This Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10, Dominates a Grueling Off-Road Race

By Dinesh Bajaj

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Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 : When I met Keith and Melissa Silva at this year’s King of the Hammers race in dusty Johnson Valley, California, they had just five days to go before their Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 Chevrolet truck rig would compete in one of America’s most tough off-road competitions. There was just one small problem: the truck wouldn’t go into reverse.

Five minutes later, Keith got it sorted out with a method that’s a mix between classic car enthusiast effort and a quick fix. “I did the same thing I always do,” he told me. “Just give it a push and do a calibration update and voila, it goes back to normal.”

These are the solutions you come up with when you move the battery and motor from a Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 rock crawler, without much understanding of electric vehicles, wiring, or computer software. It’s basically a case of “restart and try again.”

1The Silvas encountered challenges with their Tesla-powered truck at King of the Hammers.
2Keith resolved a technical issue with the truck using a method combining effort and tech.
3The Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 was prepared for off-road racing with modifications including a Tesla motor.
4The Silvas entered the Every Man Challenge with their modified Chevy truck.
5They faced challenges during the race but managed to complete a significant portion of it.
6Charging solutions were necessary for the TesTen, which lacked compatibility with Level 3 chargers.
7The Silvas invested time and money to make their off-road racing dreams a reality.

King Of The Huh?

King of the Hammers happens every January on a dry lake bed in Johnson Valley, California. Over two weeks, the event hosts various races in some tough terrain, with participants riding motorcycles, UTVs, stock Jeeps, and rock crawlers with large tires. In the case of the Silvas, they entered with a modified Chevy truck.

Their rig, labeled as No. 2412, features a large battery pack and a powerful electric motor. Although it may seem slower compared to other vehicles, the TesTen—a fusion of Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 —is nimble, thanks to its instant electric torque delivery, giving the Silvas an edge.

They’ve also added a two-speed transfer case to prevent the motor from overheating while handling all that torque at once. Sturdy 37-inch Mickey Thompson tires and a long-travel suspension complete the setup.

To clarify, the Silvas aren’t necessarily fans of electric vehicles. They simply love rock crawling and enjoy a good challenge. Their motivation isn’t about the environment.

“Nothing about this is truly Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10,” Melissa explained. “We’re using a generator to charge the truck. We just like the instant torque and power. There are many benefits.”

The quick power delivery is a big advantage in the Every Man Challenge, a one-day race for amateur competitors. It includes a 73-mile desert loop and a shorter loop through very tough terrain. Imagine rocks twice as big as you think, Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 some as large as compact cars. There are steep drops of six feet or more, steep climbs, and competitors often flip over or drive over each other to finish. It’s not a race for the easily scared.

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However, there’s a bit of environmental awareness at King of the Hammers. Optima Batteries hosted over 50 electric vehicles at the Optima Oasis, offering curated trail runs for Rivians, Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 and Ford Lightnings. When it was time to charge, Optima’s parent company Clarios partnered with Renewable Innovations to provide off-grid charging of up to 180 kW at the Oasis, powered by “green” hydrogen. More than 100 hybrids and EVs used the available chargers, showing a promising future for electric off-roading.

But it’s not an easy journey, as the Silvas know. They tried the race last year but couldn’t finish due to the risk of damaging their battery by running it too low. This year, their goal was simply to complete the desert lap, and they spent the whole year preparing rig #2412 for the task.

And They’re Off Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10

The TesTen was the 162nd car to start the race and faced two relatively easy rocky hill climbs within a short distance. Here, the rig somehow shifted into high gear at the rear but low gear at the front. With the rear wheels wanting to slide and the front wheels bouncing at each turn, Keith aggressively adjusted the selectors until they cooperated.

The team covered the initial 37 miles at a slow but steady pace, arriving at their first pit stop with about 25% battery remaining. Now, they would need to wait.

Tesla-Powered Chevy S-10 : While it’s possible to charge quickly in the desert—remember Renewable Innovations was doing it at the Optima Oasis—the Silvas had to find their own charging solutions. Additionally, the TesTen can’t handle a Level 3 charge because it lacks the necessary components to communicate with a high-speed charger. So, the team installed a 6 kW onboard charger and used a 9,500-watt Harbor Freight generator to do the job.

After four hours, some food, and a quick nap, the husband and wife team were charged to 75% and ready for the next 36 miles of desert terrain.

Thankfully, the rest of the journey went smoothly. The battery system got confused a few times and turned off the rig for safety, but it started up easily again. Towards the end of the race, the connection between the drivetrain and the motor was lost, and they were coasting down a steep rocky path essentially in neutral until Keith managed to fix it through the gear selectors.

When they crossed the finish line, the first thing I said was, “Wow, they did it.” Although they didn’t finish the rock section, and officially they’re listed as “Did Not Finish,” the race organizers approved their completion of the shorter lap. They achieved their personal goal of finishing the desert lap and even came home with a trophy.

After analyzing the data once the dust settled, the team calculated they achieved 1.15 miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh). While this average might seem enough to complete one 73-mile lap on a single charge, the Silvas prioritize battery health. They avoid charging to 100% or letting the battery run completely empty.

For comparison, I’ve driven the Hummer EV in Johnson Valley and couldn’t achieve more than 1 mile per kWh efficiency, although I’ve managed better with the Rivian R1T off-road. Nonetheless, the Silvas’ efficiency is quite impressive when considering factors like tire size, air pressure, and terrain. Moreover, it’s worth noting that this is essentially a DIY project.

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It 

The Silvas spent many hours in their garage and invested tens of thousands of dollars to bring the TesTen to life. Along the way, they used YouTube videos and received valuable assistance and products from people at AEM and Radial Dynamics, as well as learning through trial and error. The TesTen is now making its mark in off-road history.

For the 2025 King of the Hammers event, the team aims to get another battery that can be swapped at the pits. The truck is already set up for quick battery swaps with fast-connect cables, and Keith says they can do it in 10 or 15 minutes. Having multiple pre-charged batteries would give them the range to finish the entire Every Man Challenge, hopefully attracting more EV competitors and creating a new racing class.

“We want to push the truck harder and try to keep up with the others without running out of range before reaching the rocky sections,” Keith said. “There’s still a lot of research and development to do. But we’re taking it step by step. It’s all part of the learning process.” CLICK HERE

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Dinesh Bajaj

My name is Dinesh and I have been blogging on for 2 years. I write blog about electronics car here. I have also worked in garage for 6 months. This blog of mine is my world, where I share with you the advantages and disadvantages of car blog.

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