We count ourselves among the many fans who’ve been waiting to get a look at the hybrid Chevrolet Corvette the bowtie brand earlier this year confirmed is in the works. And now, it seems, we’ve gotten a first look at the Corvette E-Ray a bit sooner than Chevy intended.
With the hybrid apparently set to make its debut next year, the automaker already put together an order configurator. It just didn’t expect it to leak out yet. But when it briefly did this week it offered some significant insights into the direction Chevy is taking with the gas-electric sports car.
Perhaps the most significant revelation is that the E-Ray not only will be the first electrified version of the Corvette but also the first to deliver power through all four wheels. It also sparked more talk of GM spinning Corvette off as its own sub-brand with multiple models, such as an all-electric model and the recently speculated upon Corvette SUV.
Details remain sparse
Sadly, the leak left plenty of other questions unanswered, starting with precisely what sort of powertrain Chevy will use in the gas-electric Corvette. But one thing is likely to be certain: while E-Ray should get at least a bit of a mileage boost, insiders suggest it will get a substantial boost in performance.
Of course, that’s all a matter of perspective. We know that the current Stingray model can deliver up to 495 horsepower from its LT2 V-8. And the new Corvette Z06 bumps that up 670 ponies from its new 5.5-liter LT6 V-8 — enough to launch from 0 to 60 in a mere 2.6 seconds.
Expectations are that the E-Ray will stick with the LT2 engine driving the rear wheels. The question is how it will be paired with the motor drive unit. It’s clear the Chevy sports car will rely on at least one motor up front and, some of our colleagues have speculated, it could go with two, much like the layout Acura came up with for the NSX. The Japanese supercar also featured a third motor in back, directly paired with its internal combustion engine.
Considering what we’ve seen from other electrified performance vehicles, the E-Ray should get a solid bump on the horsepower side. But the bigger question is what the hybrid package will yield in terms of the pound-feet side of the spec sheet. Electric motors deliver maximum torque the moment they start spinning. And that could translate into launch numbers not far off from what we’re seeing from the Z06.
Differentiating the two Corvette variants then could be a challenge. Ironically, Chevy could find significant demand for the E-Ray in colder climes, the all-wheel-drive system making it a true daily driver.
What we do know
Among the details revealed by the Corvette configurator: the hybrid ‘Vette will have a “Regen on Demand” button. That should allow a motorist to decide how aggressive the brake regeneration system operates. At its most basic, electric drive systems recapture energy normally lost during braking and coasting to keep their batteries charged. But at its most aggressive — often known as “1-Pedal Driving”— regen can be used to slow a vehicle down, even bring it to a complete stop, without having to use the brakes.
Aggressive regen has another advantage, keeping the battery pack as fully recharged as possible. That could prove particularly useful on track, ensuring there’s always enough current for an electric boost, say, coming out of a corner.
When it confirmed plans to electrify the Corvette earlier this year, Chevy said it would begin the process with a hybrid, though it also indicated an all-electric model would eventually follow. That’s no surprise considering General Motors CEO Mary Barra has made it clear the automaker is “on a path to an all-electric future,” no later than 2035.
But the model shown in the comparator is clearly a hybrid, as a rear view revealed Corvette’s familiar quad exhaust pipes. It also showed the new “ERAY” badge on the rear quarter panel, however.
The hybrid also appears to be adopting the wider nose and body of the Z06, the better to push torque to the pavement.
While Chevy has since taken down the configurator, we were able to grab some pics. Meanwhile, the automaker didn’t deny that this is the real thing. “Looks like the holidays came early for a few astute Corvette fans. Stay tuned for more,” the company told Corvette Blogger, which was first to discover the new configurator.
As for pricing, all signs point to something that at least nudges into six-figure territory. Expect to hear and see more from Chevy next year.