The C8 Corvette is, by any objective measure, a dramatic departure from its forebears. Before 2020, the biggest sea change undergone by the Corvette was the switch to a rear-mounted transaxle with the arrival of the C5 in 1996 – a play borrowed from the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Porsche to make the ‘Vette more balanced by pushing as much of its weight rearward without going full rear-mid-engine.
Now, at last, the Corvette has a rear-mid-engine layout, and for the first time in its nearly-70-year history, there’s no stick-shift to be had.
But the arrival of the C9-generation car will bring with a still greater change: pure-electric propulsion. Writing for Hagerty last month, distinguished automotive journalist and fellow Corvette expert of note Don Sherman reviewed the evidence, laying out a compelling argument for the likelihood of a battery-powered Corvette.
For one thing, GM has been unwavering in its highly public support for a zero-tailpipe-emissions future, committing a staggering $35 billion to battery-electric vehicles by 2025 and planning to introduce 30 BEVs by that time. For another, as you may recall, back in the summer of 2020, GM shuffled some of its best and brightest Corvette people into its department for AVs and EVs, ostensibly to strengthen those products and make them sexier. Or something.
And for yet another, as we reported last November, Chevrolet recently took to polling current Corvette owners regarding their interest in an “electric sport vehicle.” (We can only pray they don’t mean an electric Corvette crossover.)
What Would An Electric C9 Corvette Actually Look Like?
If we’re right, there are some pretty interesting places Chevy could go with the pure-electric C9 Corvette. Although the car is still likely half-a-decade out, chances are good that GM will still be relying on its Ultium EV powertrain technology by that time – a collection that packs three different traction motors, ranging in output from 83 to 342 horsepower. Sherman reckons the battery-electric C9 Corvette will utilize two 83-horsepower motors up front, one for each of the front wheels, with a 342-horsepower unit out back to power the rear.
But just as likely – and, as far as we’re concerned, more alluring – is the prospect that the base C9 could use a pair of 241-horsepower Ultium motors at the rear, yielding rear-wheel drive, torque vectoring, and a total system output of 482 horsepower. That’s roughly what the current C8 offers in terms of power, but with a big, fat EV torque curve and all the cornering benefits that torque vectoring delivers.
The bigger question is what happens when you saddle what’s supposed to be a lightweight, nimble sports car with nearly 2,000 pounds of battery mass, but if we’re lucky, solid-state battery technology could arrive as sort of a deus ex machina. (Does that count as a pun?) For example, there’s the San Jose-based startup Lyten, which last year launched a lithium-sulfur battery formulation that promises three times the energy density per-mass of traditional lithium-ion cell chemistries. QuantumScape, a one-time industry darling that has attracted investments from the likes of Bill Gates and Volkswagen, has made similar claims about its own lithium-metal solid-state batteries.
The point is: come 2025, or whenever the C9 Corvette debuts, Chevy will have options when it comes to delivering a pure-electric sports car that doesn’t handle like a three-quarter-ton truck.
Of course, even if a pure-electric C9 Corvette meets or exceeds every one of our performance expectations, there will still be those who just can’t get behind its stealthy-quiet operation, its tree-hugging approach to turning stored energy into motion, or indeed, its lack of a third pedal. To them, we can only say this: snap up a C4 before they become unobtanium like everything else.
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