2016 Chevrolet Camaro Eco Super Sport (ESS)
A new Camaro that can travel up to 40 miles without using a drop of gasoline.by Robert Moore, on
General Motors, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Argonne National Laboratory have been teamed up for some time now to host a competition known as EcoCAR that challenges teams from a number of North American Universities to make a specific vehicle more economical and better for the environment without sacrificing performance, overall usefulness of the vehicle, or consumer appeal. Back in 2008, the first EcoCAR challenge kicked off, in which teams worked with a Saturn Vue. The second challenge, known as EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future, ran from 2011 to 2014, with teams focused on modifying a Chevy Malibu. Now, EcoCAR3: Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition is underway, and it looks to be the best EcoCAR challenge so far.
The current challenge kicked off in 2014, and what makes it even better is for this competition, is the car in question is the Chevy Camaro. Like the previous challenges, the main goal is to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. After nearly two years of work, the EcoEagle team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has created the Chevy Camaro Eco Super Sport. The team has been working on the 2016 Camaro since December of 2015 and is ready to show up at the General Motors Desert Proving Ground in Yuma Arizona this coming May.
The Eco Super Sport Uses a combination of a gasoline powered engine, two electric motors, and a battery pack, and according to the most recent press release, is aimed as a competitor against the Tesla Model 3. That’s a pretty bold statement from a group of college engineering students. But before you judge, let’s take a closer look at the Eco Super Sport and see if it actually lives up to the hype.
Continue reading to learn more about the Chevrolet Camaro Eco Super Sport (ESS).
2016 Chevrolet Camaro Eco Super Sport (ESS)
Don’t expect to see any difference on the outside between the standard Camaro and the Eco Super Sport. The only modifications to speak of are the decal on the top of the windshield and the “EcoCAR3” livery on the doors, along with decals from the DOE, GM, and Argonne National Laboratory. According to the press release, the car started life out as a base model Camaro, in 1LT form, and was fitted with Camaro SS body panels. Looking at the images here, however, the car seems to be sporting the front end of the base 1LT trim, as it doesn’t have the wide corner vents with the horizontal LED running lights to the top. Instead, it still has the vertical running lights and thinner corner vents. Furthermore, it looks to retain the less-aggressive hood from the 1LT as well.
Perhaps the vehicle wasn’t equipped with the SS body panels at the time of its photoshoot. Either way, it doesn’t matter that much, because what really matters is what is lurking under the metal.
GM and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has remained rather quiet about the interior up to this point, and the images provided only give a glimpse inside. What we can tell you is that, like the exterior, don’t expect much in terms of change. We know the Eco Super Sport has two driving modes – Eco and Sport – so there may be some additional programming to the infotainment system or driver information center to accommodate the switching of modes. There could also be a new switch integrated into the car that we have yet to see. Furthermore, I would expect to see additional programming to the infotainment or driver information center to display the status of the hybrid system, battery charge, and available range.
Outside of those couple things, the interior of the Eco Super Sport should be identical to that of the production model that we’ve all fallen in love with.
According to the current press release, the Eco Super Sport should make the 60-mph sprint in 4.9 seconds and should have a range of 180 miles when running on gasoline and electric power
This is where things get really interesting. We don’t know full specifications of the drivetrain yet, but we know enough. Under the hood, you’ll find a 2.4-liter EcoTec that runs on E85 fuel. There are also two Bosch IMG electric motors that are powered by a 350-volt, 18.9 kWh lithium-ion battery. We can’t say with 100-percent certainty, but this could be the same engine found in the Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain, and Buick Verano. If so, it delivers around 180 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The current press release hasn’t released official performance numbers, but according to Bosch’s website, its IMG can produce up to 67 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. With that said, total system output could be upward of around 315 horsepower and 686 pound-feet of torque. All that power is routed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission
According to the current press release, the Eco Super Sport should make the 60-mph sprint in 4.9 seconds and should have a range of 180 miles when running on gasoline and electric power. Fuel economy is said to be 53 miles per gallon equivalent, and the Eco Super Sport should have an all-electric range of about 40 miles. Eco mode uses the gasoline engine solely as a generator to charge the battery with the electric motors putting in all the work for propulsion. Switching over to Sport mode, the engine and motors send power to the rear wheels, unleashing the full arsenal of horsepower from the hybrid system. This is as much information as we have at the time of this writing, but stay tuned for future updates.
