Believe it or not, the above vehicle with a solar panel built into its roof wasn't designed by an ambitious startup like Tesla or Aptera; no, the above vehicle was designed by the friendly folks over at General Motors as part of their "From Gas Friendly to Gas Free" ad campaign. Granted, most of GM's cars aren't even gas friendly, let alone gas free, but if their concept cars are any indication, GM is certainly looking in the right direction for the future. After all, GM has already generated a lot of buzz surrounding its Chevy Volt, a unique, all electric-gasoline hybrid concept car that may or may not be released in 2010. GM is also currently testing its Equinox Fuel Cell crossover in real-world conditions. And now, at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, they announced their new Cadillac Provoq Fuel Cell E-flex concept car.
Read more and see a short video about the car after the jump
What's unique about the Provoq is that it takes the "E-flex" propulsion system that will power the Volt, and marries it to GM's 5th generation fuel cell stack. In other words, whereas the Volt gets its electricity either from plugging into the wall, or from an on-board gasoline generator (the engine can be modified to use diesel or biofuels, too), the Provoq gets its juice from the wall or compressed hydrogen that is fed into a fuel cell stack. The result is a vehicle with a range of 300 miles per 3 kg fill of hydrogen, and 20 miles on the lithium-ion battery; 0-60 in 8.5 seconds (thanks to "three electric motors--one mounted between the front wheels, in-wheel motors in each of the rear wheels"); and a top speed of 100 MPH.
The concept car is also, not surprisingly, full of some other interesting concepts, including the aforementioned solar cell in the roof "to assist with powering onboard electronics; an "active" front grille, with grille louvers that open when the fuel cell requires cooling and close at high speed to reduce drag; and shift- and brake-by-wire system."
But before we get too green and giggly about this and other concept cars, we should remember that, well, its just a concept car. Whether or not it ever gets built will depend on how serious GM is about becoming a leader in green vehicle design; future climate legislation (namely, the price we put on carbon); hydrogen infrastructure, and how that hydrogen is made; the cost of fuel cells; and the cost of batteries. Indeed, both the Volt and the Provoq depend on "advances in lithium-ion battery technology to become a reality," something that GM CEO Rick Wagoner "acknowledged as being 'key' to the advance of electric vehicles."
Unlike the Volt, there is no word on when or if the Provoq will get built. So for now, those of us interested in dramatic increases in vehicular efficiency will have to play a bit of a waiting game: in the next few years, we should see the Tesla Roadster, Aptera Typ-1, and Chevy Volt hit the road, to name a few. And while Honda is leasing its FCX Clarity Fuel Cell sedan to select customers in California, for now, plug-in hybrids show far and away the most promise for achieving new levels of efficiency.
See Also: ::Toyota's Fine-N Hybrid/Fuel Cell Concept Car, ::Alternet on the Hydrogen Economy, ::Garbage to Hydrogen, Just Add Sun, ::GM Delivers Hydrogen Powered "Sequel" to Camp Pendleton, ::GM Promises 40% Less Manufacturing Emissions, ::GM Serious About Ethanol and Flex-Fuel Vehicles?, ::GM Keeps Its Greener Cars Out of North America, ::GM Responds to SUV Ad Controversy, ::GM to Release Hybrids in China by 2008 (and maybe a hydrogen car), ::E-Drive Systems Delivers Plug-in Prius to California, and ::GM Shows Fake Hybrid Concept SUV to Journalists?