Custom Chevy S-10 Electric Conversion



See this Custom Chevy S-10 project on The EV Album.

Chevy S10 Conversion

Simply installing a 'plug and play' kit to this truck would have compromised the end product, so taking advantage of key pre-manufactured kit components, combined with judicious customizing, is the chosen approach to yield an optimal result. We don't want to 're-invent the wheel' where not necessary, but there is room for improvement over a standard kit, as well as accommodations necessary for the donor truck. WARNING: If you expect a conversion to be cheap and quick, don't do one. S10_4.jpg You're looking at about 160 man-hours minimum to do the first one right. Even after the recent gush in gas prices, it's still more economical to drive a gas car. The reason to do a conversion to all-electric is to reduce dependency on oil, to be environmentally considerate, and to enjoy the great feeling of the smooth, quiet electric power. Laughing when you pass by the gas station is another significant benefit. If additional technologies that are strategically or politically locked out of the competitive market place become available, the investment of a doing a conversion now will pay off more when that happens.


After scouring Craig's List for a few weeks for the perfect donor truck and not finding what we wan

ted, the Volvo mechanic next door knew a friend who had one less than a mile away: A 1995 S-10 with extended cab, a seized 2.2Liter engine, 5-speed manual transmission, and power brakes and steering. Ideally you would have a longbed with no extended cab, and without power brakes and steering, but these factors have workarounds, and a lifetime could be spent finding the 'ideal' donor. It is almost a must to have a manual transmission, as torque converters in automatic transmissions don't know what to do with the torque curve of an electric motor. The clutch and throwout bearing were also shot, but with the engine removed, this is a relatively easy and inexpensive replacement.


While some conversions omit the clutch and flywheel, it is preferable to keep the clutch for easy shifting, as well as drive train torque dampening. Getting rid of the transmission altogether would compromise the trade-off between acceleration vs. top speed.


For those of you who either recently won the lottery or have a lot of money to play with, go with LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) or Lithium Manganese battery chemistries. If you can come up with NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) pack, that's a good alternative as well.

This conversion is on a S10_2.jpgLead-Acid budget, so we design accordingly. Lead acid is technologically mature, and about 1/10 the up front cost of LiFePO4. With careful design and conscientious use, Lead-Acid can provide and EV (Electric Vehicle) with useful range and adequate acceleration. You will end up with a heavier vehicle than the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) version. Although your replacing the gas engine with a smaller, lighter electric motor, as well as removing the fuel and exhaust systems, the new 1600lb lead-acid battery pack more than makes up the weight. This conversion added some heavy duty adjustable air shocks to compensate for the weight in the rear.

Since the complete kits place most of the batteries in the truck bed, we chose to build custom battery compartments mounted underneath the bed between the frame rails to lower center of gravity (c.g.), resulting in much better handling. This also leaves the bed empty for added utility. A bolt-on battery suspension structure was designed and fabricated.

When it was determined to be feasible to fit 20 Interstate U2200 deep cycle flooded 6 Volt lead acid batteries under the bed, and an additional six under the hood, the decision was made to go with a 156 Volt pack, as the Logisystems 750Amp PWM controller accommodates this. Higher voltage means lower amperage draw necessary for the same power.


For battery access, a lift bed is implemented by installing hinges at the rear of bed and removing the 8 bolts that originally statically attached the bed to the frame.


As gas-prices increased sharply this year and “Green” has become increasingly politically correct, a sudden increase in demand for conversion parts has strained the established low-volume industry that supports conversions. Motor-to-driveline adaptor kits, chargers, controllers, and other components all have long delivery times and inflated prices due to this surge, until OEM's can ramp up for more volume.