Clemson University unveils its six-seat hybrid car



Who says young adults aren’t into cars?

A team of graduate students from Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research have completed building an innovative hybrid vehicle it designed and engineered in collaboration with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. first reported on the vehicle -- dubbed Deep Orange 3 in tribute to the South Carolina school’s signature color -- while it was still under development last year, but now it has been unveiled with full bodywork and all systems go.

The car’s chassis was constructed using a process called Industrial Origami, which involves folding laser-etched sheets of aluminum and is easy enough to be done with common household tools, according to members of the team.

The compact five-door features a novel six-passenger layout with three seats each in the front and back rows, the folding middle ones large enough to fit average size males. Market research among millennials conducted by the school helped steer this unique idea.

Mazda sponsored the effort and donated a front-wheel-drive powertrain that the team augmented with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. The two can work either separately, or in unison depending on driving conditions, making Deep Orange 3 a front, rear or all-wheel-drive car.

When it’s not engaged in propulsion, the electric motor can switch to generator mode and recharge its batteries by creating resistance at the rear wheels as the fronts pull the car along. It’s a relatively simple alternative to the complex powertrains used in most production hybrids.

The styling of the car tips its hat to its Mazda benefactors, featuring the automaker’s current grille design and a design that wouldn’t look out of place parked next to the Mazda 6 in showrooms.

There are no plans to put it into production, however, but Clemson would be more than happy to work with a partner to do just that, saying it would cost less than $30,000 if it did.

As of now, it stands as a showcase of what the school and its young car enthusiasts are capable of.

Gary Gastelu is's Automotive Editor.