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EcoCAR 3 competition tasks students with designing a greener Camaro


May 2, 2014

EcoCAR 3 tasks students with updating the iconic Chevrolet Camaro muscle car into a hybrid-electric vehicle

EcoCAR 3 tasks students with updating the iconic Chevrolet Camaro muscle car into a hybrid-electric vehicle

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For the past 26 years, the US Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the North American auto industry, has sponsored Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) to provide the next generation of automotive engineers with a practical learning experience. The previous EcoCAR Challenge saw students convert and massage GM Malibus into super-efficient models, and this time for EcoCAR 3, teams are tasked with updating the iconic Chevrolet Camaro muscle car into a hybrid-electric vehicle.

The normally performance focused Camaro presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the 16 teams from Canadian and US universities that are participating. Instead of simply removing various performance parts from the stock Camaro and turning it into a Prius, engineering teams must retain the car’s inherent muscle-car traits, including its body, while simultaneously reducing its environmental impact through a modified hybrid-electric platform.

The mandate of the Camaro-based challenge is comprised of five specific components. Teams must not only reduce overall energy use, but also reduce tailpipe emissions and well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining consumer interest in the vehicle from a performance, safety and daily driver perspective. Teams must also meet set energy and environmental goals while being mindful of costs and other influencing factors.

In order to make the competition as close to a real world automotive development environment as possible, teams are advised to populate their teams with members from a diverse array of disciplines. Teams will need the requisite mechanical, electrical and software engineering students to incorporate the various hybrid components, but are also advised to bring along students versed in the arts of marketing, communications and project management.

For its part, General Motors will not only be providing the Camaros, but also seed money and vehicle components, as well as technical and operational support where needed. The DOE will provide team evaluation, logistical support and competition management. Both the DOE and GM will monitor and judge the competition, which will run over a four year period, winding up in 2018.

The goals of the EcoCAR 3 competition are detailed in the following video.

Source: EcoCAR3

About the Author
Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie

There is a lot of room under the hood of a Camaro to work with because you can configure it with up to a supercharged 6.2L or NA 7.0L V8. The v6 model is 323 HP and the electric engine in their little spark EV makes 400 lbs of torque and they could pretty much bolt them both into a hybrid system and be done with it.

The beauty of a hybrid sports car is you can take high revving engines that tend to make a lot of HP but only at high RPM and pair them with electric engines that are torque rich and make power off the line. That tendency to smaller displacement but higher revving engines is part of what gave japanese companies an edge in hybrid drive systems.

The extreme end of that is 1.0L motorcycles that make almost 200 HP with naturally aspirated engines (but after 12k RPM).

Another observation is I don't see a single car in the chevy lineup that uses a typical hybrid drive system. I think the volt is an EV powertrain with an onboard gas powered generator for instance. is that due to patent licensing?

Both the Toyota Prius and the Honda insight existed in the mid 90's using a hybrid drive system and common concepts like regenerative braking. Prius was a concept car in 1995 and in production by 1997 which is now approaching the lifetime of a patent. I'm sure there are other patented technologies involved today but the core components needed to build a hybrid have to be approaching public domain at this point if they haven't already.

GM also produced the EV1 in 1996 so they likely have patents/prior art for at least some of the concepts involved but I'm not sure why almost 20 years after Toyota they still don't produce a car with a hybrid powertrain.


Most people who drive cars like Camero's (I drive a Mustang), or any other high performance car, aren't really interested in MPG. They want RAW HORSEPOWER. Now, if they can "ECO" these cars, without neutering them, no problem, but if they go back to the days, like we had in the 70's, of 4 cylinder "muscle cars" that would slow down when you go up a slight hill, forget it.

Rusty Harris

0f course they insist on electric hybrid wouldn't want somebody to demonstrate a batter cheaper solution for increased efficiency.


as a guy with 3 modified turbo cars, ranging from stock to v8 killer, I whole heartedly like the idea of hybrid cars that are not boring. I see the hybrid system with its electric motors and batteries as simply another power adder. IN my own rose tinted visions of the future, I foresee people buying up todays cars with hybrid assist, possibly reprogramming the PCM on board and swapping the hybrid motors out for something a little more powerful, or swapping in more efficient/powerful batteries or capacitors.

