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Defying America: Meet the All-Electric Camaro Drift Car

Photos by Jacob Davis; Courtesy of Motortrend/Napoleon Motorsports/Hot Rod Magazine
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Put your pitchforks down everyone, no need to start a mob. I can hear the clamoring from miles away and they’re just getting louder. Let me explain. American Muscle has always been the epitome of American Car Culture. Large rumbling V8s and no regard for emissions or the environment encompasses the US as the premier car type of choice. Now, Napoleon Motorsports has tried to change that. Taking a beloved muscle icon and transforming it into something out of Wall-E is only something tree-huggers could dream of… and now it’s a thing. Based on a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro EL1, the Camaro has been dubbed the “Freedom One”… and all the boomers just left the article. Oops.

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Now this was back in 2019, and we’re a little bit late to the party but that won’t stop us from putting this glorious information out to the public. The EL1 is a play on the top trim level of the Camaro— the ZL1, and despite the moniker change, there’s no change in performance. Back in 2019 they put Travis Reeder behind the wheel who just prior the year before won a Formula Drift Championship. The car competed in Formula Drift where they’re super supportive of all different types of cars, and boy oh boy, not many racers are going to like this one. Just imagine the instant torque coming out of corners and being able to flip the wheels around. The amount of spin those rear wheels are going to get is just bonkers when you really think about it. Despite only putting out a measly 515 HP in relation to the high horsepower drift cars of FD (with numbers normally topping 1000), but with 800 lb-ft of instant torque being sent on a dead pipeline straight to the rear whels means that all the other numbers are arbitrary. In drifting torque means a lot more than horsepower, and so the EL1 makes do just fine.

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Treading new water in 2019 seems normal now in 2021, with EVs tearing up the track everywhere from Formula E to the upcoming Tesla Model S Plaid. But in 2019 this was uncharted grounds, going pitch black. Napoleon Motorsports took it upon themselves to walk so we could run. The EL1 at the time was fully Formula Drift compliant, with a full roll cage, harnesses, and racing seats. The body is pure American Camaro, the only modification is the battery and electric motor which is located in the front in order to comply with Formula Drift regulations. Also defiant of EV stereotypes is the EL1’s weight which sits right around 3,000 lbs and 800 lbs of batteries sitting underneath the hood. The EL1 also has a near perfect 51% to 49% weight distribution front to rear perfect for getting it sideways. Rolling resistance is also at a minimum, with EV West providing control arms and Tesla motors that provide power to the rear wheels. The team at Napoleon Motorsports are well versed in these practices because for the past five years they’ve been building cars for the Trans Am series.

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Pioneers back then, Napoleon has set the precedent in the FIA Formula Drift rulebook for electric drivetrains, something that more and more teams are doing today. In 2019 EVs were just starting to get a foothold in the US market. With GM releasing the Bolt, and Tesla gaining a head of steam, EVs weren’t as prevalent then as they are now. It’s crazy what can happen in just two years, especially when we factor in the exponential curve of the innovation of technology. With electric powertrains slowly creeping up their way into performance applications such as the new Porsche Taycan and the e-Tron GT we’ll get to see a whole lot more EVs on the racetrack. Ferrari and Aston Martin themselves have also committed themselves to release electric supercars in the near future and when that happens, we’ll slowly see the end of times for the internal combustion engine.

While it may not be a fire breathing V8 with flames shooting out the back and the raucous noise that’ll be sure to wake your neighbors up at the crack of dawn, it’s something more unique and special. It’s the future, and it’s been here. Automakers have been perfecting their electric performance applications and we’ve come a long way since 2019, nearly two years. Two years in the car world is eons in terms of R&D and design, get ready. The future is now, whether we like it or not.

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