If you're currently shopping for a fuel-efficient vehicle, the Chevrolet Camaro probably hasn't appeared on your radar.

With combined economy of 22 mpg for the most efficient, V-6 automatic model, that's not a huge surprise.

But given some time and some of the finest young engineering minds as part of the EcoCar 3 Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, perhaps it's in with a chance.

General Motors is providing some sixteen North American universities with Camaros as part of the DoE competition, The Detroit News writes.

Students will be tasked with redesigning the muscle car icon into a fuel-efficient hybrid-electric vehicle--perhaps having "an epiphany that we haven't seen", according to retiring GM vice president for engineering John Calabrese.

The Camaro is not the most natural starting point, granted--but as we've noted on several previous occasions, the biggest gains can be made with the least efficient vehicles.

Drag its 22 mpg figure up to something beginning with '3', and you make huge real-world gains. Essentially, a car with low efficiency gives students the most room for improvement.

Giving students a Prius, for example, and letting them struggle over an extra one or two miles per gallon is neither productive, nor does it have much point.

The aim of the competition is to incorporate innovative ideas, solve complex engineering challenges and apply the latest cutting-edge technologies.

While the Camaro's body will remain the same--and therefore its visual appeal--teams will try out different engineering methods and alternative fuels to try and develop a greener powertrain.

EcoCar 3 Chevrolet Camaro

EcoCar 3 Chevrolet Camaro

It's all useful, real-world stuff: Developing a car with lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions, while maintaining the car's desirable performance, utility and safety characteristics--all to realistic cost and innovation goals.

Over the course of four years (2014-2018), students will follow a development process that aligns with GM's own development process.

Those competing will establish a plan for research and development, analysis, and validation, just as they might working for a big company like GM. The end result isn't just a greener Camaro, but hundreds of students with the skills to jump into an automotive engineering job.

EcoCar 3 follows on from the last EcoCar challenge, whose results will be decided at the competition finals in Washington D.C, in May. 15 universities are competing to improve the efficiency of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

Teams in the EcoCar 2 challenge have explored everything from familiar series and parallel hybrid setups to through-the-road and fuel cell powertrains.

The EcoCar challenge began in 2008, following on from its Challenge X predecessor. Similar competitions have run for 25 years now, with over 16,000 students in 93 countries taking part--many of whom have gone on to auto industry roles.


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