It’s about “that ‘vroom’ you hear.”
That’s what owners of the Chevrolet Camaro expect when they slide into the cockpit, the young engineer said. They expect 0-60 mph in under six seconds, horsepower hovering around 400, the rev of the engine when commandeering the left lane.
But, with the potential to get 35 to 45 miles per gallon, the souped-up ride works fine as a commuter vehicle, too. Thanks to a 300-volt battery in the trunk, it combines muscle under the hood with a feat of eco-friendly engineering in the back.
The whole body, in fact, is tricked out to maximize both speed and efficiency.
“It’s really trying to work together to give the driver the best of both,” said Hugo McMenamin, 25, the team lead for the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team. “The battery will be able to give it the best of the eco-world, and then the engine can take over and get you to soar past 70 mph if you’re in a safe location.”
For the team, that’s the challenge: pimp out a hybrid-electric 2016 Camaro to be fast, furious and fuel-efficient.
On Friday, PSU AVT displayed its work in an exhibition for the EcoCAR3 competition, a four-year sprint in redesigning one of the flagship cars of the American automotive industry into a environmentally friendly ride without sacrificing performance. McMenamin, a graduate student in Penn State’s mechanical engineering program, said the challenge mimics the design process at companies like General Motors, which provided the vehicles, but in a condensed form. Typically, he added, the process takes eight to 10 years.
The exhibition took place at the team’s garage at Research Building B on Penn State’s campus.
The competition, which is in year three of its current iteration, challenges 16 North American university teams and is sponsored by GM, the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Labs. Penn State’s team has participated in the event since 1988, last taking home the title four years ago.
Past challenges have included redesigning a Ford Explorer and a Chevrolet Malibu to go farther with fewer stops at the gas station.
“The lower emissions from these vehicles — that’s just going to have a positive impact on the environment,” said Joe Hawkins, a senior team member.
But this time around, it’s not just about fuel efficiency. The car that inspired “Knight Rider” and a “Transformers” character isn’t for the timid, according to the team’s market research.
“One of the key things we’ve learned about Camaro buyers in the past, and our target market in the future, is that when it comes to the Camaro, they care about the engine,” McMenamin said. “They care about the performance.”
With continued tweaking, the team, made up of about 70 students, will test its efforts at this year’s round of judging, set to take place in Millford, Mich., on May 14 and end in Washington, D.C. on May 25.
Friday’s look under the hood was another pit stop in the race.
“This program has provided us with the best real-world experience I could probably find in a college setting,” McMenamin said. “I get to learn a lot about the vehicles and where the industry is going.”