Hybrids & Electrics

GM Had The First Electric Pickup-It Scrapped Them Just Like EV1

Here’s the story of yet, another all-electric vehicle GM launched only to take them all back and crush them. Well, almost all of them. If you know the story of GM’s EV1, the first all-electric vehicle in modern times, then you’ll find this heartwarming story familiar. GM had the first electric pickup and it scrapped them just like the EV1 electric car. It was the 1997 Chevy S10 EV.

The GM EV1 paved the way for Tesla

red 1997 GM EV1
1997 GM EV1 | GM

The ending to the GM EV1 debacle is one of many about the company shooting itself in the foot. Not only did GM not take advantage of all of the development work for the EV1 but it paved the way for Tesla. Engineers from the EV1 team and development leading up to and including the EV1 were all part of the start of Tesla’s incredible arc. 

Now GM is playing catch-up and paying big money for that race to meet or beat Tesla. But back in 1997 Chevy had a better idea. It launched the Chevy S10 EV. Mostly available for fleets, it used the S10 pickup truck with much of the drivetrain of an EV1. It cost a whopping $33,305. 

The heartbeat of the S10 EV was a 114 hp AC induction motor

1997 Chevy S10 EV | GM
1997 Chevy S10 EV | GM

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The heartbeat of the electric S10 was a 114 hp AC induction motor along with a 16.2 kWh lead-acid battery pack. The battery pack nestled between the S10’s frame below the bed. Weighing 1,400 lbs, it meant the S10 EV tipped the scales at 4,200 lbs. A stock 1997 S-10 weighed around 3,000 lbs as a comparison.

The Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity put one of these S10 EVs through its EPA testing regimen. It set the truck’s range at 38.8 miles at a constant 60 mph and 60.4 miles range at a constant 45 mph. A similar testing procedure on an urban loop was conducted in California with a real-world range of 35-43 miles. This included some stop-and-go traffic. 

GM made a larger battery for the S10 EV for 1998

Seeing the paltry numbers GM made a larger battery for the electric S10 for 1998. These got a 39 kWh nickel-hydride battery pack. While doubling the S10’s range it added an undisclosed premium cost to the few that were made. By then GM was already looking to drop the EV plan and double down on gas-powered vehicles. 

Numbers vary for just how many S10 EVs GM made. Somewhere around 500 seems to be the most quoted amount. You couldn’t buy one from GM, as was the case with the EV1. After the 10-year lease was up GM gathered the trucks up and crushed them as with the EV1s. However, a few made it out alive.

About 60 of the S10s were sold to fleets. You see them pop up occasionally for sale so unlike the EV1 which only saw a few donated to museums and trade schools, there are S10 EVs in the wild. We’ve even included a short YouTube vid of one that received a hydraulic lift bed to expose the battery pack.