Mazda sponsored a project at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research that resulted in Deep Orange 3. A team of graduate students working in conjunction with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California, used real world marketing data to convince a compact, six-passenger hybrid hatchback that’s truly like nothing else on the road.
The vehicle is about the size of a Mazda RX-8 sports car its aluminum chassis was built at the school using a patented technology known as Industrial Orgamics, which involves folding and riveting laser cut sheets of aluminum. One of the students on the team, Chris D’Amico, says the process is so easy that hey were able to shape and assemble the frame on the floor of their engineering center using tools you could pick up at Home Depot.
The students attached a conventional Mazda four cylinder, front-wheel-drive-train with a manual transmission in the nose of the car and a battery-powered electric motor that drives the rear wheels in the back. A power control module developed at the schools adjusts power split between the two ends as driving conditions dictate. The electric motor kicks in to help with acceleration and traction, while the internal combustion engine handles most of the high speed work.
Unlike most hybrid systems, the Deep Orange 3, switches its electronic motor into generator mode that draws energy produced by increasing resistance at rear axle as the car is driven by the front wheels. The system reduces the complexity and helps keep the weight of the car down. The result is performance that’s on par with a typical hatchback but more fuel efficient. The car is an estimated 49 mpg on the highway.
A more impressive feat is that the car-like ability to fit six passengers into a vehicle within the footprint of a typical 2+2 . The trick is staggered seating arrangement with the center seats slightly offset to the rear. When not in use, the center seats can be folded down, which combined with Deep Orange 3’s hatchback design offers an added level of practicality. The body work was designed by the Art Center of Design student Fred Naaman. The team has put an estimated $27,995 on the car and is hopeful to find a partner to put it into production.
Signed, Shanika Simmons