Few would have predicted a few years ago that electric trucks would be the hottest thing in electric cars. But they are and the and are the de facto flagships for this trend. Let’s take a look at how they stack up in terms of specs, design, and reality.
Why electric trucks?
The fact that electric cars arrived before electric trucks is, to paraphrase former Google chief Eric Schmidt, a bug in history. Trucks better utilize electric torque for towing, payload and off-road work, have larger bodies to integrate big batteries, have larger MSRPs in which to bury the cost of that battery, and are often used in predictable work scenarios where charging and range can be more readily forecasted. Plus they have built-in 120V electrical outlets powered by their batteries, obviating the need for an aftermarket inverter or lugging a gas-powered generator to the activity site.
The Hummer EV pickup is coming to market in late 2021, but that’s just the initial top-dollar trim level of the pickup body style. It will be years before the more-affordable trim levels of the pickup or any version of the SUV variant hit the market, between now and early 2024. (I hate how Detroit has copied the inverted price pyramid launch model from Tesla, but I guess it makes sense when you’re launching a new product with lots of R&D costs to pay back.)
Tesla’s Cybertruck is promised to arrive in late 2021 like the Hummer’s first variant, but since it’s Tesla we can’t be quite so sure that will happen or in what volume.
These two trucks could not be more different in appearance. The Hummer EV hews closely to the styling DNA of the previous Hummer family: Big, broad-shouldered, and flat-faced. As mentioned, it will arrive in two forms: pickup truck and an SUV that is 9 inches shorter through the wheelbase — but nobody would dare call either version compact. You’ll know the new Hummer the first time you see one.
The first time you see a Tesla Cybertruck you may not know what it is. It will arrive in one stainless-steel-exoskeleton body style that is the truck’s most controversial feature. You either love the fact that a car-maker actually did something really different, or you see it as one long sneer at the traditional truck-buying public.
You’ll spend most of your time inside your truck, so the cabin is more important than exterior styling. The Hummer EV is almost cosseting compared to the Cybertruck, with two huge billboard screens, the largest side vents ever designed, and squared-off aesthetic in every detail. It retains a large number of traditional switch controls and buttons.
The Cybertruck cabin, by comparison, looks like it was laid out by one of the firms that designs prison cells: Spartan and screen centric — not even screens-centric. But if you want a digital touch interface in your truck, nobody does it like Tesla, even going so far as offering the first virtual shift lever.
Range and charge
The Hummer’s range tops out at 350 miles on its top variant, while Cybertruck promises 500 miles on its top model. I normally think extreme range is part of an overheated EV arms race, but electric trucks will be called upon to go where there is no charging and power electric accessories while there, so range and battery capacity really matter in this category. I shudder at the thought of having to tow an electric truck out of the woods to the nearest charging station.
For charging around town, the more you spend on a Hummer EV, the better it works: On the top model you get a charger compatible with 800-volt DC fast charge stations for taking on nearly 100 miles of range in 10 minutes. The bottom trim gets a charger that utilizes about half the voltage, though Hummer has yet to publish what that will actually mean in terms of charging.
I’m not a truck guy — I leave that to Emme Hall — so I’ll stick to the basics: Cybertruck promises to tow more than almost anything not made by a locomotive company: 14,000 pounds on the trimotor version. Hummer EV doesn’t have towing specs published yet, but I expect a stout number. Neither truck has a payload number published as of this writing.
Zero to 60 in either truck is the stuff even Ferrari owners salivate over: 3 seconds or less in their tri-motor trims.
Hummer has made a big deal of most models being able to Crabwalk and pick up 6 inches of ground clearance at the push of a button that puts it into ‘Extract’ mode. It also has the kind of multifunction tailgates that have become a wow factor on conventional trucks of late. But Tesla has an integrated roll top cover that turns the Cybertruck’s bed into a vault. And, as I mentioned, Hummer EV will have an SUV version, Tesla has no announced plans for the Cybertruck.
The Cybertruck seems to have it all over the Hummer EV on price, to the point that you wonder if it’s just a loss leader.
A tri-motor Cybertruck, even specced with Tesla’s absurdly namedoption for $10,000, is promised at around $80,000, almost $33,000 less than a tri-motor Hummer EV at launch. On the low end, a dual-motor base Cybertruck is promised for around $40,000, almost $40,000 less than the least expensive dual-motor Hummer that is slated. Something doesn’t add up — the two makes aren’t that different.
Of course equipment and specs will vary considerably on the two brands, Tesla has a lousy record of delivering its low-priced models, and GM is probably dead set on making real money from electric Hummers right out of the gate. But the coarse price comparison remains a stark one.
Tesla might seem to have it all over the Hummer EV on price, some performance aspects, its Supercharger network and its radical look, in the eyes of some. But that design will be a bridge too far for a lot of buyers, I suspect, and Tesla can’t be fully trusted to deliver what it says it will when it says it will. GM knows the truck market and what delight truck buyer, Tesla doesn’t. The best thing about this battle is that, whether you reserve a Hummer EV or reserve a Tesla Cybertruck, the ante is a mere $100 and fully refundable.