Meet the 100 MPG Subaru BRZ

If the regular Subaru BRZ sports car isn’t fuel efficient enough for you, researchers at Mississippi State have a solution for you: Go hybrid.

No, Subaru doesn’t make a hybrid BRZ, but the team from Mississippi State’s James Worth Bagley College of Engineering did build one – and a plug-in at that.

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“Mississippi State is anticipating and adapting to the needs of an accelerating automotive industry. Our engineering design teams are trained to recognize the industry’s directional changes and innovate advanced systems, from predictive engine management to regenerative braking systems and more,” MSU President Keenum said.

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The typical Subaru horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine is pulled and replaced with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, while the subframe is cast magnesium, which makes it 40 percent lighter than the normal BRZ. That subframe serves as a mounting point for dual electric motors.

Those motors are mounted at the rear, and power comes from lightweight batteries in a battery pack provided by A123 Systems. The cells have proprietary cooling tech to maximize efficiency, and the battery pack weighs just 374 pounds. That means the car gains only about 80 pounds over the regular BRZ, to 2,904 pounds.

The 12.7 kilowatt-hour battery pack will provide for up to 50 miles of electric-only power.

The gas engine is a 0.85-liter two-cylinder that works with a 134-horsepower generator to serve as a range-extender for when the battery is drained.

All this adds up to a claimed maximum fuel-economy number of 100 mpg, and the MSU folks have enhanced the BRZ’s already sharp handling with a torque-vectoring system as well as a control algorithm that works to analyze drivers’ habits in order to predict what they might do next.

“The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) represents the junction between industry and academia. CAVS is where university expertise is applied to solving industrial research and development challenges, on time and under budget,” said project leader Matthew Doude, business development officer for CAVS.

MSU took the wraps off the car earlier this month at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit.