Curbside Classic: The Long-Lost EcoHummer Prototype Found!

In 2007, Hummer started its death spiral. The huge run-up of oil prices that year, which culminated in the all-time peak of $160/barrel in June of 2008, resulted in gas prices in the US in excess of $4.00 per gallon. And during this period, eco-awareness was in full bloom; the Prius was king, and the Hummer became the whipping boy of the rapidly rising green movement. The Hummer H2, poster boy of environmental irresponsibility with it 10mpg city EPA rating, saw it sales droop precipitously all during 2007, and plummet in 2008. The slightly smaller H3, which still swilled gas like a sailor in port, did little to stem the flood of negative press and image problems. Something had to be done, and ultra-fast, before Hummer was swallowed up in a black hole of its own making.

A desperate idea was hatched by one young exec: the EcoHummer – an ultra small, lightweight super-efficient hybrid mini-me Hummer. The sole prototype was long assumed to have been crushed, but here it is, hiding in Eugene after all these years.

Could such a vehicle change the course and public image of Hummer? With the GM mothership sliding inexorably towards bankruptcy, there were no funds to create such a radical concept from scratch; all the development money was sucked up by the Volt. The solution was ingenious: they bought a Scion xB and a Prius, and installed the Prius’ hybrid drive train. One was quickly cobbled up and sent to Portland, Oregon, a bastion of all things green where the Prius was the best selling car, to see how Prius drivers would respond when given the chance to drive the EcoHummer for a few weeks.

GM went belly up during this consumer test, and the folks who were testing the prototype at the time were never asked to give it back. That was ten years ago, and since it’s highly unlikely Old GM will ask for it now, they’ve finally decided to show off their beloved little EcoHummer after keeping a low profile, if that’s possible with a yellow Hummer.

 

What mattered was economy, and the EcoHummer delivered, despite its atrocious aerodynamics. Preliminary tests indicated it would achieve 44 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 40mpg. Take that, you eco-wienies!

An ingenious solution was found to give the EcoHummer AWD: adapt a small electric motor to the existing AWD rear axle that had been available on the Japanese market bB.

And what was Hummer going to actually build had this concept been green-lighted before the lights all went out? Who knows? Maybe they were going to snap up used xBs and convert them. Or contract with Toyota?

As many of the existing Hummer accessories and miscellaneous parts as possible were used.

Wherever possible, regardless of their functionality.

The current owner, who has of course asked for anonymity, said that initially he assumed that someone would come asking for it back. When the registration came due, the folks at the DMV didn’t blink when he paid for new stickers, even though it was registered to Hummer Division, GM, Inc. Needless to say, he has no title, which means he’s stuck with it.

But he’s more than happy with the prospect of driving the EcoHummer for another decade or more. it’s been dead-reliable, and it has averaged right around 40mpg. He wonders why Toyota never made something like this, as it gets almost twice the mileage of the Subaru Outbacks and Foresters that everyone he knows drives.

Now that oil and gas are cheap, and Hummers H2s are increasingly a common sight on the streets again, the EcoHummer looks like what it is: a lost a relic from a different era. Who gives a damn about gas mileage, CO² emissions or the environment? Where once upon a time Hummer drivers were scorned, their cars keyed (or worse) and the brand pilloried in the arena of public perception, now they’re having the last (or current) laugh. The owner of the EcoHummer says he’s been jeered at and even intimidated by Hummer H2 drivers, and recently had a soft drink poured over his car from the windows of an H2 at a stop light. He has actually been contemplating trying to make it look like a regular xB again.

But then the price of gas just crested $3.00 here recently, so he’s decided to hold off a bit longer.