Americans love pickup trucks. You can argue till the cows come home why people feel the need to commute to work in a humongous vehicle designed to haul 1500 lb of rocks, cement, or timber, but it won’t do you any good. It’s an emotional issue. In a world gone mad, powerful vehicles help people get over their sense of powerlessness. Just look at the front of any modern pickup truck. They all have an aggressive appearance that says the owner could kick the stuffing out of anyone else whenever necessary. Bulging fenders and monster tires complete the illusion of strength. Ask any sales professional. People buy on emotion and justify their decision later with facts.
Where does that leave pickup trucks in the age of electric transportation? Out in left field, that’s where. Truck owners like to think they can climb tall mountains while hauling a camping trailer to a distant lake, even if their typical trip is to work or to Costco. It takes a lot of energy and power to do that, and, let’s be honest, pound for pound, the good old-fashioned infernal combustion engine delivers a lot of both. Whoever cracks the code for making an affordable yet robust electric pickup that can rival the performance of a modern turbo-diesel will be in a position to harvest millions of sales.
Flinging Down The Gauntlet
General Motors announced last year during the Super Bowl that it was pushing hard to get its all new electric Hummer into showrooms as soon as possible. Last night, it took the wraps off what it calls the “world’s first all-electric supertruck.” Let’s unpack that claim and see if it stands up to scrutiny.
Start with the appearances. The electric Hummer, which will be positioned as a sub-brand of GMC, is as brawny and chunky as one might hope for. Yet it’s stylish as well. My first thought when seeing the photos is that it looks a little like a bulked up Rivian R1T, a comparison both GM and Rivian will probably hate. My second thought was that the load bed is quite small for a vehicle that aspires to be a “supertruck.” Time was when a “real” truck could handle 4X8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate up. No more. Today’s modern iterations of the full size pickup truck must have seating for 5, which leaves precious little room left over for full size cargo beds. The Rivian suffers from a similar bias in favor of creature comforts over carrying capacity.
The specs for the electric Hummer Edition 1 are as follows:
- 3 electric motors with a combined total of 1,000 horsepower
- 0–60 in 3 seconds
- Up to 350 miles of range.
- Capable of adding 100 miles of range in just 10 minutes using a 350 kW charger.
- No mention of the battery size is included in the early details.
Goodies include removable roof sections that can be stored in the frunk; 18 cameras for 360° vision, including a view under the truck so you can watch as it rolls over boulders on the Rubicon Trail; an air suspension that allows up to a 6″ increase in ride height and articulated wheels front and rear that permit the truck to more sideways as well as forward. 35″ tires. GM’s SuperCruise will allow drivers hands-free operation on over 200,000 miles of pre-mapped roadways.
So, how much will all this cost? The Edition 1 electric Hummer will set you back $112,595. Sales are expected to begin late next year and the plan is to introduce less expensive versions as time goes on. A $99,995 tri-motor version will arrive in late 2022, and a $79,995 version without the air suspension or sideways travel feature is expected in 2024. SUV versions of the Hummer are somewhere in the development pipeline as well.
Too Little, Too Late?
The problem for GM is that by the time the first electric Hummers roll off the assembly line, the Tesla Cybertruck will be available. Now, the Cybertruck is butt ugly, at least in my estimation, but when it comes to doing what trucks are supposed to do, it delivers the goods. Its tri-motor version with 14,000 lb of towing capacity and 500 miles of range will sell for just $69,900. It will feature an Autopilot system that operates anywhere versus a system that relies on digital maps.
So, let’s see. $112,595 for a three-motor electric truck with 350 miles of range or $69,900 for a three-motor electric truck with 500 miles of range? It should be no contest. If you can get by the looks of the Cybertruck (lots of people seem to be really smitten with its edgy, space-age appearance), it’s really no contest.
GM Hummer EV tri-motor is $30,000 more expensive than the equivalent Cybertruck and has 200 miles less range. pic.twitter.com/KLHkHFs96o
— Sam Korus (@skorusARK) October 21, 2020
So, here’s my official prediction, which is worth precisely what you paid for it: After those who insist on having the latest new thing get their Hummers, dealers will be discounting them just the way they discounted the Chevy Volt and Chevy Bolt. The only way GM is going to convince dealers to sell the Hummer is by bribing them.
Meanwhile, Tesla will be selling every Cybertruck it can stamp, weld, glue (and cast?) together. It will be no contest as once again Tesla schools legacy automakers in new market realities. Shortly thereafter, all those other companies will begin redesigning their pickup offerings to resemble snowmobile trailers and wondering how they missed the sea change in the market.
Disruption is what Tesla does best, and it is about to lay a gigantic smackdown on those who make conventional pickup trucks, whether they are powered by electric motors, internal combustion engines, or pixie dust. Recently, Elon Musk said Tesla may offer a slightly smaller version of the Cybertruck for European buyers, who drive on streets that are often narrower and more congested than those in America.
Automotive styles are highly contagious. Today, every sedan and SUV looks a lot like all the others out there. Upright rear windows have given way to steeply sloping designs that are more aerodynamically efficient. Svelte curves have morphed into slashes and creases that often conflict with each other. There’s a good chance that someday I may even come to view the Cybertruck as beautiful.
Naah, that’s never gonna happen!