Exactly 70 years after the very first Chevrolet Corvette was unveiled in January, 1953, General Motors revealed the first Corvette with an electric motor on Tuesday. The front wheels of the 2024 Corvette E-Ray are powered by a 160 horsepower electric motor, while a 495 horsepower V8 gasoline engine powers the back wheels.
With a maximum power output of 655 horsepower, the E-Ray is also the fastest-accelerating Corvette model ever, able to go from a stop to 60 miles an hour in 2.5 seconds. The name E-Ray, from the electric ray sea creature, is a play on the Stingray name of the base model. The electric vehicle even has a distinctively designed ray-shaped badge on the trunk’s lid.
Unlike some other high-performance hybrid cars, the Corvette E-ray is not a plug-in hybrid. Its 1.9 kilowatt-hour battery pack, mounted in a tunnel that runs between the two seats, is charged as the car slows and brakes and, at times, while the car drives.
GM has not shared fuel economy estimates for the E-Ray, but the engineering emphasis has clearly been placed on maximizing performance rather than fuel economy. Still, the E-Ray produces only 15 horsepower less than the top of the line 670-horsepower Corvette Z06, with its high-revving V8 engine and will, no doubt, get much better than that car’s EPA-estimated 15 miles per gallon.
The standard Corvette Stingray, with its 495 horsepower engine and no electric motor, gets about 19 miles per gallon. Even the non-hybrid Corvette’s V8 engine is capable of operating only four cylinders at times when full power isn’t needed. By taking some of the work load, the E-Ray’s electric motor will allow the V8 to operate in its 4-cylinder mode more often, Corvette development engineer Steve Padilla said.
A button inside the cabin of the Corvette E-Ray changes how the car’s electric motor is used. The E-Ray can even drive for a couple of miles using only the electric motor in case the owner wants to, say, drive through the neighborhood quietly early in the morning before firing up the loud internal combustion engine. This is only possible for, at most, three to four miles, though.
As required by safety regulations, the E-Ray produces a sound — a low, oscillating whirr — through external speakers when driving under electric power at low speeds. The car can also be set to charge the battery as the car drives if the driver wants to build battery power for later use.
For race track driving, the hybrid system can be set for maximum short-term performance, allowing the lithium battery to use up most of its charge in a lap or two, or for more conservative, lap-after-lap use. The car will maintain a certain minimal state of charge in case it needs to use the front electric motor to help pull out of a skid, for instance. In general, though, the E-Ray isn’t seen as a track car. That’s more what the Z06 is for, said Padilla. The E-Ray is intended as a car for fast street driving and long road trips.
“in the past, when you moved up from the Stingray, if you wanted something higher up, we’ve always provided, the racing, you know the supercars,” Padilla said, “We’ve had the Z06, the ZR1. This takes it in a little bit of a different direction.”
Carbon ceramic brakes are standard on the E-Ray. Carbon ceramic brake rotors are more resistant to “fade,” or loss of braking performance as the brakes heat up in hard use, compared to ordinary metal brake rotors. They are also lighter than metal rotors, something that was important in this case because of the added weight of the battery pack and electric motor.
The current generation of the Corvette, the first with its engine behind the seats instead of under the hood, was engineered from the outset with this new hybrid version in mind. That means the Corvette’s front trunk, a practical feature that helps give the car more storage space than most mid-engined sports cars, is still there in the E-Ray.
The E-Ray shares a lot of its exterior body with the extra-wide Corvette Z06, and for the same reasons. The extra horsepower demands wider tires for more traction and better handling at high speeds. Plus the extra width allows for larger side air intakes to draw in more air for the gasoline engine. The E-Ray is supposed to be a somewhat more mellow car, though, so the trim pieces around the edges of the side scoops, which are colored black on the Z06, are the same color as the rest of the body on the E-Ray.
The Corvette E-Ray will go on sale later this year at a sticker price starting at $104,300, or $111,300 for convertible models with a power-folding hard top. Prices for the Corvette Stingray base model start at about $64,500 and, for the Z06, at about $105,300. Padilla compared the Corvette E-Ray’s pricing to cars like the McLaren Artura, a plugin hybrid supercar with maximum 671 horsepower output and only rear-wheel-drive. Prices for the McLaren start at $225,500. Also, the Ferrari 296 GTB, another plug-in hybrid supercar, has prices starting at $323,000, but total horsepower output of 819.
Unlike those cars, the Corvette E-Ray is not a plug-in hybrid because GM product planners and engineers didn’t want the potential complication or confusion of having a charging port on the car, Padilla said.
Adding a charging port and additional cables and electronics to the car would have also added weight, said Steve Majoros, marketing director for Chevrolet. The E-Ray weighs only about 200 pounds more than the Stingray, according to GM.
GM has said that it plans to produce only zero-emission passenger vehicles by 2035, a pledge that implies a fully electric Corvette must be offered at some point if the model line is not to die out.