Corvette E-Ray banned from competition by NCCC
The Corvette E-Ray is a hybrid, with a drivetrain that powers the front axle via an on-board battery and single electric drive motor. That has put it on the wrong side of the National Council of Corvette Clubs competition rulebook, rendering the E-Ray unwelcome at future track events organized by NCCC. The ban even extends to those who just want to spectate.
This news, reported on CorvetteForum.com, highlights the quickly-evolving landscape that the push for more battery-electric and hybrid powertrain vehicles has created. The specific rule that was amended in the 2022–23 competition rulebook is in section 1.8.1 number 14, and it outlines that any vehicles that possess a “lithium-type battery pack” are to be excluded from competition.
The NCCC’s Michigan website says there are “234 Clubs, in 16 regions, both east and west of the Mississippi … comprised of approximately 17,500 members. The Council’s competition database for 2023 includes mostly low-speed autocross events, but also various types of concours, rallies, cruises, and a handful of time trials.
The second part of this amendment even goes so far as to require that if these vehicles are driven to events, they can’t park with the other Corvettes:
NCCC’s rulebook may strike some as overly cautious or even a little extreme. As CorvetteForum.com points out, however, they’re not operating in a vacuum. Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia recently put a “tactical pause” on hybrid and electric vehicles, “purely based on ensuring we establish an EMS response policy and procedure based on technical knowledge provided by the electric and hybrid electric vehicle industry community,” said the track’s Director of Motorsports Operations.
Many Corvette owners are also keenly aware of Chevrolet’s recent recall efforts regarding Bolt EV fires. Like the Bolt, the E-Ray uses lithium-ion pouch-type batteries sourced from LG Chem. Two years ago the National Transportation Safety Board released a statement regarding the risk posed to first responders handling an incident involving high-voltage lithium-ion batteries. The statement outlined not only the shock risk but also the thermal runaway potential that can lead to re-ignition of what was thought to be a controlled or extinguished fire.
Statistics confirm that gasoline cars actually experience a higher incident rate of fire than pure battery-electric vehicles, but hybrids fare the worst. Perhaps the bigger concern is that our present ability to control and extinguish a gasoline-fueled fire considerably exceeds that of battery fires; until the technology and equipment readily available to first responders catches up, organizers may further amend rules and regulations to fill the gap. We expect hybrid and EV proponents, not to mention E-Ray owners, may in the meantime feel that such policies represent a disproportionate reaction to the degree of risk.
The conditions of track use may subject the electric portion of the Corvette E-Ray’s drivetrain to rapid charging and discharging. Of course, it would be hard to believe that Chevrolet engineers did not account for this when crafting a 655-horsepower supercar that they expect some drivers to bring to the track. How the E-Ray behaves long-term and in the real world will become clearer when the first production examples reach customer hands later this year.