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Electric Corvette rumors speed ahead with Biden campaign video

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared to spill the beans on a long-rumored, all-electric Chevy Corvette this week. As The Detroit News first reported last April, the mid-engine Corvette C8 was designed to include battery-power, and will feature the first-ever electrified model capable of 1,000-horsepower.

Expected to be called the Zora, the hybrid ‘Vette should debut in 2025. Given General Motors Co.'s commitment to a zero-emissions future, an all-electric Corvette after Zora has been expected, too — though without a definitive model year.

In a campaign video on Twitter touting his love for driving, Biden — the owner of a classic, 1967 Corvette convertible himself — added fuel to the rumor.

"They tell me — and I’m looking forward to this if it’s true, to driving one — that they’re making an electric Corvette that can go 200 mph," said the Democratic candidate for president. "You think I’m kidding — I’m not kidding. So I’m excited about it."

Who "they" is is not clear, though top politicians like Biden often have access to auto executives given Washington's regulation of the industry as well as its importance in political swing states like Michigan. Government regulation is a key reason GM and other automakers are investing billions in electrification.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden

GM as a rule does not talk on the record about future product. When asked about an all-electric Corvette, a GM spokesperson would not comment on product speculation.

Since The News broke news of a mid-engine Corvette in 2016, however, sources have told The News that a key reason for putting the engine behind the driver was to open up possibilities for electrification. Chevrolet even went so far as to trademark the name Corvette E-Ray — an indication of the model's electric ambitions.

Bob Lutz, GM’s former chief of product development who was involved with early development of the mid-engine 'Vette, speculated that the program’s long lead time foreshadowed an electric version with "electric motors at the front (that) would enable limited AWD capability.”

Sure enough, The News confirmed this year the Zora hypercar (named after the engineer who advocated a mid-engine 'Vette 50 years ago) scheduled for 2025 (before delays expected by the cornonavirus disruption).

Like European hypercars that use all-wheel-drive, hybrid-electric propulsion to achieve preposterous performance numbers, the Zora is expected to generate about 1,000 horsepower. Power comes from a front electric motor mounted to an all-new twin-turbo LT7 engine. The LT7 will also be found — sans electric motor — in the Corvette ZR1 performance model.

As a Corvette fan, Biden might also have gotten his information from rampant speculation in online Corvette forums and enthusiast magazines.

When asked by the British auto publication, Autocar, about an electric Corvette at the C8's unveiling in Los Angeles last year, GM President Mark Reuss fueled rumors: “The company is committed to a strategy of 0-0-0: zero emissions, zero crashes and zero congestion. All of the technology rolling into this vehicle is meant to support that. This platform can carry a lot of different things into the future for General Motors.”

Pressed further, Reuss responded: “We’ll see. Stay tuned.”

Intriguingly, an aftermarket company name Genovation has made headlines by converting an old, front-engine C7 Corvette to electric power making 800 ponies.

The Corvette wouldn't be the first GM electric car that Biden has taken an interest in. Chevy’s first battery-powered car, the Chevy Volt, played a key role in the Obama-Biden administration's rescue of Detroit automakers in 2009.

Biden was a strong advocate for the $54 billion in green energy initiatives that were a part of the $787 billion stimulus bill, and visited a Midland plant in 2010 touting battery production for electrified vehicles. In his 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama promised to have one million battery-powered vehicles on the road by 2015. 

That number never materialized as gas prices moderated and consumers gobbled up SUVS. Indeed, Volt production ended in 2019 for lack of demand.

But Biden says he will redouble efforts to move the US to fully electric cars if he is elected president. As part of his $2 trillion climate initiative announced this summer, he would build 500,000 charging stations across the country to help the auto industry go fully electric.

“This is an iconic industry. How can American-made vehicles no longer be out there?” he said in the campaign ad touting an all-electric Corvette. “I believe we can own the 21st century market again by moving to electric vehicles.”

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.