Electric HUMMER H3 In Washington: Any Impact?

May 26, 2009

I first saw the 2009 HUMMER H3 by Raser Technologies at the SAE World Congress held last month in Detroit. The vehicle uses a powertrain similar to vehicles from Fisker Automotive; an electric drive motor that takes power from a large battery pack. The batteries are charged via a plug-in source and an on-board "range extender" generator powered by a GM Ecotec four-cylinder engine. FEV, a major automotive parts supplier, built the prototype.

We're scheduled to drive this H3 in June. What we can tell you now is that the performance is said to be strong at under 9 seconds 0-60 mph. Fuel economy is tougher to gauge as it depends on when you measure it (see John Voelcker's story from GreenCarReports.com on Why MPG Is Just Stupid). The manufacturers claim a 40 mile range on pure electric power, and they claim 100 mpg if you only run on electricity if you make only short drives and have a place to plug-in between trips. Measuring the H3's range with a full tank of fuel and topped off batteries is more likely to yield economy in the mid-30 mpg range.

Technology for the Raser H3 includes a big 625-volt Lithium Ion battery pack, a 200 kW motor, a 100 kW generator,  and a four-wheel-drive transfer case, something that is integral to maintaining the HUMMER H3's off-road capabilities. The hybrid system runs in series, so that both the generator and the battery pack can supply power to the electric motor.

The folks from Raser Technologies took their electric HUMMER H3 to Washington, D.C. last week. We're not sure anybody payed much attention to it (given the photo provided), but it did generate a couple stories, inlucing this one from MSNBC. In a different story riddled with errors, the KSL News department (local Utah TV and radio stations) reported that "Raser is part of a company bidding to buy Hummer from General Motors." I was unable to confirm that this was true.

This kind of technology is likely to be one of the many that take us into the future. Companies like Raser and FEV are showing that it can be built, but we'll need to see if the result is worth the $55,000 cost of an electrified H3, and whether any consumers will be willing to pay that kind of cost.

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