the 2024 Chevy Corvette E-Ray scores many Corvette firsts. It is the first hybrid Corvette, and the first with all-wheel drive. It has a lithium-ion battery hidden between the seats. It even offers Stealth mode for silent all-electric propulsionso you don’t wake the neighbors this 6.2-liter small-block V8. But the E-Ray doesn’t have one thing: a charging connection. So why didn’t Chevy make the first hybrid Corvette a plug-in?
It all depends on the size of that battery and what is expected of it. the E-Ray lithium-ion battery pack is tiny in a word – only 1.9 kWh. The battery of a 2022 Chevy Bolt measures 65kWh, more than 34 times the total energy storage capacity of the E-Ray pack. But where The Lightning needs to give you enough power to drive more than 200 miles, while the E-Ray’s battery powers things like the headlights and air conditioning, the E-Ray’s battery only needs to provide power in short bursts to the front axle motor and its Replenish charge through regeneration. This allowed Corvette engineers to specify a compact, lightweight battery that better fitted the sports car’s chassis.
“It’s all about power in, power out, not how much power we can store in this small space,” said Tadge Juechter, Executive Chief Engineer at Global Corvette an E-Ray preview of GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. “It’s a small battery, not much EV range anyway. It’s about how to get a relatively lightweight solution that delivers the performance you need.” Juechter tells me that the battery in the E-Ray weighs just over 45 kg – tiny by EV standards.
â€œThe battery is designed to transfer as much energy as possible to the drive unit as quickly as possible,â€ said Mark Stheiner, assistant chief engineer, hybrid propulsion systems. â€œThat means he will tire out quickly, but he can also regenerate super fast from the front power unit.â€
Stheiner offered a contrast with another GM product: The GMC Hummer EV. The lobster has a huge 210 kWh battery packable to push the 4,082 kg heavy pickup well over 483 km of driving range. The Hummer is also capable of a 0-60 time of 3 seconds, but even if you’re ripping drag launches, you’re only using a fraction of the battery’s total power. The rest is used to bring you home.
The E-Ray can only travel about 5km in pure EV mode before the petrol engine kicks in. However, since the battery is so small, the front-axle electric motor can refill it extremely quickly through regeneration. Every time you brake or even take your foot off the accelerator, the front axle goes into regeneration mode and pumps energy back into the battery. In extreme cases, the e-AWD motor can even add a slight braking resistance while driving, just to bring the battery back to a comfortable state of charge.
So why no plug-in capability? “Plug-in adds hardware, so we would have to add bulk and packaging,” Stheiner told me. â€œAnd the battery is super small. Offboard loading would be a non-event. You would come home, plug in, take off your shoes and you would be ready to unplug
The electric propulsion system in the E-Ray is programmed to charge the battery wherever possible, piecing together tiny moments of regeneration to achieve a healthy charge. Even under extreme driving conditions, Juechter and his team found it difficult to drain the battery to the point where it was a problem. “We go out and pound the car – 99th percentile aggressiveness for a customer driving on public roads. I tap on the battery indicator, is this thing right? I can’t believe I’m driving like this and it’s still 80 percent, 90 percent charged.” For more extreme cases, there’s Charge+. button that’s basically meant to get the battery to 100 percent before heading out to the track for a flying lap.
In everyday life, you probably don’t even need to touch the Charge+ button. “It’s unlikely you’ll pull in your driveway with much less than a full charge,” Juechter told me. “Your last braking event coming into the garage will probably top it all.”