A Hybrid-Electric Camaro?
Tom Lombardo posted on August 05, 2014 | 9983 views

The US Department of Energy’s latest student design competition, EcoCAR3, challenges teams to improve the design of the Chevy Camaro, turning it into hybrid-electric vehicle with a smaller environmental footprint. The challenge, of course, is doing all that while maintaining the Camaro’s status as a high-performance muscle car.

How many ways do I love this idea? First, you know I’m a proponent of renewable energy, so hybrid-electric cars play a big role in a green energy future. Second, I’m an educator with a strong belief in project-based learning. A competition like this puts college students into a real world scenario where they’ll learn to apply the classroom theory in an authentic situation. And speaking of real world, nobody designs a car in one year, so the DoE made this a four-year competition. No doubt some students will graduate in the middle of the project and others will move up to take their places. Workplace turnover is one reason for strong project documentation, so the engineering students will need to use their communication skills as well as their technical prowess. As I tell my students, there’s a reason we make you take English classes!

The teams will need to reduce tailpipe emissions, improve the car’s aerodynamics while not straying from its basic form, increase the powertrain efficiency without sacrificing performance, maintain safety requirements, and come up with an optimal energy storage system. Oh, and it has to be cost-effective too. Along the way, the students will develop modeling and analysis tools and testing procedures.

If you want innovation, look to our young engineers and engineering students. They’ve got the energy and enthusiasm; they just need ways in which to apply their creativity and learn the pragmatic side of science and engineering theory. Research has shown that friendly competition enhances learning. Helping the environment while improving education is a two-for-one deal!

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