Blast from the Past: Chevrolet S10 EV, GM’s First Electric Pickup

Published on September 6, 2019 in Electric by Guillaume Rivard

The current quest by automakers to develop an electric pickup is not unprecedented, you know.

Well before Tesla promised a zero-emission truck, before Ford began work on an electric F-150 prototype (a production model is due by the end of 2021), and before Rivian introduced its acclaimed R1T concept, General Motors experimented with a battery-powered variant of the Chevrolet S10.

Remember the GM EV1, the short-lived electric car that proved way too ahead of its time? A version of its powertrain was fitted into a two-door, short-bed S10 work truck. It consisted of a 114-horsepower electric motor and a 16.2-kWh lead-acid battery. The latter was mounted in between the frame rails and it added a whopping 1,400 pounds to the vehicle—one third of its overall weight!

Test results from the Idaho National Laboratory ’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity (AVTA) indicated a range of 62 kilometres at a constant speed just shy of 100 km/h and 97 kilometres at a speed of about 70 km/h.

A larger 39-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery was soon introduced, doubling the S10 EV’s range.

Photo: PickupTrucks.com

“The smooth, quick acceleration was like taking off in a light aircraft,” Tom Convey, a former GM engineer who used to own one, told PickupTrucks.com a few years back. “The sound of the gear whine reminded me of a turbine engine. If GM made a vehicle like that again, I’d buy it in a minute! I miss that truck!”

Launched in 1997, mainly for fleets, the Chevrolet S10 EV had a production run of just over a thousand units. The project was terminated a year later due to poor sales.

Ford gave it a shot with a Ranger EV, available on a lease-only basis from 1998-2002, but all units were ultimately recalled.

Hopefully, the upcoming electric pickups will be much better executed and more attractive, including GM’s. Prices will be quite steep, for sure, but demand for EVs is way stronger than it was two decades ago.

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