Panoz debuts 603-hp GT-EV electric race car at Le Mans

What better place to show off a brand-new race car?

Green4U

Don Panoz has been responsible for some interesting cars in the past, from the Panoz Esperante road car to the triangular DeltaWing. Now, his company has unveiled what Panoz calls the "Holy Grail" of racing.

Green4U technologies, of which Panoz is the chairman and co-founder, unveiled its GT-EV race car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Village ahead of the annual endurance race. Panoz hopes the GT-EV, developed in Georgia, can compete with some of the best internal-combustion race cars on the track.

You can see the swappable battery coming out of the vehicle's right side, opposite the driver.

Green4U

The GT-EV sports two electric motors putting out up to 603 horsepower at all four wheels, depending on regulations. Its top speed is between 175 and 180 mph, and the whole thing (including the battery pack) weighs between 2,200 and 2,750 pounds, thanks to a carbon fiber chassis. The battery pack is removable for midrace swaps, and in race conditions, a single battery pack should last between 90 and 110 miles.

The look is as wild as the idea behind the car. The driver sits way off to the side of the car in a closed cockpit, giving the car a shape similar to older-school prototype racers. If you think this would look good on the road, too, fear not -- Panoz and his team are developing a road-legal model based on the race car. In the road version, a passenger sits behind the driver, like in a fighter jet.

Other neat little tricks include active aerodynamics that increase slipperiness on straights, which can increase both the top speed as well as overall range. Brake regeneration captures energy otherwise lost to braking to help charge the battery on the fly -- it's an increasingly common feature on road-legal EVs and hybrids, as well.

While the race car is at Le Mans, it won't be racing -- not this year, at least. Panoz hopes that he can bring the GT-EV to Le Mans in the future. If it did go to Le Mans, it would be a "Garage 56" entry, which is a special class reserved for experimental vehicles. The DeltaWing ran in Le Mans under this designation, as well.

I imagine that seating position will take some getting used to.

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