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The Gothic Horror of the Hummer EV

31 July 2020

Mary Shelley was only 18 when she wrote and published Frankenstein, a harrowing 19th century tale of the dead made whole through electrical machinations; a damning indictment of man’s hubris and our egoistic urge to revive that which has been laid to rest.

And this week, more than two centuries later, GM have dropped a new promo for the newly revived, newly electrified Hummer. In its own 18-year lifespan from 1992 to 2010, the original Hummer became infamous as a titan of pure combustion, maturing from military surplus to a civilian megatruck. The H2, largest of the original Hummers, notoriously sucked down 24 litres per 100km to move a curb weight of almost 3 tonnes.

But the Hummer EV is something new; something mysterious; something electric. GM’s ad shows only a bare silhouette.

After Dr Victor Frankenstein electrified his own morbid creation in Shelley’s novel, he became instantly appalled.

“I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

And as Frankenstein fled, his creature panicked in a newborn confusion and escaped from his creator’s laboratory onto the lonely streets of Geneva.

Less gothic but equally chaotic, GM’s minute-long ad sees LeBron James narrate on the subject of “true greatness” as we’re bombarded with galloping horses, spinning gears and bold promises for the Hummer EV: Modular Sky Panels, Super Fast Charging, Ultium Battery, Crab Mode.

Crab mode?

Crab mode

After a floundering escape, Frankenstein’s monster lasted an entire solitary winter in the European wilderness. He was a tenderhearted creature at first, surviving on a diet of tree bark and berries. His sculpted body gave him strength, each piece having been carefully selected and stitched into a form more powerful than any natural-born human.

Despite not giving us a clear look at it, GM have sprinkled enough clues into their ad for us to infer a similarly overpowered jigsaw of parts in the Hummer EV. Some of the advertised specs make sense: 1000 horsepower, 11,500 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. But some are more mysterious: “Crab Mode” is probably GM’s version of the on-the-spot tank turn seen in this promo for the Rivian R1T

This kind of turn is made possible by independently rotating electric motors on each of the truck’s wheels. If Rivian can do it, there’s no reason to believe that GM can’t also. At least that’s what I’m hoping Crab Mode is. The freakish alternative is the Hummer EV moving directly sideways like an actual crab.

“I had gazed upon him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”

Stitching it all together

Like Crab Mode, if we peel off the layers of marketing paint we can make a pretty good guess at the other advertised features of the Hummer EV.

Adrenaline Mode sounds a lot like the maxed-out acceleration delivered by Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode. A 3-second 0-60 isn’t as impressive as the 2.3 seconds some Model S owners have recorded, but it will be a feat if the Hummer EV is half as massive as its predecessors.

“I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing towards me with superhuman speed. He bounded over the crevices in the ice, among which I had walked with caution.”

ultium battery hummer ev text

The Hummer EV’s “Ultium” battery — ultium being the name of GM’s battery cell technology — is expected to cram 200 kWh into each pack. That’s double a top-of-the-line Tesla, three times a Hyundai Kona, or five Nissan LEAFs. A battery that huge will almost certainly weigh more than a tonne.

“I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large.”

But as large as it promises to be, the Hummer EV is no H2. Freed from its combustion chains but still tied to the form of its predecessors, GM’s clip proudly displays a massive storage area in the front-end where a 6.2L V8 engine once sat.

Likewise we can guess that the “Infinity Roof” and “Modular Sky Panels” will make for a more open, less box-like interior than the original-spec Hummers. No doubt the GM designers worked hard to arrive at the current silhouette.

“Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour.”

Back from the dead

The ad concludes with a pledge from GM: “See it Fall 2020… Production begins Fall 2021… The world’s first supertruck is only the beginning.” Knowing the US seasonal calendar, we can expect to start seeing Hummer EVs coming off the line toward the end of 2021 —  almost exactly two years since we first heard rumours of GM’s electric truck project.

“I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.”

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So what are we to do when the Hummer EV arrives? Are we to react like Victor Frankenstein, fleeing in fear at its first electric twitch? Perhaps we are the Swiss villagers who, upon being peacefully greeted by the monster, instantly turned to violence and cast him back into the wild? 

In Shelley’s novel it was this rejection that ultimately drove the creature to a murderous rage. Like any literature student will tell you, it was Dr Frankenstein and the closed-minded society that were the real monsters. 

So however freakish the Hummer EV appears, we mustn’t reject it outright. The ’90s-era petroleum decadence that gave us the original Hummer is dead, but it isn’t buried — and a lot of people still like big cars whether they’re efficient or not.

If the road away from combustion is paved with some decadence, so be it. The electric future was never going to be limited to SMART cars and ultra-efficient LEAFs.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.“

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