An electric Hummer comeback? We discuss with an expert

The first model could launch in late 2021, with two more hitting the market by 2023.

© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc.   If rumors are true, these big, brutish vehicles may be completely reimagined as all-electric models. GM/Roadshow

By Craig Cole, Roadshow

Last June it was reported General Motors could be resurrecting its discontinued Hummer brand. Best known for its imposingly styled and frightfully inefficient vehicles, this pickup-and-SUV-focused division was discontinued in 2010 as part of the automaker's bankruptcy.

According to a report from Reuters Friday, GM could invest some $3 billion in its Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant to support the development and production of electrified trucks and utility vehicles, potentially including a range of Hummer models. All this is likely contingent on members of the United Auto Workers union ratifying the latest proposed contract with the automaker. At full tilt, this factory could deliver around 80,000 EVs per year, a pace it's expected to reach in 2024.

Hummer could be making a comeback as early as 2021, part of a larger GM family of electrified trucks and SUVs that the automaker has pledged to introduce. Internally, this development program is referred to as BT1, and it should support a broad range of vehicles. 

Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, said GM has plans for at least two SUVs and two pickup trucks based on this electrified architecture. "In their own documentation they list three brands," he noted. This includes Cadillac , Chevrolet or GMC and a third mystery marque referred to simply as the M-Brand.

Fiorani said it's fairly certain the Cadillac offering will wear an Escalade badge, but the other models are still unknown. "It's assumed the Sierra brand will be on the GMC truck, but we have not seen that [officially]," he said. Since its name contains two M's, it makes sense that Hummer could be the third make. Roadshow asked GM for comment about this but has not yet heard back.

A low-volume electric truck is reportedly expected to go on sale in late 2021. A higher-performance variant is slated to arrive in the next year, followed in 2023 by an electric SUV. All these vehicles could be branded as Hummers. That same year, Cadillac's battery-operated utility vehicle is slated to go on sale, along with an electrified truck from GMC. 

Thanks to the bold styling and imposing dimensions of its vehicles, Hummer likely still has strong brand recognition, even though it's been gone from the market for nearly a decade. If GM decides to bring it back, the automaker would not be starting from scratch.

Even though it's a truck platform, GM's BT1 architecture is believed to be a skateboard design, where the motor, batteries and other components are mounted on a flat chassis. Fiorani said, "It is significantly different from T1" -- that's the designation of the automaker's latest pickup family, which includes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. "They are designing it [BT1] from the ground up as an electric platform," he added, meaning it likely won't have a separate frame with steel rails, but neither will it be unibody, a construction method most frequently used with cars, where the structure is one integrated assembly. Instead, it could be "a little of each."

Even though new developments are always coming out, battery technology still isn't where it needs to be for many drivers. Offering an electric truck or SUV has its own set of challenges. Fiorani said a major advantage of electric vehicles is their responsiveness, but, "As you're using that provided torque you will drain that battery really quick." Towing or hauling with an electric pickup may not work very well, especially in extreme climates where hot or cold weather affects driving range. On the plus side, Fiorani noted, in a large vehicle like this, "You also have a lot of space for a battery."

It's possible GM has an electricity-storage breakthrough in the works that would solve these issues, but Fiorani said he doesn't see this happening, at least not initially. "This is our holy grail," he said, "Finding the battery that will last 15, 20 years, that will take thousands of recharges and will travel 400 miles on a charge, and recharge inside half an hour." 

For larger vehicles, like pickup trucks, hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains might make more sense. They're basically electric vehicles without batteries. BT1 could support this, but Fiorani doesn't see that happening. For now, it seems, GM is focusing solely on battery-electric trucks and SUVs.


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Automotive Magazine: An electric Hummer comeback? We discuss with an expert
An electric Hummer comeback? We discuss with an expert
The first model could launch in late 2021, with two more hitting the market by 2023.
Automotive Magazine
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