Is This Electric Camaro Drift Car The Future Of Motorsports?

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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Late last year, Chevrolet revealed the E-COPO Camaro, an all-electric concept version of the brand’s infamous drag-racing pony car. Although some scoffed, Chevrolet would love the opportunity to normalize electric powertrains in motorsport — especially in drag racing. Now, Napoleon Motorsports has built an electric Camaro of its own. Its codename is the EL1 (a play on Chevy’s 1LE track package code), but its official name is “Freedom One.”

  • Napoleon Motorsports has built an all-electric Camaro called the EL1 or “Freedom One.”
  • With an 800-pound battery pack putting out 38.4 kilowatt hours of power.
  • When put through the magnetless Tesla electric motor on the rear axle, the EL1 makes 515 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque.

Freedom One started as a 2019 Camaro. The gasoline-burning powertrain under the hood was removed and replaced with 800 pounds of batteries, which combined total 38.4 kilowatt hours of power. In the rear, a magnetless Tesla electric motor that turns the rear wheels was bolted up. A special controller to, well, control that low-friction motor was sourced from EV West.

The 800-pound, 38.4 kWh battery pack was fitted where the gas engine once sat. | Photo: Napoleon Motorsport

 

In total, Freedom One churns out 515 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque. Amazingly, team namesake Joe Napoleon claims it has more yet-untapped power potential. Even with the heft of the batteries in place of the original internal combustion engine (ICE), the Freedom One boasts 51-49 weight distribution, which means it’s nearly perfectly balanced from to rear, making it an ideal drift car.

What’s more, since the electric motor allows the driver to tap into all 800 lb-ft with just a touch of their toe. That’s because electric motors can put out 100% of their torque at zero RPM. A gasoline engine, no matter how potent, needs to spin up to at least 1,500 RPM before its torque potential is tapped. And having that huge wave of torque easily accessible at the rear wheels makes it a perfect drift machine.

With 800 pound-feet of torque available at zero RPM, the Freedom One makes an ideal drift car. | Photo: Napoleon Motorsport

 

Impressively, the EL1 was built in less than six months, which, given its experimental and bespoke propulsion system is incredibly quick. Of course, like any hand-built race car, the EL1 isn’t without faults. The car suffered intermittent issues at a drift event in Orlando, FL earlier this month and had to sit the main race out. Still, when it is going, it’s an impressive machine. You can see it do a quick run in a Facebook video here.

The weirdest thing about the Freedom One is its silent operation. Well, except the noise made by its tires during a drift. But virtual silence will be the sounds of future motorsport, as the FIA’s Formula E grows in popularity and influence. Hopefully the wave of new high-performance electric cars about to hit the market will spur other teams to take on the pure-electric powertrain challenge and begin competing against gasoline-powered vehicles in all manner of motorsport.

After all, there’s no better way to legitimize a propulsion technology with gear heads than by putting it through the motorsports ringer and proving its reliability and potency.


About the Author

  • Nick Jaynes has worked for more than a decade in automotive media industry. In that time, he's done it all—from public relations for Chevrolet to new-car reviews for Mashable. Nick now lives in Portland, Oregon and spends his weekends traversing off-road trails in his 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser.

can be reached at nickjaynes@gmail.com
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