GM developed the GMC Hummer EV in record time: Here’s the backstory

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Yes, the 2022 GMC Hummer EV promises to be eyebrow-raising in a lot of ways—like how quickly such a huge truck can accelerate, or be an off-road maneuverability ace with Crab mode. 

But one of the most surprising aspects of the entire project was its record-setting development pace—one that the company has hinted will be a template for other upcoming EVs. 

GM didn’t even have a first complete test vehicle 18 months ago. When we spoke with chief engineer Al Oppenheiser in October 2020, he reported his team was about 18 months into its development cycle, and while the battery and propulsion were all in place, the company was just building its first vehicle for testing.

The team worked at astounding speed, not just for GM but relative to the entire industry, finishing its development mere months ahead of production and, then, a first delivery in December. 

“Normally, a vehicle program with any manufacturer takes around four years,” chief engineer Oppenheiser recaps in new footage teased in a trailer released Tuesday. “We were asked to do it in just over two.”

The new look at the Hummer EV’s development, this time, comes directly from GM, and it will arrive in the form of a 60-minute documentary set to debut March 27 on the History Channel. While the automaker is clear that it commissioned the film—potentially making it one giant infomercial of sorts—it could be well worth checking out for what GM notes is the “unfettered access” of the documentary crew in capturing key behind-the-scenes in the development of the big electric truck.

“This documentary captures the soul of a team capable of incredible innovation and resilience,” said executive chief engineer Josh Tavel, in an accompanying release. “Their learnings are laying the foundation of vehicle development for decades to come.”

In the film, produced by WTP Pictures and Hiatus, with director Sean King O’Grady, GM goes to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for testing on snow and ice, then to Moab, Utah, for off-road tuning on the famous red rocks. In between, it goes inside the GM Design building and Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and to its proving grounds in Milford, Michigan, and Yuma, Arizona. 

Ultium EV platform – GMC Hummer EV

In considering the development of the GMC Hummer EV, the team opted for a “structural sandwich” approach, as Oppenheiser and others referred to it, which allowed some of the vehicle load and durability advantages of a body-on-frame layout without the packaging limitations. It’s set to be the basis for the 2024 Chevy Silverado EV, an electric version of the GMC Sierra, and perhaps more. 

We look forward to exploring more of the how and why ourselves with the team behind the Hummer EV—and, hopefully soon, driving it. But in the meantime—if we filter out some corporate bluster, perhaps—this video might fill in some intriguing storyline between GM’s present and future. Check out the trailer for now, and we’ll add the full film if and when it’s available.

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