The iconic drag race car goes fully electric!

First introduced in 1969 and revived in 2012, the COPO Camaro celebrates 50 years with a revised version at the 2018 SEMA Show. For the first time, the drag racer is joined by an electric version. Called the ECOPO Camaro, it’s just a concept car for now, but it’s probably a preview of things to come.

The ECOPO Camaro was built in partnership with pioneering electric drag racing team Hancock and Lane Racing, as well as with the involvement of Patrick McCue, the man behind the record-holding “Shock and Awe” electric dragster. Showcased alongside the 2019 COPO Camaro and about two dozen other Chevy vehicles at SEMA, it also suggests Chevy might offer an electric motor as a crate "engine" in the future.

Continue reading to learn more about the Chevrolet ECOPO Camaro concept.

What Makes the 2018 Chevy ECOPO Camaro Race Car Concept Special?

  • New engine hood
  • New decals
  • Bespoke instrument cluster
  • Motor based on BorgWagner design
  • 800-volt battery
  • More than 700 horsepower
  • 600 pound-feet of torque
  • Quarter mile in 9 seconds
2018 Chevrolet ECOPO Camaro Concept Exterior
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On the outside, the eCOPO is pretty much a regular COPO Camaro. Sure, thre are few noticeable changes compared to the standard dragster, but nothing that would really suggest there’s an electric drivetrain under that muscle car body.

The first differences that catch the eye when comparing the eCOPO to the new COPO is that the EV has a smaller hood bulge. This makes sense though, as while the COPO hides a massive, supercharged, 7.0-liter engine between the front wheels, the eCOPO draws juice from a much smaller motor.

The eCOPO also has new graphics on the hood.

There's "800 Volts" lettering instead of "427" and lightning decals instead of "go-fast" stripes.

Lightning is obviously a hint about the electric power moving this coupe.

Chevy did not release photos of the interior and had nothing to say about it, but it’s safe to assume it’s identical to the regular COPO. It should be packed with safety features, including an NHRA-approved roll-cage, and all you need to say safe in case something goes wrong on the quarter-mile run.

However, the eCOPO probably has a bespoke instrument cluster that provides information on battery usage and EV-related performance.
2018 Chevrolet ECOPO Camaro Concept Exterior
- image 802517

The eCOPO is an entirely different car under the skin, as the traditional V-8 was replaced by a new electric electric motor developed by General Motors. Based on a pair of BorgWarner HVH 250-150 motor assemblies, it cranks out "more than" 700 horsepower and a solid 600 pound-feet of torque.

Chevrolet estimates quarter-mile times in the nine-second range. That’s around a second slower than the quickest version of the gasoline-fed COPO Camaro, but Chevy is still testing the car.

GM claims it’s breaking new ground with its first 800-volt battery pack, which provides more than twice the voltage in the Volt and Bolt production models.

The big battery also enables a more efficient power transfer to the motor and supports faster recharging.

The latter feat is extremely important for the limited time between elimination rounds in drag racing.

2018 Chevrolet ECOPO Camaro Concept Exterior
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Chevy also took plenty of safety measures to ensure that the eCOPO doesn’t become dangerous at the race track. The batteries in the rear compartment are sealed off from the interior and an integrated driveshaft tunnel has been added between the modules for increased protection. Additionally, the roll cage in the trunk area has been expanded to provide additional protection for the rear-mounted modules. This also gives the eCOPO Camaro a 56 percent rear-weight bias, which helps launch the car more efficiently.

Interestingly enough, the motor mates to a conventional “Turbo 400” automatic transmission and the same solid rear axle used in the production COPO Camaro race cars.

The motor also has the same bell house mounting pattern and crankshaft flange as the popular LS unit in Chevrolet’s crate engine portfolio.

2018 Chevrolet ECOPO Camaro Concept Exterior
- image 802433

This allows it to bolt up to just about any transmission from GM, while the driveshaft and other drivetrain components remain in the same locations as in a gasoline-powered COPO Camaro. In short, the electric motor simply bolts into the engine compartment in place of the gas engine, which means that it probably has a future as a crate "engine" in the lineup.

Further reading

2019 Chevrolet Camaro
- image 777070

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro.

2018 Chevrolet COPO Camaro Drivetrain
- image 740877
New 302 cubic-inch V-8 built for high revs

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet COPO Camaro.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS Shock Exterior
- image 800233

Read our full review on the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS Shock.

