On the morning of Saturday, October 6, attendees gathered to watch students and faculty of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research unveil a car they called “Deep Orange 9.” Deep Orange is the designation that Clemson Auto students give special projects that they coordinate with manufacturers to produce. For this year’s Deep Orange 9, Clemson partnered with Honda to create a custom Civic that could handle the rough terrain of a rallycross course, while also prioritizing fuel efficiency.
The team of young men and women started with a run-of-the-mill Civic sedan, completely stripped it out, then added all the chassis reinforcement expected in a rally car. The standard Honda turbo-four was pulled from the engine bay, never to return. In its place is now an electric motor that supplies about 200 horsepower to the front wheels. The batteries needed to power this motor take up all of the space the front passenger seat used to occupy.
Open up the Civic’s rear doors, and you’ll find that the back seats have also been replaced. This time with a boosted K20 engine that sends 400 horsepower to the rear tires through custom-made axles and a four wheel steering system. This engine is wrangled in by a six-speed sequential gearbox.
Together, the K20 and electric motor make for a 600 horsepower hybrid drivetrain similar in spirit to the one found in Honda’s own NSX. The car is fully functional, and was shown to be so on an autocross course that had been set up in a Clemson parking lot for the event. The Civic is able to run both as an all-wheel-drive hybrid, or as a front drive electric vehicle.
Robert Prucka, a Motor Sports Engineering professor at CU-ICAR told the Clemson Newstand, “Our program requires students to make highly technical decisions quickly while also keeping the top-level project goals such as safety, performance, customer usability and compressed deadlines in mind. Designing, building and testing a fully functional vehicle of this level gives our students the perspective, skills and hands-on experience that allows them to seamlessly transition into the workforce.”
After this successful project, Clemson is already planning Deep Orange 10, which will be an autonomous vehicle developed in conjunction with Ford.