General Motors is blunt about it. The 2022 GMC Hummer EV, a full-size electric pickup, raced from computer screens to production at mach speed to compete with plans by Tesla, Rivian, and others to build an electric trucks of their own.
GMC Hummer EV chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, who spent most of his career developing Camaros, said 20 months ago he was asked by GM leadership to bring Camaro charisma to the electric vehicle program to give it an adrenaline shot to better combat the 2021 Tesla Cybertruck and 2021 Rivian R1T, both of which had created a lot of buzz. (Not to be outdone, Ford is developing an electric F-150.) Oppenheiser’s work began in April 2019 on a full-size truck GM wanted in production in the fall of 2021. In other words, lop about two years off GM’s normal development time. It became known as Project O for “obtainium,” a play on “unobtainium,” an internal phrase/excuse used by teams at GM when presented with seemingly impossible tasks.
Tapping Camaro and Corvette Teams
The fast-track electric truck project called for unconventional means, at least for GM. Oppenheiser tapped members of the Camaro and Corvette teams: They knew how to make a vehicle go fast, but also how to create a lower-volume halo vehicle quickly. They even used the Camaro and Corvette performance studio. The development team also had truck and off-road experts.
As intended, it was unconventional from the start. The team worked from the production date backwards and relied on computerized tools and simulations to create, engineer, and test the emerging truck. There was no time for a series of physical prototypes.
No Short Cuts For GMC Hummer Chassis
The digital approach helped, because ultimately the team wanted to do an all-new platform. Of course, the easiest way to save time would have been to recycle the existing truck architecture used by the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups and replace the powertrain with batteries and electric motors. But the body-on-frame architecture would not accommodate the battery packs needed for the range desired—about 350 miles on a single charge—let alone power a truck with more than 1,000 horsepower and about 11,500 lb-ft of torque at the wheels, giving it the capability to go 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Engineers didn’t want to build a battery stack high on top of the frame rails, Oppenheiser says.
The team took “Project O” to GM’s advanced technology group, hat in hand, looking for a new structure for the full-size pickup truck and subsequent GMC Hummer SUV that would give them chops both on- and off-road. The answer was GM’s new electric vehicle architecture that uses Ultium batteries developed with LG Chem and to be built in Ohio.
The architecture provides a structural steel sandwich with batteries protected between steel plates that allow an independent front and rear suspension and provides the suspension travel and underbelly armoring needed for off-roading. The Hummer is an electric off-roader with a range of about 350 miles on a single charge.
Bringing Back the Controversial Hummer Name
The team wanted to make a splash worthy of the fresh architecture, and the trucks it would produce on it. The halo of the electric truck program therefore deserved a standout name. The emphasis on capability conjured up the Hummer name, which dates back to 1992 and descended from the military Humvee. GM bought the Hummer brand from AM General in 1999 and sold a family of tough, boxy SUVs—and their H2T and H3T pickup offspring—before GM discontinued the brand in 2010 as part of its downsizing after filing for bankruptcy.
Hummer was a polarizing brand. Some loved its go-anywhere ruggedness and military roots; others saw the 8-mpg gas-guzzlers as the poster children for harming the environment just as consumers were hugging Prius hybrids during recession-era gas-price spikes.
“We decided to take the name and make a believer out of everybody,” Oppenheiser said. The Hummer brand is still gone, but the decision was made to give the GMC brand some models sporting the Hummer name. The first vehicles from GM’s new electric truck architecture will be the GMC Hummer EV SUT (the sport utility truck discussed here), followed eventually by the GMC Hummer SUV. The architecture will also produce a full-size electric pickup truck for Chevrolet. And there will be full-size SUVs for the Cadillac brand.
Edition 1 is Only Option for 2022 GMC Hummer
In the first year, GM will offer a single variant of the 2022 GMC Hummer, the Edition 1. With a starting price of $112,995, the limited-run first-model-year rig is the top performance version with three electric motors; two opposed motors in the back and a third motor in the front.
It is in the subsequent years that GMC will add more affordable Hummers with two or three motors and fewer goodies. You will still be able to get an Edition 1 in the 2023 model year. And GM is accepting reservations now for all the models, including the Hummer EV3X coming in fall 2022 with three motors, torque vectoring and a performance launch mode with a starting price of $99,995. In the spring of 2023, GMC will add the two-motor Hummer EV2X starting at $89,995. The base Hummer EV2 goes on sale in spring 2024 with a starting price of $79,995.
Any Color You Want As Long As It’s White
All Edition 1 models come the same way: White on bottom, black from the beltline up. It is part of the go-fast strategy to get the truck to market quickly by reducing complexity. You want color? Wait for the 2023 model year. But, it will be part of the signature look that all trucks will have black-painted uppers, no matter what the body color is.
Edition 1 comes with pretty much everything standard including 18-inch wheels and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires, rock sliders, independent and adaptive suspension, active dampers, four-wheel steering, short overhangs, and special badging on the dash and startup screen. It also has the latest version of GM’s Super Cruise feature which provides hands-free semi-autonomous highway driving. The roof panels come off and there is a power rear drop glass and power tonneau cover.
GMC Hummer Made in Michigan
The 2022 GMC Hummer will be built at a retooled plant in Detroit-Hamtramck that has been renamed Factory Zero and will only build electric vehicles, including the Hummer SUT and SUV, the Cruise Origin (which is a self-driving, ride-sharing, van-pod that carries six passengers), and likely the Chevy full-size electric pickup and the Cadillac full-size electric SUV.
The first body-in-white Hummer prototypes will roll off the line this week. When the unpainted body structures make it through the paint shop, final trim, and roll off the line as finished vehicles, the first Hummer will be sent for winter testing and the next few will be sent south for testing as desert runners, Oppenheiser says.
Hummer First Electric Pickup to Hit Market?
GM thinks it will be the first mainstream electric pickup to hit the market. The importance of the project kept it on the ultra-tight schedule despite a 46-day work stoppage during a strike in 2019 and then the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that forced engineers to work from home.
Tesla said it would release the single-motor Cybertruck in late 2021 with the dual-motor all-wheel-drive model and the tri-motor version to follow in late 2022. But Tesla has a history of not meeting its deadlines. Rivian initially hoped to have the R1T electric pickup in production in December 2021 but that was pushed back to June 2021. Rivian bought the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, and has drivable prototypes coming off the line for testing.
Ford has a new plant under construction in the Rouge complex to deliver the 2022 Ford F-150 electric pickup in June 2022. The battery-electric F-150 is in addition to the 2021 Ford F-150 hybrid being added to the lineup as part of its latest redesign. If all that holds, the Hummer’s aggressive development schedule will have paid off.