The Hummer Is Coming Back — As An Electric Vehicle In the early 2000s, the Hummer was a symbol of gas-guzzling militaristic excess. Now it's getting revived as an electric pickup. It's one sign of how much things have changed in the auto industry.

The Hummer Is Coming Back — As An Electric Vehicle

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Remember the Hummer, that massive military-style vehicle with terrible gas mileage? It had its heyday in the early 2000s? Well, the Hummer is making a comeback. And this time, instead of a gas guzzler, it is an electric vehicle. You heard that right. NPR's Camila Domonoske has more.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Electric vehicles are quiet, so this is a Hummer that doesn't hum. General Motors is driving that theme home in a Super Bowl ad this weekend. The teaser videos say this is a truck with massive torque and 1,000 horsepower that goes zero to 60 in three seconds that'll sound like this.

And that silence says a lot. The embrace of an electric truck is an astonishing reversal from back when GM first launched the Hummer. GM was a pioneer in electric vehicles. But in the late '90s, the company decided to abandon its electric car program. And it purchased the Hummer name - the brawny, boxy brand beloved by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

MARTY PADGETT: And their was no intent, or there was even no foresight to think that maybe they should also keep their electric car programs alive.

DOMONOSKE: Marty Padgett is an editor at The Car Connection, and he wrote a book about Hummers.

PADGETT: Trucks were selling amazingly well, and electric cars were nothing more than an experiment.

DOMONOSKE: Over the next few years, GM sent its electric cars to the crusher and heavily promoted the military-style gas guzzler. America was launching the Iraq war.

PADGETT: So advertising ends for the GM Hummer were appearing in between CNN segments on the invasions. What other consumer product has launched in such a controversial way at such a controversial time?

DOMONOSKE: The Great Recession and high gas prices brought down the Hummer. It was discontinued a decade ago. And now, the electric revival is a sign of how times have changed. Tesla proved that the electric car wasn't just an experiment. Other carmakers are following suit, and they're not selling them as small, efficient cars that will save the environment. They're selling them, well, more like Hummers.

PADGETT: I have this theory that the electric car segment is getting bro-ified (ph). They're appealing to a very masculine demographic, and they're doing it overtly.

DOMONOSKE: Speaking of manly men and their cars, Arnold Schwarzenegger already has an electric Hummer fitted out for him by an Austrian startup. But the new vehicle from GM might look a little different than Schwarzenegger's big off-roader. All we know is that it will be a pickup, and it'll have a ton of competition.

JESSICA CALDWELL: There is suddenly going to be a slew of electric trucks - almost as many as the full-size trucks that exist right now.

DOMONOSKE: Jessica Caldwell is the head of industry analysis at Edmunds. She points to the Tesla Cybertruck, the electric F-150 and startups like Lordstown, Rivian, Bollinger. Carmakers are eager to make electric trucks. Here's why - the No. 1, 2 and 3 bestselling vehicles in America are all pickups, and they're not cheap.

CALDWELL: We think of them as workhorses, kind of that American icon. But they're expensive now. The average large pickup truck transacts at almost $50,000.

DOMONOSKE: And right now, you can drop $70 or $80 grand on a pickup without an electric motor. Automakers have had trouble making money off smaller cars, especially electric cars. But trucks, those are big moneymakers. So as companies look to the future...

CALDWELL: The fact that the whole market is going to electrification, they don't want to lose a part of that very lucrative truck business.

DOMONOSKE: Caldwell says by giving this new Hummer a famous name, GM is positioning it as a premium electric pickup. So while the cost has not been announced, expect a hefty price tag, which means plenty of rivals but the potential to make a Hummer-sized pile of money.

Camila Domonoske, NPR News.


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