2008 Cadillac Provoq Concept

January 8, 2008

Cadillac's Provoq hydrogen fuel-cell powered concept goes on display next week at the 2008 Detroit auto show, as General Motors mounts a systemic blitz of PR ranging from the introduction of the Provoq and and Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid, to the perhaps somewhat less earth-friendly Corvette ZR1.

The Provoq concept looks like that same 2008 Saturn Vue on glamour steroids. And that's not a bad thing. Its lines are smooth, and it looks fall within the realm of believability, even if its propulsion technology is not yet ready for volume production.

Styling is one of this concept's strong points, and its face certainly looks to be a member of the Cadillac family. With a wheelbase of 110 inches (3.4 inches longer than the Vue) and an overall length of 190 inches (ten inches longer than the Vue), the concept Caddy is a true mid-size SUV. In essence it’s a thinly disguised look at GM’s new compact crossover architecture, with versions being slated for Cadillac and Saab and perhaps other GM divisions.

Optimized for low aerodynamic drag (a key to the future success of electrically-powered hybrids), the nose of the hybrid features a computer-controlled grille that opens as cooling is needed for the powertrain. The undercarriage features a wind-tunnel designed belly pan, and the function rear spoiler helps reduce drag by enabling a smooth release of air off the SUV's roof.

The powertrain is the fifth generation version of General Motor's hydrogen fuel-cell stack. (The fourth generation is presently powering a fleet of 100 hydrogen Chevrolet Equinox SUVs that GM has put into a testing rotation with people in California, New York, and Washington.)

This next-gen version is one-third smaller than what's on the road now, and its hydrogen fuel cell can provide a continuous output of 88 kilowatts. This juice is channeled to three electric motors. One 70kW unit drives the front wheels, and each rear wheel has its own 30kW unit. The motors should deliver 0-60 mph times of about 8.5 seconds with a governed top speed of 100 mph, if they enter production.

The hydrogen is stored in two 10,000-psi tanks that hold 6 kilograms each, and the quick-fill feature works similarly to the Equinox test fleet. The Provoq also incorporates a plug-in feature that pre-charges the lithium-ion batteries so that the vehicle has maximum electric power when you leave the garage every morning.

Another advance that will become standard among electrically motivated vehicles is the Provoq's drive-by-wire brakes. This enables a computer to select and adjust a balance of regenerative braking power versus traditional hydraulic braking power. The system is capable of instantly shifting from 100 percent of one to 100 percent of the other depending on dynamic circumstances. The goal, of course, is to implement as much "regen" braking as possible so that braking energy can be used to recharge the batteries.

Among automotive engineers, industry watchers, politicians, and other pundits, there's consensus that one day we'll all be driving hydrogen-powered vehicles.  The consensus evaporates as soon as somebody asks, "When?" The truth is that while vehicles like the Provoq (and the more prolific fuel-cell Equinox SUV) represent movement in the right direction. Collectively, they apply pressure to those in business and government to hustle on down the path to the nirvana of a hydrogen economy. Estimates of when we'll have a hydrogen economy with convenient refueling stations are all over the map, but all of them say that we're decades away.

Until we get there, vehicles like this new Cadillac help provoke (sorry) more thought and resources toward making it all happen.


2008 Detroit Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (12/18/2007)
Ford F-150, Hyundai Genesis and Corvette ZR1.

2009 Saturn Vue Green Line 2 Mode Preview by Rex Roy (1/6/2008)
GM’s two-mode hybrid slots into the Vue.

2008 HUMMER HX Concept by TCC Team (12/10/2007)
GM goes Jeeping with its all-American brand.

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Preview by TCC Team (12/19/2007)
A supercar by any name.

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