Ultimate Corvette Expected to Go PHEV
General Motors is plugging into EVs in a big way. And, among a wide range of electrified models set to come out over the next several years, one is expected to wear the Chevrolet Corvette badge.
GM CEO Mary Barra has repeatedly said the automaker is on a “path to an all-electric future.”
Several officials have acknowledge the C8 Corvette was designed to be electrified, though they have to confirm what form that will take.
A plug-based ‘Vette would focus on performance – likely nudging 700 hp or more — rather than mileage, though it likely also would be the most efficient version of the sports car.
When “spy shots” began circulating last week showing a plug hanging out of the nose of a new Corvette undergoing winter testing its was initially reported this was the rumored battery version of the sports car.
Parent General Motors subsequently explained that the pics had caught a conventional, gas-powered 2020 ‘Vette,” but the episode only underscores expectations Chevrolet is, indeed developing an electric Corvette — something an assortment of executives, including GM President Mark Reuss have taken pains not to deny.
If anything, Reuss effectively confirmed it is only a question of time, noting last July that the eighth-generation Corvette just coming to market will have to comply with the company’s “strategy of 0-0-0: zero emissions, zero crashes, zero congestion.”
But exactly what that means – or, more precisely, what form that would take – is far from certain.
GM officials have made it clear there will continue to be an assortment of different ‘Vette variants, perhaps more than we’ve seen in the past. During the July unveiling of the C8, several Corvette insiders told Ride that the new, mid-engine platform was specifically designed to allow the use of electric drive, with a battery pack placed below the load floor. What type of system it will be is the real question.
Only a few years ago, GM seemed focused on both conventional and plug-in hybrids, the original Chevy Volt being a good example of its PHEV strategy. But it has pulled the plug on Volt and is, for the most part, moving towards pure battery-electric vehicles. The current example is the Chevrolet Bolt EV, with an all-electric Cadillac SUV dues later this year. Among the nearly two dozen other BEVs under development: a battery pickup expected to revive the Hummer name.
For those who still think of battery drive as slow and boring, no need to worry, however. Making 100% of their torque the moment they start spinning, electric motors can deliver insane levels of torque given enough power. The “conventional” hybrid Acura NSX is one example. The plug-in Lincoln Aviator is the fastest and most powerful version of that SUV. And whether you’re talking Tesla Model S with Ludicrous Mode or the new Porsche Taycan Turbo 4S, pure BEVs can be blindingly fast.
If anything, says Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Navigant Research, “no doubt about it,” a battery-based Corvette will be the quickest ever, “easily getting into the 700 horsepower range, with over 1,000 NM torque, and launching from 0 to 60 in under 2 seconds.”
A conventional hybrid, even one as exotic as the NSX, is unlikely, various sources indicate. The question, then, is whether Corvette goes all-electric or plug-in hybrid. Abuelsamid is one who believes it will be a BEV, though the evidence is still too vague to be certain. One high-level insider cautioned Ride last July it would be difficult to squeeze in enough batteries to deliver the range BEV buyers would expect. But pulling out the internal combustion engine and transmission could solve that.
Do expect the electric drivetrain to be all-wheel-drive, with motors front and back, every source has agreed upon, something critical in order to get all that power to the pavement.
Another unanswered question is what an electrified Corvette might be called. Some sources have hinted this will be the next-generation Z06, others that it might replace the old ZR1, the traditional pinnacle of the Corvette line-up. There has long been speculation Chevy might be working up a Corvette Zora, an homage to the sports car’s legendary first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and what better way to do that?
How soon? “A bit more than” 24 months was the best answer we could get from insider GM. That’s a bit further out than many expected, but the GM strike last autumn appeared to have pushed back development efforts.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The C8 is the first production Corvette to adopt a mid-engine layout, boosting performance to supercar levels at a fraction of the sale price global competitors demand. An electric ‘Vette, whether PHEV or BEV, would pose an even bigger challenge to exotic brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin.
Source: Paul Eisenstein for Ride.Tech.
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