America’s Sports Car, Fortified with Electrons
For many decades, the Chevrolet Corvette has always been America’s sports car – a great-looking high-performance two-seater offering world-class power and handling along with a distinctly American attitude and relatively affordable price point. And almost since the beginning, the Corvette has been associated with V-8 power; its history as a sports car parallels the history of Chevy’s remarkably long-lasting small-block powerplant. But now, even the Corvette is poised to go electric.
In a public LinkedIn post, and on the SquawkBox morning show on CNBC, General Motors president and CEO Mark Reuss announced that there are both electrified and fully-electric Corvette versions coming as early as 2023. That’s a huge change for this iconic sports car, and one that has us at GreenCars very excited indeed!
Short On Details, Long On Excitement
Reuss’ announcement didn’t share a lot of details about what the “electrified” or the full-electric Corvettes, but he did post a video of a prototype doing a high-powered standing start during winter testing. Two things are clear in the video: first, that it’s all-wheel drive, as all four wheels are spinning; and second, that the video is of a hybrid version, as you can still clearly hear the snarl of a Chevy V-8.
What the video seems to indicate is that the first electrified Corvette you see will be a hybrid version, likely with an electric motor driving the front wheels. It’s not clear whether the rear axle will be electrified as well, like the Acura NSX or Porsche 918 Spyder. No matter what the final configuration is, it’s sure to be powerful, and it’s sure to be fast – even the “base” Corvette can zap to 60 mph in four seconds or so.
As for a full-electric Corvette, Reuss only indicated that it would use General Motors’ Ultium technology stack, which encompasses its own battery technology, software, and hardware. The first Ultium vehicle to go on sale will be the Cadillac Lyriq, which will hit the roads in late 2022; we expect a full-electric Corvette to arrive no earlier than 2024.
What is Ultium?
Instead of a “platform” in the conventional sense, GM’s Ultium is a suite of technologies that will support all of its electric vehicles, which will take many different forms. In addition to the Cadillac Lyriq, Ultium will also be the backbone of the Hummer EV pickup and SUV; Chevrolet Silverado pickup and Equinox EV SUV; and a number of cars, including the Corvette.
One of Ultium’s standout properties is its ability to repurpose waste energy from the battery to increase efficiency. Ultium’s energy recovery system, this waste energy can increase a vehicle’s range, reduce battery energy needed for heating, increase charging speed and even enable sportier driving for Corvette owners.
How does it work? EV batteries, power electronics and other propulsion components produce heat. Ultium can recover and store waste heat from the propulsion system. Further, it can also capture and use humidity from both inside and outside the vehicle, including body heat from passengers. It can then deploy energy stored through the recovery process to heat the cabin more quickly in cold weather than comparable systems found in vehicles with an internal combustion engine.
GM claims that Ultium’s energy recovery capabilities reduce the need to power heating and other functions from energy stored in the battery, which it says should provide its EVs with as much as 10% more range compared to vehicles with similarly-sized batteries without Ultium’s energy recovery capabilities. With its active heating capabilities, Ultium vehicles can also potentially charge more efficiently by warming up the batteries before charging.
Covered by 11 patents and four publications, the development of Ultium’s energy recovery traces its roots back back to GM’s first EV, the EV1, which was introduced in the late 1990s. That car featured a GM-developed EV heat pump.
Are you ready for an electric Corvette? We certainly are – Chevrolet is realizing, like all of us, that in addition to improving efficiency and increasing sustainability, electric power can enhance performance as well. It’s a win-win for the company, as well as for Corvette drivers.