Last week, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, GM's vice president of global vehicle engineering, set to rest rumors of a mid-engine next-generation Chevrolet Corvette.
That got a lot of attention among Corvette fans.
But a footnote to the story was that Stracke said not only that a hybrid Corvette was possible, but that such a powertrain would be "an interesting idea." He noted that Porsche has announced it will add hybrids across its lineup, to meet new fuel efficiency regulations.
Hypothetically, Stracke said, a carmaker might offer a very small number of standard powertrains in its sports car lines "for a small amount of very excited car enthusiasts," with the bulk of the line offering hybrid power and far better fuel economy.
Silverado Hybrid Badge
2009 cadillac escalade hybrid platinum
Call us prescient
Well, we hate to say it, but ... we told you so!
Almost a year ago, we suggested that a hybrid Corvette model might not be the end-of-civilization apocalypse that many Corvette buyers seemed to believe. In fact, we noted that a Corvette hybrid could offer 750 horsepower or more.
But aren't hybrids wimpy little performance blobs? Well, if you're a Corvette driver stuck behind a Toyota Prius, sure.
But hybrid-electric technology comes in many flavors, and GM's Two-Mode Hybrid has a lot of power potential to be unlocked.
Torquey Two-Mode Hybrids
Now used only in full-size sport utilities and pickup trucks, the Two-Mode system is set up for nothing if not torque. As fitted to the 2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid and 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid large pickups, it happily handles towing up to 6,100 pounds.
The big hybrid system uses a pair of 40-kilowatt electric motors, providing a total of 108 added horses, and far more torque than that increase would suggest.
Suppose you paired that horsepower boost--all of it with maximum torque from 0 rpm, like any electric motor--to the 556-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 stuffed into the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe we drove last week?
Add 200 horses
Better yet, beef up the motor outputs in the next-generation system, using lessons learned from current Two-Mode installations, with a goal of adding 200 horsepower on top of engine output.
Silverado Hybrid Info Display
Add a lightweight lithium-ion battery pack optimized to deliver maximum voltage quickly, and all of a sudden, you've got a much faster Corvette with 750 horsepower that still gives you vastly better fuel economy. Which might just run rings around today's Corvette ZR1.
(For the record, the EPA rates today's 2010 Chevrolet Corvette at 16 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway.)
Porsche hybrids promising
With rave reports on the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car from driver Patrick Long, and that company's plan to build a limited production run of its rapturously received 918 Spyder hybrid supercar, suddenly "performance hybrid" sounds kind of appealing.
Even in a Chevrolet Corvette. Whose next generation, known to insiders as the C7, is scheduled to arrive for the 2013 model year.
Because in the end, whether it comes from an engine or an electric motor, horsepower is horsepower.