Back in the 1970s a 4 cyl engine barely made 100hp. WIth today's technology, that same displacement 4 cyl is making 250hp without a turbo and with power adders, well over 450hp from some manufacturers. 8 cyl engines are making similar numbers, but drinking far less fuel, as evidenced by the fact that today's corvette stingray does not even qualify as a "gas guzzler". As an automotive enthusiast and a tech geek, I welcome our hybrid muscle cars and hope to see some on the market soon!

Michael Wilson

A "better cheaper solution for increased efficiency" exists. It's called Aptera. If I could get my hands on that platform, I could use any power source and get 100+ mpg.

Too bad the major car manufacturers have no interest in efficiency. Could it be that the few makes & models that are efficient are not allowed in the U.S.? I bought a new 1988 Daihatsu charade that got 46 mpg. I drove it for 8 years without doing anything except putting in gas & oil. It was still in excellent condition when I sold it to buy a sports car that got 26 mpg. Sales of Daihatsu were stopped after 2 years. Why?

Also, why can't we buy direct from the manufacturer? Could it be "crony capitalism" (special interest laws)?

Don Duncan

I would like to see someone develop a 'plug-n-play' hybrid system that uses the existing engine and adds the hybrid electric motor capacity. This would open the aftermarket for those who have cars that they love and willing to keep their 'beast,' only make it more efficient, and quicker off the line!


@ don duncan

I think safety regs are what killed the light weight cars of the 80s..at least in the US. I marvel at how cars seem to grow heavier and heavier with each passing year. Honestly, efficiency takes a back seat IMHO to the "Fun factor" of the car, but weight and aerodynamics factor in just as much.

Its amazing to me how chrysler can manufacture a 2 door "sporty" car that weighs more than the average pickup truck or SUV from 10 years ago (challenger curb weight is 4100lbs). Chevrolet's new "racing" camaro, the ZL1 with radio delete, air conditioning and thin glass still weighs more than my 12 year old volvo station wagon or my Audi A6 sedan (camaro zl1 weighs 3800lbs btw). All that weight is not only the enemy to efficiency, but also fun. A heavy car wastes more fuel, requires more power to be fun and is not as nimble in the corners. It boggles the mind, but manufacturers most definately have a keen interest on efficiency. However, government regs force their hand, making larger and more bloated vehicles each year.

Michael Wilson

@Don Duncan I don't think its a conspiracy. Cars now weigh more and make more HP to move it. I looked up some specs and found the 88 Charade gets ~40MPH but its also only 51HP and 1587 lbs curb weight.

My 1989 Ford Escort hatchback was almost identical at 90 Hp, 155lbs torque, and 38 MPG highway. I saw a crashed one once that wasn't even that badly smashed but someone hit a tree with the front passenger side just hard enough to shoot the strut tower directly through the passenger, I have never seen so much blood. As crash testing requirements have gone up vehicle weight has climbed with it.

A current hatchback ford Focus is 3,000 lbs, 160 HP, and 40 MPG highway. That's almost 2x the weight and HP, safer, and still the same gas mileage. For a technology as mature as the internal combustion engine that's an extremely impressive improvement from 1989 to now. Things like automatic transmissions, power windows, door, locks, seats, ABS, TCS, AWD, extra airbags etc. in cars today help contribute to some of that added weight as well.

I don't think there is any conspiracy involved here with the possible exception of increased safety standards contributing to added vehicle weight (and also making a challenging barrier to entry for competitors). This also explains why concepts like Aptera may not see much traction in the US without being classified as a motorcycle.

Fuel range is mostly an afterthought for most motorcycle manufacturers and there is huge potential to show what can be done there. The new Honda NM4 will be 80 MPG but even that will be almost 4 times the power to weight ratio of our old 80's hatchbacks. I think if an Aptera and a Can Am Spyder made offspring it could be a 120 MPG motorcycle. Maybe a more practical version of the Akira bike (http://www.gizmag.com/akira-replica-motorcycle/22105/) would do. With a center of gravity that low you could probably get away with using a heavy battery bank instead of fuel. I have seen a lot of companies hit around the nail but none of them have hit the nail.


0f course they insist on electric hybrid wouldn't want somebody to demonstrate a better cheaper solution for increased efficiency.


Great Idea and , but it's like powering a steam locomotive with an electric motor.

Mira Lok
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