2022 GMC Hummer EV Prototype Drive: What Halo EV Means for GM’s Future

Just five years ago, full-size electric pickup trucks were primarily prototypes and rolling testbeds of predictive theory and engineering concepts. Now, over half a dozen major manufacturers and startups have EV pickups nearly ready for prime time, among them the 2022 GMC Hummer.

Unlike the Ford F-150 Lightning, which is poised to move traditional pickup owners into the EV space with as little trepidation as possible, the GMC Hummer is positioned as a halo vehicle right out of the gate. Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer, GMC Hummer EV program, told Forbes Wheels that the Hummer was intended to be “an over-the-top, extreme off-road truck from day one. Of all the technical things I could talk to you about, it’s first a great off-road truck, one that just happens to be an electric car.”

Halo vehicles with enterprise-wide influence

The Hummer EV program serves as a testbed for rapid prototyping and larger-scale vehicle development. The program was greenlit on April 1, 2019, roughly two and a half years into the 95% complete pre-production model we ran. Oppenheiser says, “the typical development cycle for any major manufacturer is four years, and we’re cutting 117 weeks off that timeline.”

The key to that time saving was, not surprisingly, technology. Oppenheiser says they have always used computer-aided engineering models and driving simulators but previously built many “mule” vehicles along the way to confirm data and analysis in the physical realm. “But we didn’t have that kind of time with the Hummer development, so we decided to believe in analytical data straight from the source,” says Opennheiser. By integrating this data with GM’s advanced driver-in-the-loop vehicle simulator, the team developed the chassis controls for ride and handling in record time. Upon review, the results were found to be 95%-plus complete, requiring only fine-tuning for use in the production Hummer EV.

A small field of rocks proved a bit of a challenge for the Hummer EV’s 11.9 inches of ground clearance and 44.3-degree approach angle. GMC

The importance of this time-saving development program has extensive corporate ramifications. “Once we proved that we could trust our mathematical tools and not always have to rely on physical properties, each [product development] the program that comes after us does the same thing,” says Oppenheiser. “For example, the BrightDrop EV truck has used some of our findings and accelerated their development.”

Crucially, now that the science is proven, the upcoming Silverado pickup that uses the Hummer architecture uses the same formula. As a result, Oppenhieser says, “The Silverado team is working even faster, and I can tell you that’s cutting development time in half for any GM vehicle.”

This company-wide advance quells some of the early criticism GM received, arguing that the Hummer was just a new EV, one out of reach for the average consumer. When you amortize its development cost across the enterprise, the business case is clear.

Behind the curtain at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground

Located about 40 miles northwest of GM’s headquarters in Detroit, General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground enjoys near-mythical status among automotive enthusiasts. Over 4,000 acres in size, the heavily fenced and wooded facility contains more than 130 miles of paved roads and countless off-road courses, the aforementioned driving simulator, and approximately 4,800 employees. It is also a topographical anomaly designed to find and reveal weaknesses in any vehicle, regardless of powertrain.

Access to outsiders is limited, offered only when engineers are satisfied that a product or technology is within a few percent of completion. Admittedly, the driving program at Milford was tailored to highlight the Hummer’s strengths, but we still got a good idea of ​​its capabilities.

Five solid skid plates protect the suspension and battery pack. We bottomed several times on a rocky part of the trail and managed without damaging the vehicle. GMC

Drive the 2022 GMC Hummer EV

By now, even most casual readers have formed an alternative to Hummer’s appearance. Like the old H2, it is admittedly an extrovert, but the connection is only skin deep. The Hummer EV’s braggadocio is backed up by its hardware, performance and cutting-edge technology. Pardon the cliché, but the GMC Hummer EV is both smaller and less extremely personal.

Inside, the atmosphere continues. The seats are incredibly comfortable, the instrument panel filled with clear, readable display graphics and rear seat legroom and headroom are plentiful. As is the trend, many animations announce control inputs and changing run parameters.

Five standard driving modes are Normal, Off-Road, Off-Road, Towing and the driver-configurable “My Mode”. Pedal to the floor in off-road mode on loosely packed gravel produced the kind of acceleration you’d expect from a three-motor, 1,000-horsepower powertrain with a maximum theoretical potential of 11,500 pound-feet of torque. The system consists of a single-motor front-drive unit with an electronic locking differential that can deliver up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque to one wheel and two rear motors in a GM Ultium Drive unit. All four wheels can be fully synchronized for true e4WD propulsion.

It seems like every new EV has to include a sensationally named launch mode of some kind, the 2022 Hummer EV is no exception. Dubbed “Watts to Freedom,” it takes seconds to activate the launch software to unlock full power, increase cooling for the battery pack, lower the suspension two inches, and bring on some theme music. Then look at the screen after the “Floor It” message, and the Hummer squats down and launches like a funny car minus the excess wheelspin, destroying the zero-60 measurement in 3.0 seconds. “Watts to Freedom unlocks the full potential of the propulsion system,” says Oppenheiser. “It’s unlike anything else and purpose-built for fun.”

Of course, we tried out the much-loved “Crab Walk” feature, which allows all four wheels to point in the same direction to move sideways and forward simultaneously at low speeds. The feeling behind the wheel takes a while to get used to, and the view from outside can be astonishing for onlookers.

The Hummer’s most sensational party trick was on display, it switched back to responsible citizen mode and cruised the oval without drama. The tires are 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler All Territory Mud-Terrain tires, but Oppenheiser says it’s a specific formula for reduced rolling resistance. It helps with range. We noted tire noise, but the average ear is trained to recognize wind and engine noise from traditional vehicles; with both virtually absent, tire noise is more prominent but nowhere near loud enough to interfere with everyday conversation. Highway travel is similar to that of the current GMC Denali, thanks to the adaptive suspension.

Several additional smaller off-road obstacles were dispatched with equal aplomb, showcasing 18 different camera views, including an undercarriage camera with a washer to keep it clean after muddy excursions. Steep descents were sometimes navigated with the two-stage regenerative brake paddle located to the left of the steering wheel. Oppenheiser says he handpicked his team, most of whom are avid off-road enthusiasts with racing pedigrees, and it shows.

Thanks to its four-wheel steering, the GMC Hummer’s turning diameter is 11.3 meters (37 feet). The current Silverado requires nearly 47 feet. GMC

Why Lobster?

When asked why they chose to revive the Hummer name for a forward-looking vehicle, Oppenheiser said: “Well, you either love it or you hate it. If you loved the old Hummer H2, you’ll really love the new one because the off-road capability is so much more; if you hated H2 it’s probably because it got [realistically] seven or eight miles per gallon. And this is a zero-emissions vehicle. Also, it’s a Halo vehicle first and foremost. This is the main vehicle, and things are coming, whether it’s the Silverado or something else, that will benefit from it.”

Given that comment and Oppenheiser’s history as chief engineer and patron saint of the Camaro program, we wondered if the scheduled-to-be-discontinued Camaro will return as a new EV sports coupe in the next few years? Oppenheiser says, “I have no idea. But the Hummer is in many ways like the Camaro. Lots of passion and horsepower. Then he says with a smile, who knows?

The 2022 GMC Hummer will arrive at dealerships in late 2021. The $112,595 EV Edition 1 First Edition model is sold out, but additional variants will follow shortly.

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