LAS VEGAS — Fifty years after the original COPO Camaro special order performance models were introduced, Chevrolet’s eCOPO Camaro Concept demonstrates an electrified vision for drag racing.

Developed by General Motors and built in partnership with the pioneering electric drag racing team Hancock and Lane Racing, the concept race car — based on the 2019 COPO Camaro — is entirely electric powered, driven by an electric motor providing the equivalent of more than 700 horsepower and 600 lb-ft of torque.

Chevrolet estimates quarter-mile times in the 9-second range. Testing is ongoing.

“The eCOPO Concept is all about where we go in the future with electrification in the high performance space,” said Russ O’Blenes, director, Performance Variants, Parts and Motorsports at General Motors. “The original COPO Camaro program was all about pushing the envelope, and this concept is an exploration with the very same spirit.”

Chevrolet partnered with Hancock and Lane Racing not only because of the team’s success in NHRA drag racing, but also its involvement with Patrick McCue, the driving force behind the record-holding “Shock and Awe” electric drag racing car, and his Seattle-area Bothell High School automotive technology program. With the racing team’s assistance, more than a dozen students participated in the development and assembly of the electrified drag car.

“This project exemplifies Chevrolet and General Motors’ commitment to engaging young minds in STEM education,” said O’Blenes. “It also represents our goal of a world with zero emissions, with the next generation of engineers and scientists who will help us get there.”

800 volts

Just as the original 1969 COPO Camaro models relied on creative engineering to make them successful in Stock Eliminator drag racing, the eCOPO breaks new ground with its unique motor and GM’s first 800-volt battery back.

The electric motor is based on a pair of BorgWarner HVH 250-150 motor assemblies, each generating 300 lb-ft of torque, and replaces the gas engine. It is connected to a conventional racing-prepared “Turbo 400” automatic transmission that channels the motor’s torque to the same solid rear axle used in the production COPO Camaro race cars.

The all-new 800-volt battery pack enables a more efficient power transfer to the electric motor and supports faster recharging, which is important for the limited time between elimination rounds in drag racing.

“Eight hundred volts is more than twice the voltage of the battery packs in the production Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV, so the eCOPO pushes into new technological territory,” says O’Blenes. “As GM advances its electrification leadership, a big step might just come from the drag strip.”

The battery pack is composed of four 200-volt modules, each weighing approximately 175 pounds, mounted strategically in the car for optimal weight distribution. Two are located in the rear seat area and the other two are in the trunk: one in the spare tire well and the other in the area over the rear axle.

A full Battery Management System monitors all critical voltages and temperatures within the pack. It ties into a comprehensive safety system that continuously evaluates all vehicle electrical components for proper function and safe operation. The batteries in the rear compartment are sealed off from the interior and an integrated driveshaft tunnel has been added between the modules for increased protection. Additionally, the roll cage in the trunk area has been expanded to provide additional protection for the rear-mounted modules.

With the modules’ strategic positions, the eCOPO Camaro has greater than a 56 percent rear-weight bias, which helps launch the car more efficiently.

Electric crate motors

The eCOPO Camaro Concept expands Chevrolet and General Motors’ electrification development and supports future product development. It also suggests a potential new avenue for Chevrolet’s crate engine and performance parts portfolio.

The eCOPO Camaro’s electric motor has the same bell house mounting pattern and crankshaft flange as the popular LS-family engines in Chevrolet’s crate engine portfolio. That allows it to bolt up to just about any General Motors transmission. In fact, the transmission, driveshaft and other drivetrain components remain in the same locations as in a gasoline-powered COPO Camaro race car, meaning the electric motor simply bolts into the engine compartment in place of the gas engine.

“The possibilities are intriguing and suggest a whole new world for racers,” said O’Blenes. “Chevrolet pioneered the concept of the high-performance crate engine right around the time the original COPO Camaro models were created, 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.”

In the meantime, Chevrolet and Hancock and Lane Racing will continue to develop the eCOPO Camaro and test it on the drag strip, seeking quicker elapsed times with all-new technology.

The eCOPO Concept, shown in Electric Blue, joins the 50th anniversary 2019 COPO Camaro production race car and approximately two dozen additional Chevrolet concepts and show vehicles at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas through Nov. 2.

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