MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA—The black ’06 ZO6 Corvette looked particularly big and bad, sporting low-profile Michelins on C7 Z06 sport wheels, beefy-bright red Brembo brakes and a supercharged logo in chrome on its tail.
But all was not what it seemed. In fact, under the see-through hood was an electric powerplant producing more than 600 horsepower (the bone-stock Z06 does a mere 505). We were at the Space Florida Shuttle Landing Facility to see the ‘Vette (built by Genovation) break some world records.
In fact, in two days on the three-mile track (the most level in the world; elevation varies a quarter inch from one end to the other) it set six, including several of its own. The one everyone will remember is a new battery-powered top speed—205.6 mph. A zero to 60 time hasn’t been measured, but it should be competitive with the Tesla Model S P90D at under three seconds.
Driven by Johnny Bohmer of JBR Racing, who manages the test track, the twin-motor Genovation GXE also shattered the electric record for the standing mile, achieving 189.481 mph from a stop. Genovation hopes to take these records to the bank with a limited production car based on the latest C7 Corvette. It could cost north of $350,000, but when the Porsche 918 Spyder goes for $845,000—and sells out immediately—there should be no shortage of takers.
The speeds don’t initially look all that remarkable, because a number of electric supercar builders, including Rimac (Croatia) and the Toroidion 1MW (Finland), claim they can top 200 mph. But they haven’t proven that to be true—Genovation, in track tests in February and now in July, has put the rubber on the road.
After shattering the standing mile record, Bohmer emerged into the blazing Florida sun, wearing what must have been a stifling fireproof track suit. “It was a good run, and the car felt good,” he said. “This was another world record, and I think people are going to be mad at Genovation, trying to figure out how they did it. I predict these records will stand until Genovation gets around to breaking them itself.”
Bohmer has hit 283 mph in his trick BADD GT, says driving the GXE is “different from any other car, but it’s a positive difference.”
Genovation (which has just three employees) is the brainchild of its CEO, Andrew Saul, who has a banking background. Motivated by concern about the environment, climate change and a love of cars, he founded the company about 10 years ago. “I’ve got a team dedicated to the same vision,” he said.
Why a Corvette? “It’s an American icon,” he said. Indeed, but hardly purpose built to be an electric car. The two principal architects of Genovation’s EV, MIT graduate Erik Stafl of Stafl Systems (control electronics) and Bob Simpson of EVDrive (the battery packs), had to shoehorn their componetry into some really tight spaces. There are, for instance, five battery packs, including one under the hood sandwiched between the controllers and the twin motors.
“There were definite challenges,” Stafl said. “We had to get the packs placed for the best weight balance.” As it is, the car has near 50-50 distribution, but the pack (consisting of cylindrical computer-type cells, as in the Tesla) is 44 kilowatt-hours. That’s approximately half the throw-power of the Tesla Model S90. Steven Rogers, Genovation’s British-born president and chief technology officer, told me there’s room under the rear hatch for more batteries, but that would affect the balance and add weight.
The car, as it is, would gently cruise for about 120 miles before needing to be plugged in. Test driving it at 200 mph uses up 20 percent of the pack in three miles! The tester, by the way, retains all its creature comforts, from stereo to heated seats and aerodynamics-cheating rear-view mirrors. It’s fully road registered.
Elon Musk is an extremely competitive guy. Is he going to let Genovation’s record stand? Stafl thinks that the Model S, which tops out at about 155 mph, isn’t currently able to beat the new record, in part because it lacks the custom-made six-speed gearbox in the Corvette. But, of course, records are made to be broken. Tesla has so far been more about the Ferrari-beating zero to 60 times, but that could change.
“There’s so much puffery, so much vaporware, in our business,” Stafl said. “They shouldn’t talk about 200 mph unless they can prove it.” A challenge, or what?
Bob Simpson is a veteran EV guy, surrounded by like-minded folks in the Portland, Oregon area. One of his close friends is John Wayland, owner of the muscle-car-beating White Zombie, an electric Datsun 210 with a lot of attitude. Simpson himself built a daily-driver battery-powered BMW 325i with 6.5-second zero to 60 times. He agrees with Stafl about the competition. “Everybody’s blowing smoke. We say, ‘Prove it.’”
The land-speed record for any kind of vehicle, is 763 mph, set by Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green, at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1997. But there are plenty of challengers, including the rocket-powered 135,000-horsepower Bloodhound Supersonic Car, which is aiming for 1,000 mph.
But these rocket-mobiles don’t bear much resemblance to anything you or I could drive, and they certainly don’t hold answers to our environmental problems. Genovation’s car sets records without emitting any carbon dioxide, and you could hop in it and grab groceries. Now that’s revolutionary. Here's how the car looks on video:
And here's B-roll from the race event, courtesy of Genovation: