GM’s Hummer EV Is Still like Nothing Else

Even after a transition to electric propulsion, driving a Hummer is an experience that’s one of a kind.

The Hummer EV will debut with the Edition 1 model. Other trim levels and an SUV variant will be available later in production. (SAE Media)

The revival of the Hummer brand has produced a vehicle that is concurrently of its time and a throwback to conspicuous consumption from the decade that spawned its predecessor. Like the original, there’s no mistaking the Hummer EV on the road for anything else. Even today’s overfed full-size pickups shrink in the presence of GM’s self-marketed “Supertruck” thanks to its wide stance and distinct grille. Just a decade ago, no industry expert would have bet on a revitalized Hummer of any kind hitting the streets, let alone a BEV. But that’s exactly what GM has done.

The two rear motors independently power each wheel through a fixed gear ratio (10.5:1) with the capability to vary torque output to each wheel. (SAE Media)

The latest Hummer is a convergence of astonishing numbers: a 9,046 lb. (4101 kg) curb weight, 1,000 hp, 11,500 lb-ft of torque, and 18 feet (5.5 meters) long. Had the fictional scientists who visited the Jurassic Park laid eyes on the new Hummer, they may have similarly questioned if GM’s engineers were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. However, over 65,000 reservations to date have validated the company’s decision to bring back a brand many once perceived as a dinosaur.

Undoubtedly, the rated range of the Hummer EV, 329 miles (529 km), is also impressive. Especially considering how much heft GM’s three-motor e4WD drive system must motivate. And motivate it does: the Hummer EV is capable of producing acceleration numbers that would have embarrassed supercars of a few decades ago. Watching a Hummer launch from a standing start to 60 mph (96.5 kph) in roughly three seconds while wearing 35-inch (889-mm) Goodyear Wrangler all terrain tires is like watching Usain Bolt set the 100-meter world record in Wellingtons. If the EV future was intended to be one of modesty, the engineers on the Hummer program never got the memo.

The Ultium solution

The Hummer’s evolution as an EV began with GM’s BT1 platform and Ultium drive system. which will underpin future EV products from the company. GM’s representatives were excited about the scalability that this platform offers them for future products. GM states that their Ultium batteries are unique in the industry because of their large-format, pouch-style cells, which can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. The cells were the result of a joint venture with LG Chem, and will be produced at a facility, in Lordstown, Ohio.

The pack in the Edition 1 Hummer consists of two layers of vertical cell modules, which will be used to produce a combined 24-module pack. The pack is mounted in the center and lowest point of the vehicle platform. This not only keeps the center of gravity as low as possible, but as GM points out, enables very short front and rear overhang (34.7 inches or 881 mm front, 46.5 inches or 1181 mm rear) as well as an impressive breakover angle (25.4 degrees in terrain mode). The Ultium cells are comprised of a mixture of nickel, cobalt, manganese and aluminum, though GM claims that these units use 70% less cobalt than their previous generation of EVs.

The Hummer EV will also be the first vehicle in GM’s lineup to feature its wireless battery management system, which monitors the battery cell groups for optimal performance and battery longevity. The Hummer EV will also be capable of 350-kW DC fast charging, thanks to its unique ability to switch its battery pack from its native 400-volts to 800-volts when fast charging. This is enabled by the pack’s disconnect unit, which GM states can switch the battery from parallel to series operation, thereby resulting in 100 miles (161 km) of additional range during a ten-minute charge.

Freedom in watts

Ultium battery configuration helped deliver short front and rear overhangs. (GM)
Hummer EV’s cabin is a mix of tech and tough. (GM)
The BT1 platform and Ultium drive system will underpin all new Hummer EV models. (SAE Media)

GM brought a gaggle of journalists to Arizona to put their latest creation through its paces. One of the exercises offered was an acceleration zone, something that OEMs wouldn’t ordinally offer when launching an off-road oriented SUV that tips the scales at nearly five tons. However, when put behind the wheel or in the passenger seat with the truck in so-called “Watts to Freedom” mode, it became very apparent why the engineers wanted others to experience the madness.