This Camaro is unique, so official pricing isn’t available. According to the current press release, the Camaro Eco Super Sport has an estimated price of $34,700, which would put it about $300 cheaper than the Tesla Model 3.
According to the EcoEagles at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the Eco Super Sport will compete against the Tesla Model 3. Most of the details of the Model 3 are still under wraps, but we know the entry level model with be rear-wheel drive and have an all-electric range of 215 miles, with a 0-to-60 mph sprint of less than six seconds. That should put the total output somewhere around the 300-horsepower range, which is where I estimate the Eco Super Sport to sit performance-wise.
In the future, Tesla is expected to offer an all-wheel-drive variant of the Model 3, which will likely cost more, but may boast more power output. At this time, official specs of the battery used in the Tesla Model 3 is unknown. We expect to see a 60 kWh or 70 kWh, but it’s also possible that Tesla could bring back the 40 kWh battery back that was discontinued in 2013 on the base model.
Pricing for the Model 3 is set at $35,000, but purchases also get to take advantage of a $7,500 tax credit that cuts the price down to $27,500. It should be noted, however, that the tax credit isn’t applied immediately, so expect to shell out at least $35,000 at the time of purchase and delivery.
Read our full review on the Tesla Model 3 here.
Okay, before you charge me with felonious assault or lock me in a mental institute and throw away the key, at least hear why I’m listing the BMW i8 here. The BMW i8 is clearly a different beast in comparison to the Eco Super Sport, but in all reality, the Eco Super Sport isn’t that far off in the performance department. With a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine and an electric motor that offers a combined output of 357 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the i8 only beats the Eco Super Sport to 60 mph by 0.7 seconds, which isn’t bad considering the fact that the Eco Super Sport has an estimated output of 315 horsepower. Sure, the i8 starts out at $140,000 – about $100,000 more than the expected price of the ESS – but it only has an all-electric range of 22 miles. That means running on battery power alone, the ESS will go nearly twice the distance of the i8. Sure, the i8 is more luxurious and more aerodynamic, but when you look at all-electric range, the ESS would be the better buy in the long run. The main reason I chose to include the i8 here, however, is because it is one of the few coupe hybrids out there, and its performance figures are pretty close despite the outrageously higher price tag.
Read our full review on the BMW i8 here.
My first instinct here is to call up the EcoEagles team and ask them why the hell they would say the Eco Super Sport would compete against the Tesla Model 3. Outside of price point, they are two completely different animals. The Model 3 is all electric, the ESS is not. The ESS has a gas tank, the Model 3 has only a battery pack. Even when running on fuel and the battery pack, in an endurance race, the Model 3 will go about 30 miles farther before needing to charge.
Of course, I can’t rag on them too much, I’m guilty of pitting the ESS against the BMW i8. For that alone, I’m sure some of you (especially the BMW purists out there) want to tie me to the stake and set me ablaze. At the end of the day, something like the Eco Super Sport is really in a category all its own, but if the model proves itself over the next couple years of the program, it could very well pave the way to a production model.
Don’t get it twisted, though, I still believe cars like the Camaro and the Mustang should be all about muscle, big displacement, and sheer power, but that isn’t necessarily the way the world works anymore. If I’m forced to accept a four-cylinder muscle car, I suppose I could accept a hybrid, four-cylinder muscle car. I really can’t deny the power and torque outputs available from electric motors. In the end, I think the EcoEagles have done a good job on the ESS, and I look forward to seeing how it competes against the cars from other universities in May when competition commences at GM’s proving grounds.