LAS VEGAS — Clemson University automotive engineering students' Deep Orange 2 is getting personal.

The second-generation Deep Orange prototype vehicle, designed and engineered by students at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), is being showcased at this week's 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.

Students and faculty unveiled a breakthrough Human Machine Interface (HMI) and center stack design demonstrating personalized driver interaction through a configurable dashboard.

The new technology means the sleek dashboard can be personalized to interact between the driver and vehicle through virtualized onboard computers. The Human Machine Interface can be configured for “infotainment,” climate control and personalized information for specific drivers.

SEMA attracts more than 100,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors to the annual four-day show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where more than 1,500 accessorized and customized four- and two-wheel vehicles are displayed.

CU-ICAR students also demonstrated the vehicle’s innovative advanced powertrain, energy storage and seating.

Paul Venhovens, BMW Endowed Chair in automotive systems integration at CU-ICAR, who leads Deep Orange, said the program allows students to think outside of conventional coursework and focus on product and consumers' needs. Consequently, the experience of working on Deep Orange makes Clemson’s students very attractive to the automotive industry, he said.

“Our students become directly involved in systems integration,” Venhovens said. “They collaborate with industry and are exposed to the capabilities and limitations of technology.”

As part of the graduate automotive engineering program at CU-ICAR, students are required to create and manufacture a new vehicle prototype. The innovative Deep Orange project is breaking ground in how to think about automotive design and function.

Deep Orange runs the course of two academic years in parallel with Clemson’s two-year master's degree program in automotive engineering. The program provides students with experience in vehicle design, development, prototyping and production planning. 

The baseline Deep Orange 2 vehicle was converted into a range-extended, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle with an overall range of 400 miles, including 20 miles of emission-free driving. The vehicle accelerates from zero to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds and has a top speed of 100 mph. The batteries can be charged by an on-board charger in five hours at 110 volts.

A novel seating concept achieves a more lightweight seating system and improved occupant safety. The concept is based on seat attachments that mount the seat’s backrest to the roof and the vehicle’s floor. A unique technology developed by design and manufacturing firm Industrial Origami was used to fold the area underneath and in the center of the vehicle to hold the lithium polymer batteries.

Suzanne Dickerson, director of international business development for CU-ICAR, said the Deep Orange project embodies the term “systems integration,” and helps fulfill CU-ICAR’s vision of being the world’s premier automotive and motorsports research and education facility.

“The program encourages entrepreneurship and creativity, which means the experience of Deep Orange makes CU-ICAR students very attractive to industry,” she said. “This is how we educate engineers of the future,” she said.

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