Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 97-98 Chevy S-10EV: The Volt's Older Sibling.

This week, I decided to introduce you to my columns in Chevy Enthusiast Magazine, titled Weird and Wonderful Bowties. Yesterday, I introduced you all to John Fitch, who is a living legend, and a true Chevy Enthusiast. Next up is an actual production vehicle I bet you didn’t know existed, the all electric Chevy S-10EV.

The Toyota Prius notwithstanding, General Motors and Chevrolet squandered the leadership position in alternative-propulsion vehicles that they stated to hold with the twin introductions of the EV-1, and the Chevrolet S-10EV. What, you never heard of the S-10EV? Ahhh, come, sit, and learn how GM regained it’s swagger after two truly forgettable decades of producing mostly uninspired vehicles, and introduced a truly revolutionary car – The EV-1 – along with the companion S-10EV.

Much has been written about the EV-1, and how it was distributed through Saturn Dealers in warm weather locations on a fixed term lease arrangement, but what wasn’t well known was the fact that GM was developing the S-10EV at the same time, and offered generally to large commercial fleets. The induction motor used to power the S-10EV is based on the EV-1 powertrain, only smaller because the extra weight and aerodynamic drag could overstress the battery pack if the same motor was used. The 1997 model used 27 lead acid batteries, while the revised 1998 model used nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries that were both lighter – by 400 pounds – and offered a longer range.
Speaking of range, it’s wasn’t very good. The 1997 model, with the lead acid battery pack could only manage a 45 mile city range, and a 60 mile highway range. With the NiHM Battery Pack, and some aerodynamic enhancements built in for the 1998 model year, the range increased to 90 miles on the highway, which was still pretty pathetic. The EV-1 managed to double that range. There was some interesting engineering, and none more so that the adaptation of the heat pump, used for climate control of the interior of the truck, as well as keeping the battery pack cool in severe conditions.

Chevrolet built almost 500 S-10EV’s, and unlike the restrictive lease offered on the EV-1 coupe, Chevrolet actually sold 60 of these trucks to fleet customers, because of a legal loophole within the Department of Transportation crash-worthiness evaluation on the standard S-10 truck. Taken into account, while the engineering involved to produce and to run these vehicles was astounding, battery technology wasn’t keeping pace, and GM lost patience. When the leases expired on the EV-1 Coupes, and the remaining S-10EV’s, they were all scrapped, generating adverse publicity for the company they have yet to live down.
GM’s soon to be introduced Volt is using the decade old technology from the EV-1 as a starting point, with revisions as necessary. So, instead of leading the green car revolution, GM is just catching up – a pity, because it didn’t have to be that way.
To see the second edition of Chevy Enthusiast, which this column ran, simply follow this link!

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  1. Feds Avatar

    The tonneau man, you forgot to mention the tonneau!
    If you look in the first picture, you can see that the tonneau only covers the back half of the bed. The story I got on this, while employed at GM, is that the configuration of the tonneau is the most aerodynamically efficient possible. It was developed at Bonneville by measuring top speed with different configurations.
    I always found that interesting, as the "back-half" tonneau outperformed a full cover, no cover, and no tailgate.

    1. joshuman Avatar

      I know Mythbusters did a show on various bed configurations and their effects on MPG but I do not recall a half-tonneau as one of the tests. It would be interesting to see it in action in a wind tunnel.

    2. engineerd Avatar

      Aerodynamics is kind of a black art. I've found that it depends on the truck. Some do better without a tonneau, some do better with the tailgate down, and some do better with a tonneau. It all depends on the low pressure zone just behind the cab and how big it is.
      As joshuman stated, it would be interesting to see this tested in a wind tunnel.

  2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    60 and 90 miles may sound puny, but that's a plenty for the commute and buzzing around town, leaving the Jeep open for weekend fun, a Viper engine, and retardedly huge tires.
    I know it sounds like a scissor lift, but I have done a burnout in one of those and I never laughed so damn hard.
    Just sayin.

  3. dmdukejr Avatar

    Is it just me, or does that top picture look like they are racing the wrong way down the dragstrip? Get out of the way!

  4. P161911 Avatar

    I think I remember hearing where a few of the 60 that got sold have since ended up in private hands. Basically when their fleet life was over they were auctioned off like any other government/institutional fleet vehicle.

