As Chevrolet gets ready to celebrate the 70th anniversary of “America’s sports car,” it’s going to have something special to mark the occasion.
The first-ever Corvette hybrid will make its official debut Jan. 17, Chevy announced, and it will bring with it a number of other firsts, including an all-wheel-drive system. Details about the debut have yet to be revealed, but a leak late last year already provided a sneak peek at what will be named the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray.
While the E-Ray will be the first electrified Corvette, company officials have indicated it won’t be the last. If anything, the classic two-seater is rapidly approaching the point at which it will shift to an all-electric drivetrain, in line with the rest of the General Motors line-up.
Part of the C8’s original design
Chevy has been hinting for some time that it will begin using electric drive technology in the Corvette, several senior executives telling TheDetroitBureau.com that the underlying platform of the eighth-generation sports car, the “C8,” was specifically designed to make room for a battery pack and electric motors.
The exact package remains a mystery. It’s not clear how big that battery pack will be, nor whether there will be more than one electric motor in the E-Ray. But the hybrid is expected to pair the hybrid drive with the 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 currently used in the base Corvette Stingray model.
Leaked information suggests the E-Ray could get at least another 150 horsepower beyond the 495 hp already offered by the Stingray. Even more significant will be the added torque, the current C8 coming in at 470 pound-feet. And, Chevy engineers are expected to make good use of the instant torque that electric motors deliver.
A substantial bump in performance
That should mean a significant bump in performance from the 2023 Corvette Stingray which can hit 60 in around 3.2 seconds and run the quarter-mile in under 11.5 seconds. But we’ll have to wait to see how it compares with the beefier, 670-hp Corvette Z06 which can hit 60 in around 2.6 seconds and blow through the quarter-mile traps in just under 11 seconds.
The new all-wheel-drive layout will clearly help maximize grip, something useful when you’re attempting to deliver so much power to the pavement. Early indications are that the E-Ray will continue to use the LT2 to power the rear wheels, with the hybrid motor — or motors — spinning the front axle. Of course, we could be in for a surprise and find some electric torque helping enhance output to the back axles, as well.
A new teaser video indicates the Corvette E-Ray will get a new “Stealth Mode” which appears to mean the ability to operate exclusively on electric power. For how long is uncertain. Conventional hybrids typically rely on relatively small battery packs, less than 2 kilowatt-hours, which would allow an EV-only range of no more than a couple miles in a vehicle like the ‘Vette.
We’ve already learned that the E-Ray will get a regen-on-demand system that will be in line with what many new battery-electric vehicles offer. A driver will be able to dial up the amount of energy recaptured during braking and coasting. Not only will that more quickly replenish the lithium-ion battery pack but it also will allow the hybrid system to help scrub off speed when entering corners or simply slowing down in traffic.
Where the pack and hybrid drive system will be mounted is another unanswered question. Those sources told TheDetroitBureau the C8 platform was designed to keep the batteries as low, and as close to the center as possible in order to hold down the center of gravity and retain a roughly 50:50 front-to-rear weight balance. But the motors and electronics are expected to take up at least some of the space where the Stingray and Z06 models currently offer a front trunk.
The images that leaked out last year indicate that the body of the Corvette E-Ray will pick up some of the Z06’s design cues, meanwhile. There’s the lower fascia, broader stance and wider air intakes.
An all-electric future
The E-Ray will be the first Corvette to use an electrified drivetrain, but it definitely won’t be the last. There’s been a lot of speculation about what’s to follow in the ‘Vette line-up — and whether any upcoming model will again rely solely on piston power. There’s almost certain to be a new ZR1, normally the most powerful of the Corvette packages, but speculation centers around a possible “Zora” model, named for the legendary chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov. One or both variants could use electric technology.
Longer term, GM officials have acknowledged that Corvette will migrate to an all-electric propulsion system. That’s no surprise, of course, as the automaker is on what CEO Mary Barra has described as “a path to an all-electric future.”