- Jun 7, 2021
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Contrast it with the workmanlike F-150 Lightning, and GM's aggro approach to its first electric truck seems odd. But it's all part of the plan.
"An electric Hummer? Really?” Thus went the Greek chorus when the GMC Hummer EV pickup was first teased in a Super Bowl ad in early 2020. Set aside personal taste and objectively, it's hard to imagine a less green vehicle than a Hummer. This is why it's been so very easy to be skeptical of the GMC Hummer EV. So here's what General Motors is doing for its first electric pickup? This six-figure, 9,000-pound, battery-powered thing?
The gambit was bold enough eighteen months ago; since then, the landscape has changed significantly for electric trucks with the buzzy introduction of the normcore Ford F-150 Lightning and the start of production for the friendly-faced Rivian R1T. Both are credible, functional BEV pickups that have generated a ton of excitement without cranking it up to 11. Fair to ask: does that mean GM's aggro-futurist approach is already out of date?
It might—if the Hummer EV was actually aimed at either of those. I'm an automotive engineer by trade, and I recently had the opportunity to lay hands on a prototype truck and take a closer look at how its specifications shake out in person. On the face of it, the Hummer EV doesn’t seem to match up to either the Ford or the Rivian. It’s far more broad-shouldered, to the point of being too wide for some trails; meanwhile, the name itself does conjure up serious off-road expectations. Power is... unreasonable, an estimated 1,000 hp. Its chunky design, high sticker price, painfully-named "Watts To Freedom" max acceleration mode, and almost unbelievable numbers like 16 inches of ground clearance all seem to beg the question of whether GM's actually taking this seriously.
But it is. View it as a halo truck and the logic comes more into focus. More than anything else, the GMC Hummer EV is an electrified Ford Raptor and Ram TRX fighter—decidedly not the electric pickup for everyone, or even most people. And that's exactly the point. Its mission is to generate and capture excitement, and yes, to appeal to buyers who might otherwise consider a street-legal Baja race truck an ideal daily driver. So let's look at how GM set up the Hummer for off-road stardom.
As for the Cybertruck? I'll believe that when I see it.
Three Motors, Two Axles, One LockerGMC’s claim of some 1,000 total horsepower results from a combination of three electric motors: one per wheel in back and a single one driving the front. That layout and its corresponding output are almost exactly the same as the Tesla Model S Plaid. GMC’s resulting 3.0-second zero-to-60 mph acceleration estimate is impressive, but that figure is fully 50 percent slower than the Plaid’s claim because the Hummer is a giant box that weighs a rumored 9,046 pounds.
That’s pretty crazy, but if 1,000 hp and 9,046 lbs are the real numbers, then the Hummer EV’s weight-to-power ratio comes out *the same* as the 702-hp, 6,350-lb Ram 1500 TRX to three decimal places: 9.046 lbs per hp. The newly-introduced 2021 Ford Raptor lags well behind with 410 hp, but the upcoming 2022 Raptor R and its unannounced power output might just crush them both in what is currently a much lighter Raptor package.
The Hummer EV should have both of them covered when it comes to launch torque. Direct-drive electric motors make peak torque at zero rpm and produce output so broad there’s no need for a transmission. They’re claiming 11,500 pound-feet at the ground because they haven’t bothered to work backwards to three motor shafts. I took a shot at it using the 13.3-to-1 front and 10.5-to-1 rear axle ratios, and came up with a range of 800 to 1,000 lb-ft. Why the uncertainty? GMC hasn’t shared the relative outputs of the front and rear motors. Doesn’t much matter. The TRX is a distant second with 650 lb-ft of torque. The Rivian R1T is lurking nearby with 908 lb-ft, though.
Unleashing this machine’s 3.0-second zero-to-60 potential requires a launch control mode called Watts To Freedom. Beyond the acronymic name, it’s very similar to the minutes-long pre-launch rigmarole necessary to get the best out of a Model S Plaid. WTF conditions the battery and crouches the air suspension 2 inches below normal before clearing the driver for takeoff. This seems like a tiresome party trick, but it suggests that simple mash-and-go tactics will be more than enough to raise eyebrows in most real-world encounters.
Traction should be of very little concern, whether you’re on pavement or off-road. The twin rear motors will turn at whatever different speeds the computer deems necessary to produce zero scrub on either side, mimicking an open differential. You can also push a button to command a locked rear “differential” and make them run at the same speed. Torque vectoring comes into play in dynamic handling situations, and it’s theoretically possible to drag one side to hasten a pivot turn. Up front, a single motor runs through a standard mechanical differential that feeds both sides, and here the pushbutton actuates an actual mechanical front differential locker.
Hands-On with the GMC Hummer EVIn person, the Hummer EV is not as cartoonishly massive as you might expect. For one, it’s not nearly as squared off as the Hummer H1—or even the narrower but equally blocky Hummer H2. Ignore the mirrors and the EV’s 86.7-inch overall width is actually 0.2 inches wider than a H1, but it looks far less slab-sided because the doors have some curve to them, its cockpit greenhouse actually has some tumblehome, and both are inset behind flared fenders. Its ultimate width falls between that of the Raptor (86.6 in) and the TRX (88.0 in), which makes all three equally too wide for many brush and rock-lined Jeep trails I frequent.
The Hummer EV pickup only appears wider because it is considerably shorter than the Raptor and TRX. At 216.8 inches long you can forget the crew-cab versions of those; the Hummer is actually 3.2 inches shorter than the stubby extra-cab short-bed Raptor that Ford recently discontinued. But the Hummer does have a crew cab, and its 135.6-inch wheelbase is nearly 10 inches shorter than a crew-cab Raptor or TRX. The result is very short overhangs and far superior approach, departure and breakover angles that give the Hummer EV very recognizable Hummer proportions.
How does a crew cab Hummer EV pickup pull this off? For one, rear legroom isn’t up to the standards of the latest Ram and Ford crew cabs. Also, its bed is 5 feet long like a short-bed Tacoma, not 5-feet 7-inches long like a Raptor’s short bed. The Hummer’s bed does have two offsetting advantages: it is much broader than a Tacoma’s, and it comes with GMC’s Mutli-Pro tailgate. With the load-stop deployed, this tailgate can corral objects that are 6-feet 10-inches long—the same effective length as a GMC Sierra 1500 standard bed.
The stubby rear overhang does create a big problem: there’s no room for a spare underneath. Going off-road without a full-size spare is inadvisable, and we’re talking about a huge, heavy spare. The Hummer EV pickup sits on massive 35-inch LT305/70R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires on 8-lug rims. GM wouldn’t talk about the specific spare-tire mounting solution they have in mind, but I can’t see it being anything but a space-hogging bed mount similar to the accessory GM sells for the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.