GM unveils 700-horsepower electric Camaro and, maybe, a way to build your own

Posted at 2:12 PM, Oct 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 14:12:44-04

(CNN) — General Motors unveiled a 700-horsepower drag race-ready Chevrolet Camaro at an event in Las Vegas Monday night. But this one has an electric motor bolted in to the same spot formerly occupied by a gasoline engine.

The eCOPO Camaro concept’s electric motor is installed under the hood of the car and is attached directly to the transmission housing, just as the gasoline engine was. The car’s automatic transmission and other components are unchanged.

GM is looking at selling electric motors that consumers can use to replace the gasoline engines as a potential new line of business. The company already has a substantial business selling so-called “crate engines,” engines not connected to cars and shipped in crates. These are often used by performance enthusiasts to replace lower-horsepower factory-installed engines. Ready-to-install electric motors could be sold the same way, presumably with battery packs, cables, electronic controls and other components needed to convert a car to electric drive.

The eCOPO Camaro’s name refers to the famous high-performance COPO Camaros produced in 1969. COPO stood for Central Office Purchasing Order and referred to a system dealers could use to order cars with option packages not available to the general public. It was usually used to order small fleets of cars for police departments, municipalities or others with unique requirements. Some dealers used it to order Camaros with large, powerful engines intended for drag racing.

“Chevrolet pioneered the concept of the high-performance crate engine right around the time the original COPO Camaro models were created,” said Russ O’Blenes, GM’s director of performance parts and racing, in a statement. “And the eCOPO project points to a future that could include electric crate motors for racing, or even your street rod. We’re not there yet, but it’s something we’re exploring.”

The eCOPO is powered by an 800-volt battery pack, more than twice as much voltage as the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The eCOPO’s electric motor is capable of producing over 700 horsepower. It’s connected to a race-tuned automatic transmission. For optimal weight distribution — toward the rear for a drag racing car — the batteries are mounted in the rear seat area and the trunk. The car’s charging system is designed for fast recharging, which is important given the limited time between drag strip runs in a competitive race.

The eCOPO Camaro is based on GM’s 2019 COPO Camaro, also unveiled at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The SEMA Show, put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, is an industry showcase for car modifiers and those who sell parts and equipment to customize and modify cars.

The new COPO Camaro will be a special edition car and only 69 will be made. It will be available with a supercharged gasoline engine. The eCOPO Camaro is purely a concept car. GM has not announced any plans to sell such a car to the public.