A zero-emission Hummer sounds as paradoxical as non-alcoholic whiskey, but General Motors Co. is mulling over the idea of building an electric vehicle that would bring the defunct gas-guzzling brand back to life.
For now, it’s just an idea GM is considering as it plans which vehicles will be included in a fleet of electrified SUVs and trucks, say individuals familiar with the matter. The Hummer name has surfaced as a way to tap growing demand for rugged SUVs with off-road capabilities, while avoiding the gasoline-burning image that made the brand something of a pariah a decade ago, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the conversations are private.
Electric Hummer chatter comes as GM is looking to transform itself from a conventional, gas-powered-vehicle maker into what Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra calls an “all-electric future.” Hummer is one of many options GM is exploring as it races to develop the next generation of battery-powered vehicles. Several other car companies also are rushing to produce commercially viable electric-powered models.
When asked about it, GM President Mark Reuss was unconvinced. “I love Hummer,” Reuss said on the sidelines of a press conference on June 12. “I’m not sure. We’re looking at everything.”
Building an electric Hummer may never come to pass. Internally, the company looks at the idea as a `What If' exercise when planning which models GM will build with its truck battery pack, say the people familiar with the discussions. Without electrification, GM would have a tough time selling a traditional Hummer in an era when emissions rules have become much stricter than in the brand’s heyday.
GM is currently working on two major battery-electric vehicle programs. The first is its BEV3 project, which will develop passenger cars, crossover SUVs and a variety of other small and mid-sized models. That’s part of the automaker’s pledge to put 20 EVs on the road globally by 2023. The second program would make electric pickups and other full-size vehicles, some of which can go off-road.
In its family of brands, GM has large SUVs -- such as the Chevrolet Suburban and Cadillac Escalade -- as well as hulking GMC vehicles including the Sierra truck and Yukon SUV. GMC also has Denali-labeled models that denote luxury and an AT4 brand for off-road capable trucks. Any of those potentially could be offered with electric powertrains, Reuss said.
“It’s massive. There might be places where we go first that are not just heavy-duty work trucks but more style and capability for off-road,” he said. “There are lots of things that are very attractive.”
GM kept Hummer after its 2009 bankruptcy but halted sales in 2010. Back then, the 10-miles-per-gallon Hummer H2 made the brand a symbol of automaker indifference to global warming. The vehicle was so heavy its weight placed it beyond the reach of federal government rules for fuel-economy tests, further enraging environmentalists. Hummer’s death knell came when oil soared past $100 a barrel, spiking gas prices and sinking sales.