  5. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    I'd be curious to know the powertrain lifespan of an electric vehicle and how it stacks up to a more conventional ICE powered ride. The S10 would be a good vehicle with which to measure that, as it was available in both versions. Also, maintenance costs would be interesting to see. EVs are more likely than not a somewhat significant part of our future, like it or not. An EV with a range of around 100 miles would serve a lot of people out there, at least as a second vehicle. The biggest problems would arise from northern locales, and of course people living in farther outlying/rural areas would have little use for one, but there are millions and millions of people living in metro areas across the country in which the type of vehicle I speak of would be useful. In general, GM screwed the pooch by dropping the EV program years ago, and it's still kicking them in the nuts to this day. Sad, sad, sad.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      Ranger EVs have been reported to go 125,000 miles or more before battery replacement. Since there are so few of them left (Ford, like GM, scrapped most of them with only a handful being saved from the crusher), it is hard to say how well the motors and electronics fare.
      There are two trains of thought on EVs. The one you presented — buy an EV for the daily commute and have another car for weekends/trips/fun — and one that says, "Who can afford two cars?" It's the same affliction the Smart has since it is, essentially, only a commuter car. The EV just has a different limitation. Where the Smart is limited by its size, the EV is limited by range. EVs are also very expensive since battery technology still is not well matched to driving. I know people who will point out that the battery pack in a Prius only costs $1500 or so to replace, but they ignore the fact that Toyota is subsidizing that heavily. Current estimates on a Prius' battery pack's true cost are around $3000. Basically, you're putting the equivalent of a new engine in a car every 100,000 miles or so. Consumers aren't going to go for that. So, until there's a breakthrough in battery technology that increases range and decreases costs, the EV will continue to be a novelty.
      Of course, in most urban areas where an EV or city car make sense they are competing with mass transit. If I can buy a transit pass for $50/month and take the train and bus to work, that's a much more economical — and arguably environmentally friendly — solution than a car whose sole purpose is to get me to work and back.

      1. Kogashiwa Avatar

        I think at present motorcycles are making a lot better case for EVs than cars are. The costs are drastically lower of course, performance is more than acceptable, and a fair few people would be more inclined to accept the notion of a second vehicle just for commuting if it only cost around eight grand (I think that's what the Brammo is selling for) and didn't take up a whole car slot in the garage.
        What I'd like to do, is build a proper electric sportbike with a gas turbine as a range extender, not a big clunky piston engine like the Volt (GM really missed a chance there). It would cost hardly more than a pure electric because you'd need only a quarter the batteries or so. You could get similar performance to a 600cc sportbike, running on batteries alone for ten miles give or take (enough for my commute), and running on a trickle of diesel the rest of the time.
        The sci-fi sound such a contraption would make would itself justify building it!

        1. CptSevere Avatar

          I'm a serious luddite but the idea of that thing intrigues me.

  6. engineerd Avatar

    Ford had the Ranger EV from 1998 to 2001 (or 2002). I remember we installed an electric vehicle charging station in our garage at the Ford wind tunnels in 2001, and used it exactly once.

    1. joshuman Avatar

      Did you do any testing to determine the most efficient bed configuration? Covered, half-tonneau, no tailgate, and so on.

      1. engineerd Avatar

        I just replied to Feds about this very thing 😉
        Unfortunately not. I think that would be an interesting test, though. The wind tunnels I worked in were climatic and we tested HVAC, engine cooling and that sort of thing.

  7. Maymar Avatar

    Weren't these also FWD, or am I delusional? I feel like I saw one at Epcot in '98, but I don't remember for sure. I know I got to sit in an EV1 though.

    1. UDman Avatar

      Yes, they were all FWD. The battery pack took up all the room under the bed. I have an acquaintance (I really can't call him a friend, because I can't stand him – hey, just being honest) who bought one at last years Barrett Jackson Auction, when GM was cleaning out the attic.

  8. muthalovin Avatar

    That is pretty impressive. I cannot believe that they crapped the unsold ones. That is just, well, actually it is quite believable. This is GM.

    1. joshuman Avatar

      That would have been one uncomfortable #2 experience.

  9. Luntburger Avatar

    If this is the perfect second car for 90% of the people, then an AMC Eagle is the perfect first car for 90% people, right?

  10. franchitti27 Avatar

    One was run in the 1997 Pikes Peak. It is now in the GM Historic Collection.

  11. […] Tonneau Cover Information? was stumbling around hooniverse and read this article Chevy Enthusiast via Hooniverse: The 97-98 Chevy S-10EV: The Volt’s Older Sibling. : H… i often read the comments as well, and this happened to catch my eye "The tonneau man, you […]

  12. […] more information on the S10EV, see this previous post from Hooniverse writer Jim Brennan.) Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to […]

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