Video: Electric C4 Corvette Conversion Trades Speed for Efficiency

The Chevrolet Corvette is a high performance icon, and people who count themselves as owners have joined a brotherhood of horsepower. These men (and women) pray at the altar of crude oil, to a pantheon of automotive legends including Stingray, Grand Sport, and ZR1. Appeasement of these mighty gods has always carried a cost though; you must offer them a costly sacrifice of fuel if you wish to taste their power. And as we all know, that fuel doesn’t come cheap these days.

So does that excuse the heresy of Wayne Bickley? He took his 1996 C4 Corvette and replaced the supercharged 396 CI engine with an all-electric drivetrain. From horsepower to treehugger? What happened here?

According to Wayne, the conversion was made in large part due to California’s restrictive emissions and smog laws. The Corvette has been on the road for at least two years now, so the the record spike in gas prices in 2008 may have also contributed to the conversion. After all, the supercharged 396 costs a lot of money to keep on the road, so this could just be about economics. Waynes corresponding profile on EvAlbum, Wayne’s Corvette has 18 16-volt batteries wired in series that provide 288 volts of power. He also has a build thread over at the Corvette Forums where a surprising number of members have voiced their support.

288-volts sounds like a lot, though the Amp-hour capacity of the battery bank only provides about 20 miles of driving range according to the web profile. But the Corvette is set up for “spirited driving” and “range is not important.” Apparently neither is heat, as there is no heater in the Corvette (though judging by the weather in San Bernadino, California, Wayne probably doesn’t need it.) The top speed is only about 85 MPH, which is sure to cause some of the Corvette faithful to cringe, and judging from the driving videos, this isn’t exactly a Tesla Roadster either, though with the right setup EV’s can be pretty quick, as the all-electric Camaro showed us.

Chalk that up to the 28.5 horsepower Advanced DC electric motor, which is connected to the clutchless six-speed ZF transmission (which replaced an automatic transmission). In fairness though, electric motors are better known for their torque, and this motor provides plenty to move this 3,400 pound ‘Vette along at a respectable, if not fast, pace.  It’s a hell of a lot better than driving a Prius, 20 mile range or not. And Wayne has done a nice job, ensuring that the tachometer and speedo still work, and even utilizing the original ignition switch to start the EV ‘Vette up.

Wayne was able to do the whole conversion in 3 months after work, but judging by the previous drivetrain, he’s also a fan of big horsepower. His next plans include a much bigger electric motor that will provide up to 250 horsepower and a whole lot of torque at 0 RPM. We think this is a cool one-off project because hey, why not? There is no qualification for liking cars, and as long as everybody with a Corvette doesn’t rush out to convert their cars to electric (yeah, right), then we say more power to Wayne for daring to be different. But what about you?

About the author

Chris Demorro

Christopher DeMorro is a freelance writer and journalist from Connecticut with two passions in life; writing and anything with an engine. This has led him to pursue a full time career as a freelancer with a focus on motor vehicles of all kinds.
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