By Scott Miller
Published Aug. 30, 2010
The first car will roll off the line at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research in September.
Designed and manufactured by students, the prototype vehicle will be the symbol for what CU-ICAR is — a direct link from academia to industry.
Through the project, known as Deep Orange, CU-ICAR is transformed into an original equipment manufacturer, known as an OEM. It is the research campus’s No. 1 initiative, said CU-ICAR Executive Director Bob Geolas.
Students work on a prototype vehicle at the
But as the first prototype nears completion, Geolas is eyeing CU-ICAR’s next venture.
The university might develop an independent battery test lab and is working with a community partner on the land needed to build a track to test prototype vehicles. Clemson cannot identify the community partner at this time, as negotiations are ongoing.
The university is still evaluating whether the market would support a vehicle test track or a battery lab, Geolas said. The idea is to feed on the Upstate’s growing electric-vehicle sector while drawing manufacturers from outside the area to pay to use the facilities as well.
“As new battery types emerge, they’re going to need places to test battery capabilities and test the vehicles on a track,” Geolas said. The track and battery lab “could be exclusive of one another, but at this point we’re really connecting them together.”
The university is in the due diligence phase now, meeting with industry members and working up a business plan, Geolas said. Clemson hopes to make a decision by the end of the year, he said.
By that time, the Deep Orange prototype will have been on display across the country.
Through Deep Orange, Clemson transformed its Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center, which houses the automotive engineering master’s and doctoral degree programs, into a model OEM and supplier. Students, faculty and participating partners will engineer and manufacture a new vehicle prototype each year, giving the students experience in vehicle design, development, prototyping and production planning.
A students works on a BMW vehicle at the International Center for Automotive Research’s Deep Orange program. (Photo/Clemson University)
For the first run, about two dozen doctoral and graduate-level students converted a European BMW 1-Series with an internal combustion diesel engine into a range-extended electric car. A two-cycle BMW gasoline engine turns a generator that produces electricity to recharge the batteries. When in full-electric mode, lithium-polymer batteries power the vehicle’s propulsion motor.
The vehicle peaks at 125 kilowatts of propulsion power, and early simulations show the vehicle having a fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon. It has a range of 400 miles and a top speed of 100 mph, and it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds. The car has no dedicated built-in radio, infotainment or navigation system; instead, it uses a cloud storage concept in combination with a portable smart phone device.
After its initial September unveiling in Greenville, the prototype will be on display at the Art Center College of Design’s Car Classic in October in Pasadena, Calif. After that, the vehicle drives to Las Vegas for the Specialty Equipment Market Association show, which attracts more than 100,000 attendees from the automotive and after-market industries. More trade show appearances are being planned for 2011, too.
Although the first prototype is a conversion that took about a year to complete, the long-term plan for the program is to have students design and build a car from scratch. In the future, Deep Orange will run the course of two academic years, in parallel with the two-year master’s program in automotive engineering.
Students already are designing the next vehicle, which will be a small car designed for high-density urban neighborhoods.
The automotive engineering graduate program comprises four major research thrusts: manufacturing, design and development, vehicle electronic systems and systems integration.
Reach Scott Miller at 864-235-5677.