Watts to Freedom is the Hummer EV’s launch control mode. When the driver selects this feature, the propulsion system’s energy is optimized for pure acceleration. The vehicle’s ride height I also lowered via the air suspension by two inches (50 mm). GM states that the Hummer can hit sixty in around three seconds in this mode. While there were no stop watches present at the acceleration pad, their claim certainly seems accurate from the driver’s seat. The Hummer squats like a sumo wrestler on launch before rocketing away in relative silence. Only an initial chirp from the all-terrain tires would indicate that the equivalent of a 40-ft (12-m) shipping container is hurtling through time and space.

Perhaps even more impressive than the Hummer EV’s acceleration in this mode is its braking at the end of it. While there’s plenty of nosedive present when you stomp on the binders, but even after hours of bemused media reps pounding out acceleration runs, they never once showed a hint of fade. Credit to the brake engineers on the team for building a system that can bring such mass to a halt, even when its being driven at v-max by a group of folks who drove it like a rental Nissan Altima.

On- and off-road impressions

While the acceleration is a neat party trick, it’s off road where the Hummer really earns its stripes. Literally in fact, as the truck’s 86.7-inch (2201-mm) overall body width not counting the mirrors meant many trucks returned from our off-road excursion with some non-factory pin stripes. It’s a shame that the tested Hummer EV Edition 1’s MSRP of $112,595 USD may discourage some owners from ever venturing off the beaten path, because these trucks are more than worthy of the Hummer name.

While they’ll never be the nimblest vehicle on the trail, the Hummer’s air suspension, four-wheel steering, and short overhangs make them an impressively capable machine that drives smaller than it looks from the outside. From behind the wheel, it almost feels like you’re cheating against Mother Nature and her obstacles. The adaptive air ride may be the Hummer’s most underrated feature, thanks to its ability to raise the vehicle to a water fording depth of 28 inches (711 mm) in terrain mode. A late availability extract mode, which will be capable of raising the Hummer EV an additional four inches (101 mm).

On the drive to our off-road trail ride, the air suspension let the Hummer ride competently and smoothly over pavement. It’s hard to forget that you’re driving a vehicle that at Abrams tank driver would feel comfortable in, but even during some spirited cornering the Hummer acquitted itself admirably for a vehicle that is decidedly not intended for turning hot laps at the Milford Proving Grounds.

Another feature that may go unappreciated is the one pedal drive mode. The Hummer is the first GMC vehicle to offer this feature, which is both equally useful in rush hour traffic and in the woods. Enabling one pedal drive cranks up the regen braking to the point that the driver can navigate just about any trip with just the accelerator pedal. Regen on demand is also available via a steering wheel-mounted paddle. This feature and one-pedal drive can also slow the vehicle to a full stop without pressing the brake pedal. Terrain Mode also integrates the brake system with one-pedal driving, which is an invaluable feature when stopped on a sharp incline or decline.

Our off-road excursion through the Arizona desert included several obstacles and various forms of terrain, including sharp climbs and descents, rocky and sandy trails, and tight turns with obstructed views. The Hummer EV tackled all of these without itself or its occupants breaking a sweat even with the roof panels removed. The four-wheel steering system makes the Hummer far nimbler in tight quarters than anything this size has a right to be. The system can either turn the turn the rear wheels opposite of the fronts, or in the same direction depending on vehicle speed and drive mode. The Hummer’s touted CrabWalk feature can turn the rear wheels at the same angle as the front wheels at a rate of up to 10 degrees at low speeds.

The Hummer’s drive system is also responsible for its off-road capabilities. The single-motor front drive-unit’s electronic lockable differential can deliver up to 100% of the motor torque to one wheel. The two rear motors independently power each wheel through a fixed gear ratio (10.5:1) with the capability to vary torque output to each wheel. Additionally, Motor output to all four wheels can be fully synchronized to replicate a rear locking differential.

Bringing back this once iconic brand from extinction was no small feat for GM and its engineering team. The entire development cycle from getting the greenlight to the first preproduction models rolling out of the factory took just 18 months. While many in the industry are touting the benefits of EVs in terms of speed to production capability versus traditional ICE vehicles, that pace is still impressive for a vehicle with these performance targets. The Hummer EV is a technological moonshot in every metric. And though some may wonder why this vehicle exists, there is no denying its capabilities as a showcase of what’s to come for EVs.