Imagine walking into your garage in the morning and unplugging your car before you can drive it. You are probably imagining some small electric car like a Toyota Prius. Your dad and all his friends would rip you to shreds for its horsepower as you try to counter how it’s good for the environment. You can talk until you’re blue in the face to old school hot rod guys about the ozone layer or fuel economy, but if it isn’t fast or loud, they will probably just go back to roasting you for being a dirty hippie.
What if I told you that you not only could drive a car that’s great for the environment, but could silence the wrench monkey critics?
A team of student engineers, freshman to graduate students alike, are working on perfecting this very vehicle with their 2016 Chevrolet Camaro EcoCAR3. While the car features two electric motors with a four-cylinder engine, it’s not your typical four banger. This thing is pushing around 350 horsepower. For reference, my 2007 Honda Civic with a four-cylinder motor is in the 113 range. Combine that with fuel economy at more than 40 miles to the gallon. I don’t have to have a TV show on Spike to know that’s pretty damn impressive.
“That’s the idea. Get the muscle car feel in a hybrid version. A car that meets both the performance crowd and the eco-friendly crowd,” said Brandon Bishob, second-year master’s student and mechanical system lead engineer of the project.
This team of students compete in the national EcoCAR competition each year, and like the last two competitions, these masterminds placed first in the third edition of the national EcoCAR competition. Their accolades also include first place for best competition project status presentation, best innovating research papers, and best well-to-wheel petroleum energy use. For everyone out there whose name is not Bill Nye the Science Guy, well-to-wheel petroleum energy use refers to the environmental impact the vehicle would have, and in this case, the OSU EcoCAR3 had the least environmental impact compared to other cars in the competition.
The car drives as an automatic, but features a five-speed transmission that allows the team to have more control over shifting and how it will affect the driving, Bishob explained. It won’t go to 0 to 60 in 3.5 like Rihanna’s car, but after doing an official performance test, the car can hit 0 to 60 in about 6.8 seconds. Though the overall speed of the car still is a work in progress, team members like third-year Katie Yatsko and Bishob said that this was something they had planned for.
“We kind of prioritized this year on the emissions side because it’s a lot easier to go back with our control systems and make minor changes to really step up our game with our 0 to 60 time,” Yatsko said.
Aside from winning first place for the third consecutive year, it seems their efforts were fruitful as they were able to drop emissions by 60 percent.
The four cylinder motor combined with the two electric motors doesn’t work like your typical combustion engine. Rather than providing the literal spark to move the car, the engine and electrical motors work as generators where they create and provide energy which is created by driving the car. This created energy is then transferred and stored in a large battery which provides power to the vehicle when it is not moving.
As a proud owner of two classic vehicles—a 1969 Ford Mustang, which was my dad’s first car, and a 1973 Ford F100, the first vehicle I ever bought—one thing I can appreciate about a larger motor is doing a big ole smoky burnout. If you are worried that this Camaro might lack the power to properly spin the tires, fear not—the team’s advisor tasked them with an important challenge.
“When our advisor tested the car he said that if he could peel out, that that was a win for us, and that’s because everyone expects that from a Camaro,” Yatsko explained.
One thing the vehicle lacks compared to your typical car is the heartwarming sound of an engine running, which leads me to my personal challenge for the OSU EcoCAR3 team—as if they don’t already have enough to worry about. Here comes some dumb journalist barking orders; get that Camaro sounding like a Camaro!
For more information about the EcoCAR and how to get involved, visit ecocar.osu.edu.