Before the GMC Hummer EV and Ford F-150 Electric, GM and Ford tried smaller electric pickups

Joel Stocksdale


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The electric pickup truck is the new hotness. Besides the GMC Hummer and the Ford F-150, there are several smaller companies with trucks in the works from Tesla to Rivian. One of them, Lordstown Motors, mentioned in a promotional video about wanting to be the first to market with a mass-produced electric pickup truck. The thing is, back in 1997, both GM and Ford revealed electric pickups in the form of the Chevy S10 Electric and Ford Ranger Electric, and they each had some significant similarities, and some radical differences to their namesakes and to each other that make them quite fascinating.

Both trucks on the surface look almost exactly like their regular cab, short bed brethren. The cabs and beds are identical, but there are differences to the front fascias. The S10's grille is completely blocked out, though still shaped like the gas version. It also has a low and aggressive air dam below the bumper. It would even look sporty if it had side skirts and a rear bumper to match. As for the Ford, it looks more similar to gas vehicle, but a portion of the front grille has a solid panel in its place. This panel hides the charging port. That's it for the Ranger, as its front bumper was just like the gas models. The insides of each truck aren't really any different either besides a swapped dial here or there for information on the battery life.


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Under the skin is where things really get strange. Starting with the S10, it does still have a separate frame, live rear axle and leaf springs, but it's actually front-wheel drive. Under the hood is an AC motor hooked up to a single-speed transaxle. According to PickupTrucks.com, the motor made 114 horsepower. Two battery packs were available. Initially, it only came with a lead-acid battery pack with a capacity of 16.2 kWh and weighing in at 1,400 pounds. GM estimated that battery pack to have a range of between 40 and 60 miles based on driving conditions. A 39-kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery pack became available later, which The Drive reported to be 1,043 pounds. The battery  While the pack was lighter and offered more range, double the lead-acid one according to PickupTrucks.com, The Drive discovered the payload capacity remained the same at 950 pounds. Regardless, the whole battery pack sat under the cab and bed and between the frame rails of the truck. It was also built at the same Shreveport, Louisiana, assembly plant as the regular S10s.

The Ford Ranger is just a bit more conventional, but only just. It remained rear-wheel drive like a gas Ranger, but it used an AC motor and single-speed transaxle like the S10, and the whole assembly was mounted at the back. The motor was a bit less powerful than the Chevy's at 90 horsepower, though the introductory lead-acid battery pack had a bit more capacity at 23 kWh. All the batteries were again packed in the middle of the truck under the body and between the frame rails. The extra capacity came at a weight penalty with the pack weighing in at 2,000 pounds and the payload capacity dipping to 700 pounds. The range was comparable at 50 miles, which, like any electric car, would drop depending on driving and weather conditions. Ford claimed an 80% charge could be achieved in about three hours, just like the S10, though the Ranger charged with a conventional conduction charger, whereas the S10 used an onboard induction system like the GM EV1 and the first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV. The Ranger could achieve a slightly higher top speed than the S10 at 75 mph versus 70. The Ranger also got a nickel-metal-hydride battery option later in its life that increased range up to 80 miles, and was significantly lighter. The weight savings even allowed the Ranger to match the 1,250-pound payload capacity of one of the gas Ranger configurations. The Rangers were, fittingly, built at the Edison assembly plant in New Jersey.

Both trucks were marketed mainly at fleet buyers, with extremely small numbers going to private buyers. In fact, the S10 Electric was only available to fleets at first, with the first batch going to the Southwestern Electric Power Company of Dallas. Few were produced, with the Ranger Electric owners' club REVOLT reporting about 1,500 Rangers built from 1998 to 2001, and The Drive reporting just 492 S10s built. Naturally, even fewer of those still exist in the wild, which is a shame, since these are some fascinating and historically important little pickups.

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