Way back in the Before Times, during February’s Super Bowl, GMC hinted an electric Hummer was coming. Now, it’s here (for preorder).
The company unveiled the Hummer EV on Tuesday with a commercial featuring Lebron James intoning that this truck is about “seeing the world not as it is but how it could be,” and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” as a backtrack to footage of the new Hummer absolutely crushing it in nature. It’s clear that GMC is banking on conspicuous consumption as a climate solution. Yet it’s that attitude that got us into the climate crisis, and slapping a 745kW electric motor in it is the vehicular embodiment of putting lipstick on a pig.
I am not a “gearhead” or a “vroom vroom dude” (official car terms), so I’ll leave it to Jalopnik to break down the Hummer EV specs. Instead, I offer you the “climate guy” perspective. In two words: this sucks.
The original Hummer was conceived as a way for civilians to play war, driving around a street-“friendly” version of the Humvee, a war machine used to plunder foreign lands for riches. The Humvee was an essential tool in the Iraq War, a disastrous conflict manufactured to grab control of oil. In a neat symmetry, Hummer sales rose during the war’s early years, clogging suburban roadways with the needless battlefield-ready-like bulk. The sales decline also mirrored the war, with purchases falling off a cliff in 2008 as did public opinion on the Iraq War and the global economy while the price of oil skyrocketed.
In that away, the Hummer is the perfect analogue for late-stage capitalism: a waste of space, guzzling gas monster destroying the planet, based on the designs of a vehicle designed to help kill people abroad and abet American foreign policy goals of securing access to oil and natural resources for the free market to then feed on. Forgive me if I wished the Hummer had stayed dead. But sadly, I do not run GMC.
The world does not need an electric truck, the first edition of which costs $US112,595 ($158,140). The scale of the climate crisis requires us to electrify everything, fast. A luxury monster truck that goes 0-97 km/h in 3 seconds is cool and all, but it’s not going to meaningfully speed up electrifying transportation. Hummer EV stans may point to GMC announcing it the presale had sold out, but really that means nothing since the company isn’t saying how many folks ponied up money, and the $150 deposit is completely refundable.
To speed up the electrification of personal transportation, the best thing companies could do is roll out cheap EVs. What’s wild is that GM, the parent of GMC, has already produced a cool, popular electric car that fits that bill. The Hong Guang MINI EV is available in China for a bit more than $US4,100 ($5,758). The average American drives 50 km per day (at least before the pandemic), which is less than half the range of this little guy. It’s the perfect solution to daily zero-emissions personal travel, and yet the company doesn’t sell it in the U.S.
Could the Hummer EV get someone who would never be caught dead in a Chevy Bolt to buy an electric vehicle? Sure! I totally get the value of, say, an electric pickup like the forthcoming F-150 makes a lot of sense for workers who need a pickup to, uh, work. But the Hummer EV is not that, and GM could do so much more if instead of doing a retread and trading on tropes of masculinity, it went all-in envisioning an entirely new future of electric cars in the U.S. Right now, in the midst of an economic slump markedly similar to 2008 but driven by a pandemic, it could be perfectly positioned to upend the car market and usher in a new era of transportation. Instead, GM is banking on preserving the status quo.
Really, the Hummer EV is exactly the opposite of Lebron’s line about seeing the world as it could be and the SUV being a car by and for “real revolutionaries.” A truly revolutionary approach to climate-friendly transportation is thinking about smaller vehicles that don’t dominate the road. Or if you want to get even more ˚*･༓☾ revoluntionary ☽༓･*˚, we should reduce the number of personal vehicles on the road entirely and open streets to alternative modes of transportation and recreation while investing in public transit instead of building more roads. That would lower congestion, improve people’s quality of life, and be even better for the climate.
Even if we take GMC at Lebron’s word about this being a revolution, then it looks like a really crappy one that will preserve existing problems from inequality to terrorizing nature. The ad announcing the Hummer EV is entirely about subjugating the natural world and, as the non-Lebron part of the voiceover puts it, “innovation engineered to ensure domination.”
In the ad, the Hummer EV swoops up sand dunes, climbs rocky cliffs, and rolls into a field by a grove of aspens. Again, dominating nature is the exact attitude that has landed us in the middle of the sixth mass extinction that could also take civilisation down with it. And here’s where the Hummer EV-led revolution starts to take on a dark tinge. There’s more than a whiff of dystopia around its features, including “underbody armour” or “ultra vision” thanks to 18 cameras mounted on the truck, including underneath. The truck also has crabwalk mode to slide diagonally through gaps narrower than its bulky frame and a wide turn radius could pass through head-on. It has “extraction mode,” a name that harkens to hostage situations and is basically a way to give the truck an extra few inches of clearance to climb over a pile of rocks or perhaps the bodies of those not lucky enough to own a GMC Hummer EV to get them through the climate apocalypse.
They all sound like great features to protect yourself from the marauding hordes once the multidecadal drought and relentless heat turn the Southwest into Mad Max. And they definitely give you a fighting chance should you roll up on someone in Tesla’s Cybertruck, another automotive paean to manliness and climate apocalypse.