DIFFICULT THING TO DO. oil is dirty , gas engines are inefficient. The only reason we use gas is because a lot of people with money want us to use gas.

The only thing keep new tech in the labs is ignorant people like you.
Posted by yacahuma (530 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just because NASA does it?
> Nasa is being doing it from their first moon mission

LOL! Do you know how much NASA pays to get a gallon of gasoline into space?

Roughly $30,000. That's right, $30,000/gallon!

(1 gallon = 3kg, cost to get stuff into space is on the order of $10,000/kg).

If you're gasoline cost that much you would invest in alternatives too!
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Link Flag
Hydrogen fuel is still inefficient.
Producing gasoline is currently drop-easy and efficient when
compared to Hydrogen. This isn't marketing saying this - it's
science and mathematics.

Personally, why not just replace batteries with the latest in
capacitor tech? That way the relevant parts don't wear out so
fast, and you can simply plug in @ home (or at a charging
station), and have the thing topped-up and ready to go in less
than 10 minutes.

All future car tech is centering around electricity (except some
forms of the Tata, which uses compressed air). This means you
still need to concentrate on producing that electricity cleanly...
which is a separate problem we can tackle as we need to.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Using the "Wrong Technologies"
Nikola Tesla the Greatest Inventor of the last century had invented the Technologies to run cars & power stations without fuel one Century ago and these technologies might still be classified top secret immediately after his death. It is time to resurrect Nikola Tesla's life-works to produce electrical power without fuel and sharing them as it was intended by the Greatest Inventor himself.

Stanley Meyer had invented the Technology to turn Water into unlimited amount of fuel for making Unlimited Power Supply and to run cars and all internal combustion engines with HHO "on demand basis only" and so no storage of the HHO gases is required as it is safer & cheaper to store water instead, but unfortunately he was murdered. He had about more than 40 patents in this Technology. No one Car/Technology Company has pursued this technology further by buying up his technology and put them to good use to save our this planet Earth from Global Warming causing adversed climatic changes and disasters and hardship owing to unlimited and unrestrained use of Fossil Oils and Fuels, thus releasing & emitting enormous quantities of green house gases into the atmosphere. I think some company like Google should buy this Patented Technologies from Stanley Meyer's family and make this open source technology for the world to improve on and make good use of this Technology to save our world call Planet Earth.

Also those Zero Fuel Technologies invented by Nikola Tesla should be declassified and resurrected by the next President of USA to run cars and power-stations to save our Planet Earth from destruction and doom owing to unlimited and unrestrained use of Fossil Oils and Fuels for the whole of last Century. Our World the planet earth must be saved from the exploits of greed of the vested self interests of the fossil oil & fuels producers that pumped the unlimited amount of Greenhouse gases into our common atmosphere for the last century.
Posted by K A Cheah (241 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Kooky Bananas Crowd Speaks Up
As the theory goes, one very smart fellah invented a solution to
the energy crisis, but was killed by the evil oil companies to
keep us enslaved (and their profits increasing) forever.


This is yet another "perpetual motion machine" idea, which
science has long proven impossible. These kooks, who know
nothing of the laws of thermodynamics, are the first to postulate
the existence of technologies that could give us "unlimited
power supply", but are being suppressed by our oil overlords.
Yeah, well where's the proof?

To these conspiracy theorists I say put up or shut up. Make a
web site, post your evidence (better yet - a diagram) and
demonstrate the validity of your claims. I'd even be happy with a
simple patent that documents the process.

It will never happen. You can't prove anything scientifically if
you don't know the first thing about the scientific method. And
these guys are not so much UP on the scientific method as they
are about making wild, unsubstantiated claims.
Posted by montex66 (370 comments )
Link Flag
Fuel cells waste of time - - plug in hybrids the way to go
Hydrogen fuels cells cost a fortune, require a new fuel delivery infrastructure, use way too much platinum and using renewables like solar and wind to make hydrogen is way too inefficient.

Plug in hybrids work TODAY, are more efficient and allow us to use renewables to power our cars. Plus with vehicle to grid, we can solve the intermittent nature of renewables, backing up the power grid with batteries for when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine. Once prices come down, charging stations are ubiqitous and batteries become better and cheaper, move from plug in hybrids to full electric vehicles.

So why this big push towards hydrogen by people like President Bush? Because, hydrogen won't be made from renewables, it will be made from coal, natural gas, oil, etc. It's a way of pretending to be "green" while making sure the same corporations that profit today profit tomorrow.
Posted by Clouseau2 (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hydrogen fuel cells will be the next best thing--in 50 years.

And plug in hybrids are a band aid solution. California, better start stocking up on candles now!

Bio-fuels (cellulosic ethanol and algae biodiesel) offer this countries only means of sustainable energy.

The environmental impact of a fuel that can be engineered like ethanol can be minimized. Ethanol burns far cleaner than gas, and the tecnological advances that will allow 100% ethanol to be used as a fuel in all climates are far closer than the solutions to any of the other choices.
Posted by Maetrix66 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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