By Jon LeSage
The next-generation Chevrolet Corvette could break tradition with a mid-engine layout and plug-in hybrid option as well.
According to sources interviewed by The Detroit News – including former “Father of the Volt” Bob Lutz – the eighth-generation C8 ‘Vette, codenamed “Emperor,” could be unveiled in 2018 prior to arriving at dealers for the 2019 model year.
None of this is official, as Chevy media reps merely said they do not speak of future product, but others with reportedly close ties have said the car is definitely in the works.
One “former GM employee with knowledge of the project” told The Detroit News the project is being pushed through by GM’s Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.
“It’s happening. Mark Reuss wants it,” said the source. “It’s the worst-kept secret in town.”
For his part Lutz suggested the possibility of the plug-in option. The former General Motors product czar and vice chairman speculated that one of the reasons the C8 is in a longer-than-typical development period is indeed to add a plug-in powertrain.
Lutz predicts “10- to 15-mile plug-in electric capability,” which would come from a small lithium-ion battery pack no larger than 5 kilowatt hours plus electric motor added to the traditional small-block pushrod V8. He also predicts the plug-in hybrid Corvette will have 50 mpg city in EPA testing.
If the mid-engine layout actually does come to pass, despite plug-in fans’ sensibility, this change in engine layout will be seen as bigger news, and arguably the most profound design change in the Corvette’s history since 1953.
Aside from the The Detroit News, several other publications have also speculated that the next Corvette will drop the front-engine layout. Mid-engine Corvette concept cars have been shown by GM going back to the 1960s, but were never brought to production as consumer models.
Lutz suggested that engineering a plug-in hybrid powertrain could enable another first for the Corvette – all-wheel drive. He speculated that it could be enabled by an electric motor mounted to the front axle, augmenting the Corvette’s traditional rear-wheel drive.
The idea of a hybrid or plug-in hybrid Corvette has been talked about before. In 2013, then-GM president Reuss called a hybrid Corvette a “very attractive idea” for competing with other high-performance models on the market, and he’s said also he would like to be involved with such a project.
SEE ALSO: Electric Corvette Sets 205-MPH Speed Record
In reimagining the Corvette to this degree, it would also stand to take the already competent supercar-on-a-relative-budget further into bona fide supercar territory. The mid-engine layout is prized for balance, and cars like the Ferrari 488 and Ford GT would be considered competitors.
As for the plug-in part of the equation, elite brands have shown their own electrification projects, if not also production models. Porsche has its 918 Spyder, McLaren has its P1, Ferrari has its hybrid LaFerrari, and the list goes on of brands adding or planning to add batteries to monster engines and track-worthy road chassis.
Speculation surrounding spy photos of the supposed mid-engine Corvette in testing have further been that development could see its way into a Cadillac halo vehicle as well.
No word was given however on a pure battery electric ‘Vette that might compete against a future follow-up to a Tesla Roadster.
So far, electric versions of the Corvette have been built by do-it-yourselfers, with one notable example being the all-electric Genovation Extreme Electric Car (GXE). This vehicle ran at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to a record speed of 205.6 mph.
Whether GM ever goes this way with its fabled sports car is to be determined, but meanwhile eyes will be on whether more news comes about a mid-engined Corvette with plug-in option.
The Detroit News, via Green Car Reports
This article appears also at HybridCars.com.