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The 2021 Rivian R1T is the First New Electric Pickup Truck in 23 Years

The Chevrolet S-10 Electric and Ford Ranger EV were here first, consarn it!

  • The Rivian R1T will be the first modern EV pickup ...
  • ... but it owes a lot to the '90s-era Chevy S-10 Electric and Ford Ranger EV, which we'd forgive you for never having heard of

In June, Rivian will become the first automaker this millennium to deliver a fully electric pickup truck to the masses when the 2021 Rivian R1T debuts. Well, to the market, at least, since its starting price of nearly $70,000 isn't exactly what we'd consider budget-friendly.

But while Rivian rightfully deserves credit for beating GMC, Bollinger and Lordstown Motors to the electric truck market, two other automakers' battery-fed pickups predate the R1T by more than two decades.

Let's take a trip down memory lane in the Chevrolet S-10 Electric and Ford Ranger EV.

Wait, Chevrolet already makes an electric pickup?

1997 Chevrolet S-10.

1997 Chevrolet S-10.

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Made. The '90s, you may recall, offered a hotbed of experiments that had zero staying power. The Apple Newton. Bowl haircuts. Pauly Shore. There were also a few EVs — the first true alternatives to fossil-fueled vehicles since gasoline won out in the early days of the automobile. The GM EV1 is probably the most famous early-modern electric vehicle, but Chevrolet also got in on the action.

The Chevrolet S-10 Electric debuted in 1997 as a single-cab compact truck. Bizarrely for a pickup, the 114-horsepower electric motor powered the front wheels rather than the rears. While we couldn't source official performance figures from Chevrolet, the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory tested an S-10 Electric and reported that it accelerated from 0 to 50 mph — yes, that's 50, not 60 — in a leisurely 9.75 seconds. Initially, the S-10 Electric utilized 26 lead-acid batteries that provided just 33 miles of driving range per the EPA, though a nickel metal hydride battery pack that bumped the range up to 72 miles was subsequently introduced.

Most S-10 Electrics were fleet leases, but a few were sold to fleets and thus avoided the crusher that awaited all lease returns. Today, one of those non-leased S-10 Electrics will pop up every now and then for sale online. They aren't prohibitively expensive overall, and some Chevrolet fans won't have a problem plunking down a few thousand dollars for this automotive curio.

Ford Ranger EV: predates electric F-150 by 25 years

Ford Ranger.

Ford Ranger.

Ford released a compact electric pickup around the same time as the S-10 EV. The Ford Ranger EV launched in 1998 in a single-cab, rear-drive configuration. Its rear-mounted motor developed 90 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque — not far off the base gasoline four-cylinder engine's output. Initially, the battery pack consisted of 39 lead-acid 8-volt batteries mounted underneath the vehicle. Range was just 50 miles, and 0-50 mph acceleration — perhaps maximized with the '90s equivalent of Ludicrous mode — was projected to be a leisurely 12.5 seconds. Later models were available with a nickel metal hydride pack that was made of 25 12-volt batteries and weighed about 700 pounds less than the lead-acid pack. Selecting the NiMH pack also added a little extra range, totaling 55 to 65 miles depending on model year.

As with the S-10, most Ranger EVs were leased to fleets, with a few purchased by individuals. They, too, go for a few thousand dollars apiece when they occasionally surface online.

Edmunds says

The 2021 Rivian R1T is an intriguing electric pickup with impressive range estimates, performance targets and technology features. But while it is the first EV truck of the present lithium-ion age, its trail was blazed by the Chevrolet S-10 Electric and Ford Ranger EV, a fact that Rivian can file under "Who's your daddy?"