Move over, little red Corvette: Chevy’s electrifying its iconic sports car

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 27, 2022

General Motors Co. is electrifying its most iconic sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, with plans for an electrified version followed by a fully electric model.

President Mark Reuss announced the news Monday in a LinkedIn post that GM “some time ago” moved the Corvette team into the electric vehicle space at the automaker’s Warren tech campus. The electrified version will be offered as early as next year, Reuss said. Names and additional details on the products will be released later, he added.

GM revealed its coming electric products a day before crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. is set to celebrate the launch of its electric F-150 Lightning on Tuesday, the same day GM releases its first-quarter earnings. Both automakers are investing billions to transition their fleets for an electric future and prove to Wall Street they have what it takes to compete with EV leader Tesla.

Electrifying the Corvette will mean not just being as good as the current gas-powered versions but better to attract sports car and EV enthusiasts alike, experts say. Chevrolet will look to win over new customers, and experts think these variants have that potential.

“This is definitely going to refresh Corvette’s image,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds.com Inc., a vehicle information website. “For a long time, it kind of has had an image of the more middle-age crisis type of vehicle.”

The Tesla Model S has shown “there is a bit of demand for a sleek, cool electric sports car,” Caldwell said.

An electrified Corvette will add to Chevrolet’s electric Silverado pickup, arriving next spring, and the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV, which are both back on the market after a mass recall of the products for battery fire risk. GM has also said it will offer electric Blazer and Equinox SUVs in 2023.

The model is named after Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary “godfather of the Corvette” who developed the first mid-engine Corvette prototype in 1960. The News reported the Zora version would come after the recently debuted 2023 Z06 and future ZR1 variants.

The coming, all-wheel-drive hybrid Corvette - likely named E-Ray - will be the second performance variant of the C8 Corvette. The first is the 2023 Chevy Corvette ZO6 (pictured) with a 670-horse, normally-aspirated V8.

Since then, a fourth performance variant has been reported, called the E-Ray, that would follow the Z06 in 2023, slotting between the Z06 and ZR1. Traditionally, that model has been called the Grand Sport — a sort of cross between the standard Corvette and the track-focused Z06. Given the E-Ray’s ambitions as the first hybrid, all-wheel-drive Corvette, however, it gained a new name for the C8-generation car.

GM filed two trademarks applications to register “E-Ray” and “Corvette E-Ray” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015.

The electrified Corvette that Reuss referenced appears to be the E-Ray, which would follow on the Z06’s heels next year. GM AuthorityMuscle Cars & TrucksMotor Trend and numerous spy shot photos have reported the hybrid will mate a front motor to the same 6.2-liter, LT2 V-8 engine as found in the standard C8 Stingray. The combined horsepower of the engine and electric motor is expected to top 600 horsepower — well north of the base Stingray’s 495 horses.

The E-Ray will be the first AWD Corvette — similar in operation to the Acura brand’s mid-engine Acura NSX hybrid supercar. Introduced in 2016, the $171,495 NSX will be discontinued after this year. Expect the E-Ray to be less expensive.

“Where I get concerned about performance on a performance car is when you start making them weigh more,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iseecars.com, a vehicle search site. “We saw in the NSX lot of this same philosophy that we’re about to see in the Corvette. And the NSX had very good numbers in terms of acceleration and track lap times, but it’s also a heavy vehicle. It’s still not pulling lap times like Porsche 911 GT3s.”

The Corvette’s mid-engine layout allows for the addition of an electric motor in front to drive the front wheels. When The News broke news of a mid-engine Corvette in 2016, sources said electrification was a key factor in moving the engine rearward so the sports car could take advantage of rapidly evolving hybrid-electric capabilities found in European supercars. The hybrid, mid-engine Ferrari SF90 Stradale, for example, makes 986 horsepower.

Beyond the current, C8 generation ‘Vette, rumors have swirled of an Ultium-based Corvette for some time. The 800-volt battery platform is used across many GM brands, from the 2022 GMC Hummer EV to the forthcoming 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. The Hummer launches from 0-60 mph in just 3.0 seconds (on par with the V8-powered Corvette Stingray ), so the Corvette EV’s acceleration should be staggering.

President Joe Biden has made repeated references to an electric Corvette after meetings with GM brass over the past two years.

“I’ve got a commitment from (GM CEO Mary Barra), when they make the first electric Corvette, I get to drive it,” Biden said last year. “You think I’m kidding, I’m not kidding.”

Chevrolet released a 30-second teaser video that appears to show a prototype of the “electrified” — read hybrid — Corvette that Reuss referenced in his LinkedIn post.

“We’ll outline the specifics on the level of electrification as we get closer to reveal,” Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly said.

The video’s audio is a cryptic combination of a camouflaged sports car in snow and music overlay — but it appears to show a silent launch of a mid-engine Corvette consistent with a hybrid V8-powered car that can be operated in battery-only mode for up to 25-30 mph.

All four wheels are clearly spinning at launch, indicating all-wheel-drive with an electric motor in front driving the front tires. Also of note are the lime green brake calipers similar to how Porsche outfits the brakes on its hybrid vehicles.

Out back, four exhaust pipes — consistent with the current C8 Stingray’s four outboard-mounted, square exhaust tips — are clearly present. The car performs an extreme slide on snow consistent with the dexterity of an AWD system.

Crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. released the electrified version of its Mustang, the Mach-E, in late 2020. The vehicle has performed so well for the Dearborn automaker that its increasing production capacity for it.

Ford in December 2021 said it will use its entire Cuautitlan plant in Mexico for production of Mach-E. The company plans to increase production of Mach-E there starting in 2022 and expects to reach 200,000 units per year by 2023 for North America and Europe.

Ford last year posted its best-ever sales for full electric vehicles, second only to Tesla for 2021 with Mach-E sales coming in at 27,140.

Kalea Hall  Henry Payne

The Detroit News

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