GM Defense plans to produce military vehicle based on Hummer EV in 2022

  • The eLRV from GM Defense is expected to be based off the Hummer EV, but not the entire consumer vehicle, company officials said.
  • GM Defense plans to use and modify components of the Hummer EV such as its frame, motors and the automaker's proprietary "Ultium" batteries for the eLRV.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he supports new policies and procedures to combat climate change, which is a top priority of the Biden administration.

WARREN, Mich. – General Motors plans to produce a military prototype vehicle based off the forthcoming GMC Hummer EV in 2022, officials told CNBC.

The plan is an early, but important, step in commercializing the automaker's electric vehicle business, including a Hummer-based "electric Light Reconnaissance Vehicle," or eLRV, for potential use by the Army, according to GM Defense President Steve duMont.

"The Army's very excited about the fact that we're investing in this," he told CNBC during an interview at the automaker's technology campus in Warren, Mich. "The eLRV, that's the first purpose-built from the ground-up. You saw it today, it's our Hummer EV. Our Hummer EV is what we're going to base that vehicle on."

DuMont's comments followed a visit Monday from Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks to hear about GM's electrification plans, specifically GM Defense's research and development of EVs for the defense industry.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he supports new policies and procedures to combat climate change, which is a top priority of the Biden administration.

GM Defense last year told CNBC that it had identified $25 billion in potential future business.

Hummer

The eLRV from GM Defense is expected to be based off the Hummer EV, company officials said. GM Defense plans to use and modify components of the Hummer EV such as its frame, motors and the automaker's proprietary "Ultium" batteries for the eLRV. It will be designed to military specifications and won't likely look like the consumer vehicle, officials said.

It's similar to what GM Defense did with a new Infantry Squad Vehicle that it's currently producing for the Army. That vehicle was based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, an off-road variant of the mid-size pickup.

The company expects to begin assembling eLRV prototypes based off the Hummer for testing and military evaluation next year, Rick Kewley, GM Defense vice president of product development and advanced engineering, said Monday.

The eLRV program isn't a sure thing yet. The Army has asked the industry whether such a vehicle could be requested information about such a vehicle from companies. In May, Defense News reported 10 companies, including GM, brought electric vehicles so the Army could test the off-road capability, define goals and inform possible solutions.

Following the information phase, the procedure would be for the military to release detailed specifications for such a vehicle for companies to produce prototypes. The military would then select two companies to manufacture their vehicles. A decision is currently expected by mid-decade.  

DOD 'very sold' on EVs

During her tour of GM's facilities on Monday, Hicks made supportive comments about EVs for the Department of Defense but questioned the rollout and lack of needed charging infrastructure for such vehicles.

"You don't need to sell me," she told duMont during a tour of GM's battery lab. Later adding, "We are very sold."

DuMont said GM Defense could charge such vehicles much like the military currently refuels jets or traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines through set locations or through mobile vehicle units with generators to power the EVs.

"However they want to do it, we can work with them on that journey because we're doing that today," duMont said regarding remote refueling.  

Hicks, who was not available for questions after the tour, said fully switching the U.S. military's fleet to EVs would be "very challenging" and take time. But the DOD can begin preparing for more EVs in certain areas.

"Electrifying the non-tactical fleet, that's a no-brainer," she said in an emailed statement to CNBC. " With the tactical fleet, it's about this issue of how we move forward, and the capabilities we gain."

Hicks cited the quietness of EVs as well as the lower emissions as positives, but said there remain questions around charging and retrofitting current operations for EVs.

"I think once we can start to demonstrate that, which we're going to need industry to help us, we're going to need the operators to play with approaches for a little bit — so we can't just sort of leap into new concepts of operation around electrification — but I think we can get there relatively fast," she said.

Electric ISV

GM Defense's first major military contract was awarded last year to produce and maintain new Infantry Squad Vehicles for the Army. It was a $214.3 million contract.

The government's specifications for the vehicles included traditional internal combustion engines, however GM earlier this year also produced an all-electric concept ISV as well. Kewley called the electric concept a "steppingstone" to showcase what military EVs would be like to drive.

Hicks on Monday drove an ISV but not the electric version of the vehicle, which was made with EV parts from GM's Chevrolet Bolt.

"It works very well as a demonstration of where we're headed," Kewley said. "As we productize and commercialize the Hummer EV, we'll be able to take that propulsion system and adapt it into a similarly sized vehicle."  

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