Why GMC’s new electric Hummer is a bigger deal than Tesla’s Cybertruck

There were no broken windows, like the “bulletproof” ones at Tesla’s Cybertruck event last year that promptly shattered under pressure, but the GMC Hummer EV reveal Tuesday night was one of the biggest moments for electric vehicles yet. 
Let’s back up. Last year, Tesla’s announced its Cybertruck, the revolutionary EV company’s first electric pickup, coming by 2022. Now, GM has responded in kind: The Hummer EV “supertruck” with 350-mile range in its first edition, is one of the first from an established auto brand. Diehard traditional car and truck owners already trust General Motors’ GMC trucking brand, which makes the Hummer a real turning point for electric. (Ford’s upcoming Mustang Mach-E compact SUV, arriving by the end of the year, and electric F-150 pickup, expected to start production in 2022, are additional key players in mainstream electric transformation.) Read more…More about Tesla, Electric Vehicles, Cybertruck, Hummer, and Tech

There were no broken windows, like the “bulletproof” ones at Tesla’s Cybertruck event last year that promptly shattered under pressure, but the GMC Hummer EV reveal Tuesday night was one of the biggest moments for electric vehicles yet. 

Let’s back up. Last year, Tesla’s announced its Cybertruck, the revolutionary EV company’s first electric pickup, coming by 2022. Now, GM has responded in kind: The Hummer EV “supertruck” with 350-mile range in its first edition, is one of the first from an established auto brand. Diehard traditional car and truck owners already trust General Motors’ GMC trucking brand, which makes the Hummer a real turning point for electric. (Ford’s upcoming Mustang Mach-E compact SUV, arriving by the end of the year, and electric F-150 pickup, expected to start production in 2022, are additional key players in mainstream electric transformation.)

Ivan Drury, automotive analysis firm Edmunds’ senior manager of insights, said in a call immediately following the announcement that the Hummer has to contend with a notorious legacy: “[It] was the poster child for inefficiency.” The gas-guzzling predecessor was discontinued in 2010. But “Cybertruck was so bizarre to most people,” he said, noting how Tesla’s cyberpunk truck was too funky in design, with its angular, stainless steel panels and spartan interior. Some thought it was a prank. But it did attract plenty of fans, who plunked down quite a few pre-order deposits, according to Tesla.

That’s where General Motors has slipped in with a new image for Hummer. Don’t worry, it’s still a beast of a vehicle. Except now it has electric motors, positioning it as a more approachable and recognizable entry to electric. Plus it’s a truck, which is America’s favorite type of car.

Newcomers like Lucid, Fisker, Rivian, Nikola, and even Tesla, who all have forthcoming electric trucks and SUVs, have a lot more to overcome to convince everyday drivers to go electric. By resurrecting a known name like Hummer, linked to GMC brand-names like Denali, Sierra, and other heavy-duty trucks, GM is finally getting electric out to the vehicles Americans drive and want to drive. Even if it is for a huge price. The electric Hummer is priced at more than $100,000 for the high-end version arriving by the end of next year. The base model will start at $79,000, but won’t be available until 2024.

The Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla sedans should be recognized as true pioneers of electrification, but American drivers have long been all about trucks and SUVs. An automotive sales analysis from car storing company StorageCafe found SUV sales within the top-selling 40 cars have tripled since 2010 to over 4.5 million last year. Ford’s F-Series truck is consistently the No. 1 vehicle in America with 7.5 million total sales since 2010.

Josh Goldman, associate director of energy transition at climate change communications group Climate Nexus, pointed out that more than 2 million pickups sold in the U.S. in 2019 alone. Now Ford is prepping for its best-selling F-150 truck to go electric with a $700 million investment in an electric car factory coming in the next two years.

The Hummer EV is a supertruck first, EV second.

The Hummer EV is a supertruck first, EV second.

Image: GMC

The Hummer EV boasts off-road and tough terrain modes, four-wheel steering, suspension lift, a durable underbody, 32-inch water fording, 15.9 inches of ground clearance, an 11.3-meter turning radius (which Hummer officials noted is tighter than Tesla Model 3’s turn), crabwalk for diagonal driving around boulders, and live camera views under and around the car for virtual spotting. That’s likely enough to entice wealthy off-road enthusiasts as is. Add in removable window panes and an infinity roof, and it still has the oversized glam of the old Hummer.

Those car features should lure Hummer’s off-road thrill-seekers, who will inadvertently become the next wave of EV owners in tech-filled cars. It has hands-free driving with Super Cruise, a 13.4-inch touchscreen center console powered by software from Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, and an Ultium modular battery platform with fast charging that adds 100 miles of range in 10 minutes.

Unlike the Cybertruck audience, future Hummer EV owners will likely be new to charging and battery range monitoring. These new EV drivers might not be as looped into best charging practices or home charging equipment as Tesla fanatics, but Hummer is expecting that. It has baked regenerative driving into the experience, so drivers can recharge while braking and heading downhill. There will be an energy assist app to control charging from your phone and a selection of different driving modes (off-road driving is different that highway driving) with accompanying on-screen graphics to show drivers their charge status and energy use.

Hummer officials noted during a Wednesday media debriefing that the Edition 1 Hummer EV sold out of reservations within 10 minutes. GMC wouldn’t share how many were reserved, but said “several” thousand buyers were on a waitlist. 

The electric transformation is coming, but it may not look like Tesla’s cyberpunk, pointy pickup with bulletproof windows. “GM replaced the future of electrification with Hummer,” Drury said.

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