The GMC Hummer EV will be expensive, starting at $79,995. That may ensure we’ll have few of these electric beasts in the wild. But, for traffic safety specialists, that is far from being a relief. All the people with whom we discussed how quick and how heavy the GMC’s electric pickup truck is are concerned with its specs.
UPDATE: GM sent us the list of standard safety features for the GMC Hummer EV. The article already informs them.
GM-Trucks.com discovered that the Hummer EV would weigh precisely 9,046 pounds – or 4,103 kg. GM confirmed the curb weight would really be that much. The company had already disclosed the electric pickup truck would go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3 seconds.
We have brought the matter to the attention of IIHS, Consumer Reports, Safety Research & Strategies, and the Center for Auto Safety. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, asked what the purpose of such a massive vehicle to have all that performance is.
“What happens when something goes wrong in a vehicle that weighs 9,000 pounds and has that kind of acceleration capability? I’m looking at that with the lens that I work in everyday, which is when things go wrong – because they will and they do. That’s an awful lot of power and an awful lot of mass to be under control. My suspicion is that most drivers are going to have some challenges with it. Just because we can, it doesn’t mean we should.”
In the US, all vehicles below 10,000 lb can be driven with a regular driver’s license, according to Kane. That means a new driver that just got the right to drive around could be in control of a Hummer EV.
“Driver training in the US is pretty thin as it is. But even so, putting this thing on public roads doesn’t require anything other than a basic driver’s license. I don’t know if this is going to land on the right ears, but if you just look at all the things that have been left unaddressed when it comes to modern vehicles, this is yet another issue. In the larger scheme of things, there are so many problems with the way we are dealing with vehicles and vehicle safety here in the US.”
Jason Levine, the executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, has a similar point of view.
“The reality is that any vehicle at that height and weight, lacking appropriate advanced safety features, is potentially very dangerous to vulnerable road users regardless of how it is powered. That said, decreasing the time such a vehicle takes to accelerate will not increase safety.”
Joseph Young, director of media relations at IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety), fears that the high performance of the Hummer EV will invite its owners to drive faster than they should.
“The amount of horsepower that this vehicle will reportedly have is certainly a concern given the relationship between horsepower and speeding. A study we did a few years ago found that high-horsepower vehicles are more likely to exceed the speed limit, particularly by 10 mph or more. They also have higher mean speeds than vehicles with less powerful engines.”
That kind of behavior is one of the elements that can make things go wrong, as Kane mentioned before. Young explained how.
“Driving at a higher speed makes a crash more likely partly because you have less time to react, and given the reported weight of the vehicle, the time required to react and get the vehicle to a stop may be longer than a lighter car.”
Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, told us that the mass alone might not be an issue if GM takes the right approach with the Hummer EV.
“Heavier vehicles don't necessarily have longer braking distances as long as they are equipped with sufficient brakes and tires. The additional weight gives more momentum to stop, but also increases friction from the road due to weight. Those forces cancel out as long as the tires are capable of sufficient grip.
Fisher even remembered some situations that prove that.
“In our experiences, we have seen this to be true. For instance, we recorded slightly better stopping distances with the Tesla Model X than the Nissan Versa despite the large SUV weighing more than double the small car.”
The Consumer Reports director also gave us his impressions on how the massive electric pickup truck may behave.
“As for handling, it has more to do with where the weight is. A top-heavy vehicle will be more prone to body lean, and a lot of weight in the front or rear can make vehicles hard to turn quickly. But when the weight is low and centrally located, like it is in EVs, it can actually help handling and lower the center of gravity. This can prevent body lean and improve stability.”
For Fisher, the primary safety concern related to the Hummer EV has to do with those close to one.
“Of course, massive vehicles are not safer for everyone. The IIHS has demonstrated that when heavier vehicles collide with lighter vehicles they tend to do more damage to those lighter vehicles. And of course, a large heavy vehicle can be even more lethal to a pedestrian or cyclist. So while the Hummer will likely do a good job of keeping the occupants safe, it may pose increased dangers to those around it.”
We contacted GM to understand how the company plans to address these concerns, and this is its response.
“Safety is GM’s highest priority. We are still in the development stage and therefore cannot yet provide official braking distance figures. I can assure you however, the GMC HUMMER EV will meet or exceed all applicable federal safety standards.”
GM also sent us the list of standard safety features the Hummer EV should have. They include pedestrian safety signal, automated external sound generator at low speeds alerts pedestrians of vehicle presence, Front Pedestrian Braking, Rear Pedestrian Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Braking, Enhanced Automatic Parking Assist (includes semi-automatic steering, applying limited braking, as well as shifting gears into a detected parallel or perpendicular parking space), Trailer Side Blind Zone Alert, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, IntelliBeam (automatic high beam on/off), Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking, Reverse Automatic Braking, sensor indicator, traffic sign recognition, Safety Alert Seat, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert.
Ironically, even people that have never considered buying a Hummer EV will pray for GM to keep these promises. May it develop amazing brakes and electronic safeguards and buy remarkable tires to protect us all on the roads when we happen to meet this electric pickup truck out there.