A speech from General Motor’s Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner at the Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday night was the first keynote from a car maker at CES in 41 years. We chatted with GM’s VP of R&D, Lawrence D. Burns, on Monday, and we just read over the transcripts of Wagoner’s speech from Las Vegas. While Wagoner’s talk was mostly a variety show of the company’s alternative vehicle solutions, GM took the opportunity to introduce the Cadillac Provoq, which uses a new fifth-generation fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery, and can drive 300 miles on a fill of hydrogen (see photo).
Like most of GM’s alternative vehicle initiatives, the Provoq is still more concept than production-ready vehicle. We thought Wagoner’s overview of GM’s green plans was the more interesting part. Here are some of the highlights we pulled from the speech:
- The Basics: Wagoner says “The auto industry can no longer rely almost exclusively on oil to supply the world’s future automotive energy requirements.” Yes, that is true.
- A Mixed Bag: GM is betting on several solutions, from hydrogen to ethanol to electric vehicles; Wagoner says “…no one solution is going to be best for every part of the world.” The company’s goal is to “use advanced technology to offer a broad range of cleaner and more efficient vehicles, powered by different sources of energy.”
- Ethanol Advocates: Wagoner said “it’s increasingly clear that ethanol offers tremendous potential in this regard, over a surprisingly short timeframe.” GM says it has more than 2.5 million flex-fuel vehicles in the U.S, and plans to add flex-fuel offerings to 50 percent of cars by 2012. Wagoner also called for the continuing growth of the ethanol industry, including more investment in cellulosic ethanol and an increase in E-85 pumps at gas stations.
- Once Again, the Volt!: GM’s much-hyped electric vehicle. Wagoner says, “the Volt is being developed with the maximum sense of urgency we can muster,” and is the beginning of the company’s commitment to electrically driven vehicles.
- Concept Car, the Cadillac Provoq: The Provoq uses hydrogen stored below the cargo floor to mix with oxygen to generate electricity. In addition a lithium-ion battery pack can store more electrical energy, and provide peak power for better performance. A nifty add-on: a solar panel is integrated into the roof to help power onboard accessories, like interior lights and an audio system.
- Hybrid Hope: Wagoner says GM has been in the hybrid business for five years now. (Prius isn’t the only hybrid? – kidding GM). He says by the end of 2008 GM will be selling eight hybrid models in the U.S, and will intro 16 new hybrid vehicles over the next four years.
- Hydrogen Fuel-cell Road Test: GM will deliver around a 100 Chevy Equinox SUV’s with a fourth-generation fuel cell stack to customers in Southern California and the East Coast. Wagoner claims that this will be the world’s largest fuel-cell test fleet.