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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Explained: Why an all-electric version of the Hummer is a game-changer

The iconic tank-like supertruck is back, without its biggest handicap – the giant, gas-guzzling engine. If GM's gamble pays off, it could be the most resounding endorsement yet of a decisive shift to electric from fossil fuels.

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Updated: October 22, 2020 7:22:44 am
electric Hummer, General Motors Hummer, GM trucks, electric vehicles, indian expressThe 2022 GMC Hummer EV. (Courtesy of General Motors Co. via AP)

If there’s anything that epitomises carbon-spewing, gas-guzzling excess, the Hummer has top of the mind recall. The tank-like supertruck, a symbol of the pre-2008 recession era, which was phased out in 2010, is being resurrected by General Motors.

But there is a major twist in the story. In an extended commercial that aired during the Major League Baseball 2020 World Series on Tuesday (October 20) night, GM revealed a new, all-electric Hummer pickup.

For GM, which has spent a decade trying to sell small, plug-in cars such as the Spark, Bolt, and Volt, the launch of a big, pricey plug-in truck signals an effort to draw in more affluent buyers who are ready to pay a premium for the technology.

But more significantly, even the Hummer going green is being seen as the biggest endorsement of the impending shift from fossil fuels to electrification.

The significance of the Hummer

The Hummer, a civilian derivative of the armored Humvee military vehicle made famous by its role in the Gulf War, had come to symbolise the pre-2008 recession, and the predominantly gas-guzzling fleet of American automotive companies.

That this vehicle has, after a gap of a decade, been resurrected as a 560-km range “electric supertruck” is a leap of faith for both GM and the electric vehicle technology.

GM’s plans to revive the Hummer nameplate comes in the middle of an economic crisis, a little over a decade after Hummer was placed under review by company management in the middle of the global financial crisis. Rather than being transferred to the Motors Liquidation Company as part of the GM bankruptcy in 2009, the brand was retained by GM, in order to investigate its sale.

electric Hummer, General Motors Hummer, GM trucks, electric vehicles, indian express The interior of the 2022 GMC Hummer EV. (Courtesy of General Motors Co. via AP)

After an unsuccessful attempt at selling the brand to a Chinese manufacturer, GM, at the end of February 2010, announced it would begin dismantling the Hummer brand.

Then, almost exactly a decade later, on January 30, 2020, GM released a series of short teaser videos revealing the return of Hummer. And on Tuesday night, the EV versions of the Hummer promised three electric motors, 1,000 horsepower adjustable air suspension, and a diagonal driving feature called “Crab Mode.”

The electric truck is set to go into production in late 2021, possibly ahead of Tesla’s Cybertruck.

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Why Hummer’s EV version is important

When GM pulled the plug on Hummer a decade ago, electric mobility was still quite basic. The Hummer EV launch comes at a time when electric has made clear inroads, including in the hi-end segment of the market. In the United States, seven auto companies have plans to roll out new battery-powered pickup trucks over the next two years.

The Hummer will be joined by Detroit rival Ford’s electric F-150, as well as Tesla’s Cybertruck and pickups from four startup companies – all of which aim to start production between mid-2021 and end-2022.

electric Hummer, General Motors Hummer, GM trucks, electric vehicles, indian express A view of the 2022 GMC Hummer EV. (Courtesy of General Motors Co. via AP)

GM, Ford, Tesla, Nikola, Rivian and Lordstown Motors all want a share of what is essentially a diesel-powered fleet dominated by Ford’s F-Series trucks, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado, and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickup.

The Hummer’s battery technology

Packed inside the Hummer EV is GM’s new ‘Ultium’ battery pack, co-developed with South Korea’s LG Chem. In case of Tesla, the battery packs come from Panasonic.

GM estimates the Ultium pack will give the Hummer EV a maximum range of around 350 miles (about 560 km) on a single charge—and the truck is capable of handling ultra-fast 350 kW charging, which can add about 160 km of range in just 10 minutes (a feature aimed at countering Tesla).

The electric trucks also could appeal to businesses, which could also theoretically take advantage of the big batteries by using the trucks to power tools on job sites instead of relying on a generator. It’s “Crab Walk” feature lets the front and rear wheels steer at the same angle at low speeds so it can move diagonally around obstacles — a feature aimed at keeping the serious off road enthusiasts hooked despite Hummer’s changeover to EV.

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