How A Chevy Camaro Gets Greener: Student Competition In EcoCar 3

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All cars are getting more fuel-efficient under the rising requirements for corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) from now through 2025.

Still, if you thought about the category of cars with good gas mileage, the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car likely wouldn't be high on your list.

DON'T MISS: How Do You Make A Chevy Camaro Muscle Car Green? Students Have 4 Years To Try (Apr 2014)

Which is exactly why it's the designated vehicle for student teams to modify in the multi-year EcoCar 3 competition, now entering its second year.

The EcoCar contests, and their Challenge X predecessors as well, pit student teams against each other in a battle to wrest the most improved efficiency out of a modified version of a production vehicle.

EcoCAR 3 Camaro

EcoCAR 3 Camaro

In EcoCar 3, a total of 16 college teams will compete to turn production Camaros into hybridized and/or electrified vehicles to boost their fuel economy far above current Camaro ratings--which range from 14 to 22 mpg combined, depending on which engine is specified.

The contests are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, with GM as the lead vehicle sponsor and a host of other companies providing parts, software, and other necessary components for the student teams to modify their vehicles.

ALSO SEE: Hybrid Corvette Is Now Real, With 773 Horsepower (Nov 2013)

But why a Camaro? Why not something more economical to start with?

"If we want to keep making V-8 Camaros," says Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser in the video above, "we're going to have to look at alternative methods of propulsion."

In other words, it's precisely the least-efficient cars that will need the most help in order to keep carmakers compliant with CAFE.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro 2-door Convertible ZL1 Grille

2015 Chevrolet Camaro 2-door Convertible ZL1 Grille

And the EcoCar competitions keep remarkably close to the actual vehicle development process.

Among other things, GM provides CAD files of the vehicles--usually at the end of their life cycle, as the current-generation Camaro is--and the student teams spend almost a year in design and simulation before any member touches an actual vehicle.

The hands-on design and development process gives the students, all of whom volunteer for their schools' EcoCar teams in addition to regular classwork, invaluable experience in the real-world problems of engineering, modifying, and testing new vehicle technologies.

MORE: $55,000 Kit To Build Electric Camaro Offered By GM (Apr 2013)

Team members in past competitions have often received job offers to join General Motors or other carmakers.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen brand-new Camaros are about to be disembowled in the interests of increased fuel efficiency.

What better reason could there be to tear up a snorting muscle car?

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