This is it: the electric pickup truck everyone has been waiting for. The all-new GMC Hummer EV isn’t only the first zero emissions pickup, it’s also the first electric 4x4 from a mainstream manufacturer. And, if that’s not enough, it’ll be the fastest off-roader ever available to the public, too.
We’ve got exclusive details.
“We had one goal for Hummer: build the most capable factory truck ever,” says Al Oppenheiser, the vehicle’s chief engineer. In designing the truck, General Motors leveraged the performance advantages offered by electric motors and set out to design “an absolute off-road beast,” according to the engineer. The fact that the Hummer doesn’t produce any tailpipe emissions is almost an incidental benefit.
The Hummer brand was created in 1992 to sell a civilian version of the military’s Humvee. In 1998, it was acquired by General Motors, which grew the brand into offering a range of large, inefficient, gas-powered SUVs. When GM went bankrupt in 2009, it decided to sell the brand, but was unable to find a buyer, and the last of those internal combustion Hummers was produced in 2010.
Like Ford with its new Mustang Mach E, GM wants to leverage the strength of an existing brand to ensure it resonated with the car buying public. Hummer no longer has its own dealer network, so building this new EV under its GMC truck brand provides that mechanism for distribution, while casting a halo around future GMC electric vehicles. This should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating: the Hummer EV shares no parts with the internal combustion-powered Hummers of the 2000s.
The 2022 GMC Hummer EV will enter production during the fall of 2021, and will initially be available only in a trim level the company is calling Edition 1. That first version will be priced at $112,595 and come equipped with three motors producing a total of 1,000 horsepower, along with software that enables the truck to accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds, four-wheel steering, height-adjustable air suspension, an off-road oriented torque vectoring system I’ll detail below, GM’s Super Cruiser semi-autonomous driving technology, and a removable glass roof.
More trim levels will begin rolling out in the fall of 2022, first with a $100,000 version that will come with all the performance options, but on which most of the luxury features will be optional, then in spring of 2023, a slower, two-motor version will be priced at $90,000. Finally, in Spring of 2024, a basic two-motor Hummer EV without the air suspension or other advanced off-road technologies will be available for $80,000. All signs point toward the Hummer EV beating both the Tesla Cybertruck and the Rivian R1T and R1S to market.
It appears as if all versions of the Hummer EV will achieve at least 350-miles of range on a single charge, and will be able to take advantage of the new 350-kilowatt high output fast charging stations that are being installed in public places around the country, allowing them to add 100 miles of range in just 10 minutes.
All Edition 1s will be identical, featuring white paint and the light gray interior pictured here. Special off-road equipment will include 35-inch, specially-developed Goodyear mud-terrain tires (37s can fit without modification), underbody skid plates, rock sliders (metal rails that protect the area of the body underneath the doors), and underbody cameras.
Off-road capability is defined by traction, gearing, angles, and articulation. I spoke with Aaron Pfau, the Hummer EV’s lead development engineer, and Mike Colville, GM’s senior manager of Electric Vehicle Integration in order to find out more about those four things.
On an internal combustion four-wheel drive vehicle, power is distributed through a center differential or coupling that, when locked, apportions 50 percent of motive force to each axle. Those matched axle speeds are what’s traditionally known as four-wheel drive, but when the going gets slippery, the wheels on each axle with the least traction still get all the power, causing them to spin. To lock the speeds of all four wheels together in order to maximize traction, you need locking differentials on both axles, too.
Equipped with multiple motors, electric vehicles are going to have to approach off-road traction differently. Pfau and Colville say that one of the Hummer EV's three motors is located on the front axle, driving the front wheels through a locking differential. Each of the rear wheels is powered by a dedicated motor. A drive model selector will enable drivers to select the kind of terrain they’re tackling, and the Hummer EV will alter variables like wheel speeds, ride height, and throttle response to suit. Software that constantly compares the individual speeds of each wheel to the overall speed of the vehicle will enable the motors to match the speeds of all four wheels, mimicking the function of four-wheel drive and locking diffs. But, the ability to individually power the rear wheels also allows the system to direct power to whichever of those has the most traction. That ability to vector torque towards traction should endow the Hummer EV with an unprecedented ability to keep moving forward through even the gnarliest of slippery conditions.
In recent years, internal combustion 4x4s have adopted a brake-based alternative to locking axle diffs. By using the antilock braking system to quickly tweak invidivual calipers, wheel speeds are matched when necessary, without the need to compromise a vehicle's ability to steer, and with minimal involvement from the driver. Pfau clarifies that the Hummer EV will also be fitted with such a system, but that the vehicle will prioritize the use of torque vectoring off-road. “Why slow down when you can instead apply power,” Pfau says.
The ability of a vehicle to climb and descend very steep obstacles has traditionally been provided by gearing. Gears multiply the force an internal combustion engine is able to exert on the wheels. GM is not yet releasing a torque figure for the Hummer EV’s electric motors, only the end result of multiplying that motor output by the vehicle’s gearing: 11,500 pound-feet of torque. Without knowing the other parts of that equation we can’t create a comparison to other vehicles, but since electric motors produce their maximum torque from the very beginning of their rotations, that number does at least allow us to ascertain that steep terrain shouldn’t be an obstacle for this thing.
I was able to shake approach, departure, and breaker angles out of the company. Those are the steepest obstacles a vehicle is able to climb onto, off of, or over. And the Hummer EV is going to be able to climb onto, off of, and over some very, very steep stuff. Angles for the current four-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are 43.9 degreed (approach), 37 degrees (departure), and 22.6 degrees (breakover). At its standard ride height setting, the Hummer EV offers 44.3 degrees of approach, 33.7 degrees of departure, and 25.4 degrees of breakover. But, adjust the suspension to its maximum ride height and those numbers increase to 49.7 (approach), 38.4 (departure), and 33.2 (breakover). The Wrangler Rubicon is generally accepted to be the most capable 4x4 currently available, that the Hummer EV is able to offer such significantly steeper angles is simply extraordinary.
GM isn’t talking articulation numbers or suspension arrangements yet, and at the time of writing, I have not even seen a picture of the finished vehicle. It seems certain that without power to distribute through traditional axles that all four wheels of the Hummer EV will be individually suspended. If the company has been able to overcome the traditional limitations of independent suspension and has figured out a solution that can match (or even beat) the articulation offered by live axles—and I see no reason why that wouldn’t be possible—then we could legitimately be talking about not only a vehicle that exceeds the off-road capability of any stock truck before it, but which legitimately ushers in an entirely new era off-road driving.
One thing we do know the Hummer EV is doing with its suspension is rear wheel steering. To the best of my knowledge that’s only ever been offered before on a very small number of sports cars, and never before on an off-roader. Those sports cars use the technology to aid turning speeds, and are equipped with only a very small degree of rear steering angle. Pfau and Colville say that the Hummer EV will able to turn its rear wheels a full ten degrees though, an ability that it will use to boost maneuverability in tight turns, and grant the vehicle the ability to drive diagonally at low speeds.
That’s a whole lot of dry analysis and numbers all trying to describe what’s actually adding up to be a very exciting vehicle. So, I asked Colville what it was like to drive. “It’s something entirely different,” the engineer describes. “With the removable roof and the near total silence from the electric motors, it just really makes you feel like you’re immersed in the environment.”