Clemson University is known nationally for its football team, Tiger Paw logo, and distinctive hue of orange, but when alumni and faculty gather in Las Vegas for the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, they’ll be one color. different in mind.
They’ll be thinking green, and not the kind you win at the blackjack table.
The team will announce deep orange 11, an innovative concept car that highlights the challenges that will need to be overcome as the world transitions to a more sustainable future. When the alumni were students, they designed and built the car to be sustainable, from the ultra-lightweight structure of the car to the electricity that powers it.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment ever since we finished it,” said Aditya Bhagat, who graduated two years ago and now works as a battery systems engineer for Nikola Corporation. “I was very happy to know that we are finally introducing it and that it will be presented at one of the biggest events that exist for electric vehicles.”
All Clemson students pursuing a Master of Science in Automotive Engineering participate in Deep Orange, a program that replicates the experience of working at an original equipment manufacturer or supplier. Students collaborate with industry partners to design and build a prototype vehicle from scratch.
ExxonMobil and Honda R&D Americas sponsored Deep Orange 11. The car’s tagline, “Sustainable by Design,” means sustainability was not an afterthought. Rather, the students began working to make the car environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable early on when it was just an idea.
Shaped like an orange capsule on four wheels, the Deep Orange 11 was envisioned as a ride-sharing vehicle that would hit the streets in 2035. It runs primarily on electricity and has a low-GHG internal combustion engine to extend its range. scope.
While the students gave the car plenty of sustainable features, one thing it doesn’t have is a steering wheel. Deep Orange 11 works autonomously and has been tested on a closed track.
The car is also very durable, designed to last 1 million kilometers, which is approximately 621,000 miles.
The core faculty member of the project was Srikanth Pillarthe Jenkins Endowed Professor of Automotive Engineering and the founding director of the Clemson Composites Center.
“It was fantastic,” he said of the project. “We went from nothing, not even a base platform, to a fully functioning vehicle. The students had the full vehicle development experience and the vehicle they created was exceptional.”
Plans for Deep Orange 11 were first announced in December 2018, with students finishing most of it before graduating in August 2020. They were based in the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)an innovation campus in Greenville, South Carolina, about 40 miles from the main campus.
Piyush Girade, who was the assistant vehicle engineer for Deep Orange 11, also plans to join the team for the unveiling. For him, Deep Orange was much more than just a capstone project to end his career.
He learned technical and leadership skills that he now employs at Nikola Corporation, where he works with Bhagat as a battery systems engineer.
“Before we even graduated, while we were in the middle of it all, we realized that this was a unique experience,” he said. “Classroom lectures were not going to give us what we were experiencing on a daily basis.”
Completing the car was a triumph over COVID-19. When much of the nation began social distancing in March 2020, the Deep Orange 11 team followed suit, except for a few select members who were allowed to take on necessary tasks.
The rest did what they could remotely, but the team had to catch up when they returned to the lab about a month later, this time wearing respirator masks and other protective gear. They worked long hours, often eating lunch in the lab and leaving only long enough to get some sleep.
Chris Parediswho oversaw the Deep Orange program as its 11th iteration was being developed, said everyone from sponsors to faculty were pleased with the way the students managed to put the vehicle together.
“I think it went better than we expected, and now this final phase with the CES presentation is the icing on the cake,” said Paredis, BMW President of Systems Integration at Clemson.
Stuart Milne, ExxonMobil manager of sustainable products and life cycle assessments, added: “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Clemson. The Clemson student-faculty team did an amazing job. They had a truly challenging assignment, considering the four key areas for the students to explore (circular economy, lightweight, ultra-low emissions, and durability for the sharing economy).”
The students built Deep Orange 11 with the idea that it would carry passengers through Greenville, a city of 72,000 with a vibrant shopping and entertainment district. While conducting market research, the team predicted that in the future, more people will leave their personal vehicles behind and opt for ride-sharing services, such as Uber or Lyft.
The students outfitted the car so that it could take advantage of smart city technology. The idea is that by 2035, areas to recharge the battery will be plentiful and the infrastructure will communicate with vehicles to improve navigation, making them less reliant on GPS.
But some of the car’s most innovative features would rarely be seen by its passengers, and those features are key to making the car as light and energy efficient as possible.
The battery case is made from recycled carbon fiber from the aerospace industry. The framework is a system of interlocking tubes made of composite materials connected by 3D-printed steel nodes.
Pilla, who is internationally recognized for his work with composite materials, said the ones used in Deep Orange 11 are ultralight, but creating an entire car out of them would be cost prohibitive.
“You can’t build a 100 percent composite vehicle in the automotive world, and you don’t want a 100 percent metal vehicle in the future,” he said. “You want to have a multi-material system, and we built that into this particular vehicle.”
Sustainability is often discussed in an environmental context, but the Deep Orange 11 students went a step further and also made the car socially sustainable. The car is lowered and unfolds a ramp to make it wheelchair accessible. All four seats can be reconfigured to open up space inside the vehicle.
Bhagat, who was the car’s chief vehicle engineer, said what he liked best about the project was that students were tasked with designing and building a car of the future and then given wide latitude on how to do it.
“From then on, the sky is the limit,” Bhagat said. “You can imagine it however you want it to be, to define what the car would look like and own the product, the process and even the testing. You get to work on the whole car. You can say, ‘Okay, that’s my car,’ and that’s sick.”
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