Update: We’ve since received a statement from Chevrolet spokesperson Chris Bonelli, who says that the Corvette spotted in these pictures is not a hybrid but instead “a very early test mule for the 2020 Stingray.” He continues: “The orange cable sticking out of the front hood is simply for ease of access to the 12V battery. We used this for a lot of testing that required running accessories, so this was an easy way to keep the battery charged when doing so without running the engine all the time.”
This may be your first glimpse of a hybrid Corvette: A camouflaged, snow-dusted C8 sporting what appears to be an electric charging harness was spotted leaving Milford Proving Grounds earlier today. Apart from the orange apparatus jutting from the frunk, this looks exactly like C8s we’ve seen roaming the streets.
We heard as far back as 2018, while speaking with former Corvette chief engineer Dave McLellan, that hybrid power would come to the eighth generation of America’s sports car. McLellan ranked a hybrid-electric powertrain and all-wheel drive right up there with a V-8 powerplant as the latest ’Vette’s most important features. Don Sherman reported in March of 2019 that Chevy will likely add overhead camshafts, twin turbochargers, and hybridization to higher performance tiers of the mid-engine Corvette. Find room in the back to stow your groceries—and make sure they’re secure, because electric motors will likely drive the front wheels and take up most available frunk space.
Performance is the key word here; don’t interpret this hybrid tech as evidence of a “green” ’Vette—McLellan sees the tech as paving the way for GM’s take on a Porsche 918 Spyder. “Chevrolet needs to show potential buyers what it’s capable of delivering with a potent V-8, a hybrid-electric powertrain, and all-wheel drive,” he said.
Though we expect all-wheel-drive electric tech to be a key part of range-topping ZR1 variants, it’s probably too soon for this particular prototype to be a ZR1 test mule—or a Z06. This all-wheel-drive electric tech will probably arrive first as a performance package on the base C8 rather than as a distinct model. Keep your ears tuned for the Z06 to sport a flat-plane motor, possibly boosted by twin turbochargers. The ZR1 will probably use every technological trick in the book to push four-figure horsepower.
Yes, the h-word is now officially in the conversation; but expect the electric tech to supplement a diverse lineup of Corvettes—not supplant the beloved naturally-aspirated small-block that started the legacy. The rear-wheel-drive LT2 configuration remains in the family, though surrounded by stranger, more exotic siblings.